All Politics is Local, and So Is Most Climate Change

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Learn, The Wonk Room

Much of the world’s progress on climate change in the past two decades has come from the ground up. Cooperating local governments in cities and regions have banded together to fight climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for impacts.

Planet Change wants to give kudos to one organization that has provided important expertise and support for municipalities interested in low-carbon growth. Founded in 1990 as the “International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives,” ICLEI includes more than 1200 local governments in 70 different countries that are committed to sustainable development.

From building codes to light-rail expansion, cities across the U.S. are enacting plans for climate change. Many of their efforts are detailed at

In November, eight cities and counties (among them Boston; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Flagstaff, Ariz.), announced their participation in Climate Resilient Communities™ (CRC), the nation’s first comprehensive climate adaptation program for local governments, developed by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA. These communities will receive online tools and technical support from ICLEI to prepare for climate impacts, many already being experienced.

“Local governments are change agents for climate action, from planning to implementation, leading by example and stimulating demand for renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as driving private sector investment that spurs clean technology and innovation,” says ICLEI Executive Director Martin Chávez.

ICLEI’s efforts are often complementary to The Nature Conservancy’s work to find local solutions to climate change through better planning of development and conservation of natural resources that can help protect people. For example, the Conservancy works with low-lying communities in places like the Florida Keys and Long Island Sound to plan for the effects of sea-level rise and to conserve wetlands that can buffer coastal communities from storms.

ICLEI’s next effort is collecting urban adaptation expertise to be shared as part of the 2nd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change, from June 3-5, 2011, in Bonn, Germany, preceding UN climate talks there from June 6-17. A call for contributions to Resilient Cities 2011 is due from adaptation and resilience experts by January 18.

This nicely follows developments in Cancun, where delegate nations for the first time recognized the crucial roles of local governments in fighting climate change – by identifying local governments as “government stakeholders.”

In Mexico, a new registry was created to track local climate actions – the carbonn cities climate registry – cCCR. Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard says “the cCCR will be the official reporting mechanism and hub for cities to report on their climate actions” and “will increase global recognition and encourage access to global resources for local players.”

Lisa Hayden is climate change writer for The Nature Conservancy

Photo: Long Island Railroad Car Loading Dock by Flickr user waywuwei, used under a creative commons license.

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About Planet Change

Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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