Regions on four continents vow to cut carbon at ‘summit of stars’

Local governments give first ever global account of CO2 curbs at  World Summit – Climate and Territories in Lyon

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The Basque Country were signatories. (Flickr/ Paolo Margari)

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The Basque Country signed the Compact of States and Regions. (Flickr/ Paolo Margari)

By Alex Pashley

Twenty states and regions from the Basque Country to British Columbia have set carbon-cutting targets at a summit probing how sub-national governments could confront climate change.

Over 40 nations have delivered plans detailing how they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as part of a UN climate pact.

But the commitments on Thursday by the Compact of States and Regions, set up at last year’s UN climate summit in New York, break new ground.

Representing 220 million people and US$8.3 trillion in GDP, they account for 5% of global emissions.

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The territories were “leading by example” and “underlining their determination” to make a crunch climate conference in Paris in December a success, said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s top climate official.

National efforts weren’t enough – mobilising local authorities to take climate action was not an “option, it’s an obligation,” said French foreign minister Laurent Fabius in a video address to delegates

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The targets, which span from decarbonising by 2060 to 100% renewable energy goals, will be uploaded to the UN’s Nazca portal, totting up the ambition of ‘non-state actors’.

Louisa Casson at the E3G think tank said the presence of mayors and local chiefs made it a “summit of stars”, but questioned how they would swell the ranks.

Cities going for carbon-neutrality were undercutting federal governments and setting up diplomatic links directly, she told RTCC from a Lyon sweltering in hot temperatures.

“Cities are the motors of national transitions and it makes economic sense for them to have better air quality, more efficient public transport. It’s the dull stuff, but it’s what decarbonisation is,” Casson said.

Aileen McLeod, climate change minister for Scotland who signed up to the agreement, told RTCC she was attending to promote the country’s climate action to international partners.

Scotland is on track to cut emissions 42% by 2020 and 80% by mid-century, she said, drawing attention to shifts to energy-saving LED street lights in Glasgow and Aberdeen having Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen cell fuel buses.

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