June 3, 2011
By Adam Selene
Mayor Bloomberg begins his climate summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil under a cloud. The planning initiatives of the C40 Cities, in which he has enlisted New York City, are coming too little and too late to make much of an impact on climate change.
Last Sunday, a report from the International Energy Agency was leaked to Britain’s Guardian newspaper. It said that last year’s greenhouse gas emissions were the highest ever recorded, dashing hopes that the global recession had stopped the rise in carbon dioxide levels. Today, CO2 levels stand at 394 parts per million much higher than the 350 ppm which scientists believe represents the threshold of dangerous climate change.
Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the IEA, told the Guardian newspaper: “I am very worried.This is the worst news on emissions. It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker.”
Onto this shaky ground steps Mike Bloomberg, with characteristic panache. His opening speech at the climate summit praised steps already taken which “are making our cities healthier, more energy efficient, and more environmentally responsible.” The Mayor pointed out that the cities of the C40 group include eight percent of the world’s population, and generated 21% of the globe’s gross domestic product.
But he left out the most important part: cities are not net energy producers, but primarily consumers. The real action in climate change is at the source where energy is being produced by environmentally damaging industries. As long as the Mayor does not take a bold stand against coal mining, the use of tar sands, and hydrofracking all huge sources of greenhouse gases the environmental conservation plans that the C40 Cities are committing to won’t matter.
Here are the goals of the C40 Cities and the Clinton Climate Initiative:
Creating building codes and standards that include practical, affordable changes that make buildings cleaner and more energy efficient.
Conducting energy audits and implementing retrofit programs to improve energy efficiency in municipal and private buildings.
Installing more energy efficient street and traffic lighting.
Implementing schemes to reduce traffic and developing bus rapid transit and non motorized transport systems.
Establish the infrastructure and incentives to promote the use of of low carbon vehicles.
Developing sustainable waste management solutions, reducing reliance on landfill disposal, and creating waste to energy systems.
Good as far as they go. But these measures alone won’t come close to stopping the dramatic rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Only by regulating polluting industries at their source most obviously by putting a heavy price on carbon will the world have any hope of minimizing the effects of climate change. And that is something Mayor Bloomberg seems reluctant to advocate.