Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work

Thematic Debate of the UN General Assembly
“Addressing Climate Change:
The United Nations and the World at Work”


February 11th 2008
United Nations


Thank you Mr. President Kerim
Thank you Mr. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon
Excellencies, distinguished guests,

It is my privilege to speak here today, and to affirm the role of cities in tackling the challenge of climate change.
The World cities account for 80% of humanity’s production of greenhouse gases.

At the same time cities, where half of the World population lives, are already hit by the alteration of climate equilibrium - especially in developing countries where the rise of sea levels, desertification and droughts are a serious menace.

While cities bring a responsibility for climate change and environmental degradation, they can be determinant to offer a solution.
We need a new model of development, which preserves land, water and air quality and uses more efficiently energy and natural resources.

If we want to leave  a better planet to future generations we can’t wait anymore. We need to act now.

Cities own the capacity to plan and implement a better future. Cities are ready to cooperate with national governments and international organisation to lead the change.

The cities of the world  face  challenges that need to be answered both globally and locally.

Cities can effectively reduce greenhouse gases emissions promoting sustainable mobility, energy efficiency and renewable energy. They can plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2). They can improve urban planning and management.
Many cities are already acting.

The city of Milan belongs with more than 700 cities to the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and is partner of his “Cities for climate protection” program.

Cities can adopt policies and measures in order to improve  air and water quality, public transport and environmental services to the benefit of the quality of life of every citizen, especially the health of children, women and the  elderly.
At this purpose thousands of cities (Milano among them ) are developing  Local Agenda 21, after the United Nations Agenda 21 launched at the Rio Summit in 1992.

City networking is increasing all over the world to find common solutions to common problems and to experiment and exchange best practices regarding both global and local environmental issues.

Through the “SlimCity” network (recently created in the context of the World Economic Forum) Milan and other cities  grouped to foster “green procurement”, for example to buy at special and reduced prices hybrid vehicles for the public transportation system.

Many cities (including Milano) have already signed the “World Mayors and Local Government Protection Agreement”, launched in Bali during the United Nations Climate Change Convention last December. Through the agreement Cities commit  to cut carbon emissions so to contribute to reduce global emission by some 60 to 80% worldwide by 2050.

The United Nations is the organization with the worldwide membership, the global reach and the universal legitimacy needed to promote cities networks for joining financial and technological resources, sharing best practices, exchanging experiences

We, the Cities, have much to bring to the table of fighting climate change.

Cities around the world have developed innovative solutions to mitigate and to adapt to climate change and to improve the quality of life of their citizens at same time. Extended metro systems, use of clean vehicles, district heating, use of solar energy are being developed in successful ways.

Seattle incentives for greening existing building through automatic system of the inside temperature monitoring.
Los Angeles’ program of planting a million trees.

The “greener and greater” plan for New York City which provide a series of measures such as introducing 13.000 new taxi cabs totally clean fuelled.
The Shanghai reduction ‘s plan: the city has committed itself to save as much as energy consumption for every unit of new GDP growth.
Barcelona is building new houses adopting solar energy.
London is working to cut the energetic cost per each family.

My own city, Milano, is in fact adopting a Climatic Equilibrium Defence Plan and is implementing effective and comprehensive policies to become one of the most environmentally friendly cities in Europe and in the World.
Milano has also started programs with the aim at persuading individuals, families, communities, corporations to begin quickly and meaningfully to create a low environmental impact urban area.
Among these initiatives since January 2008 we have introduced Ecopass, a “pollution charge” measured on  emissions of the circulating vehicles.
After the first few weeks from the start of this project (2-31 January data) we have already achieved very good results in terms of cutting city traffic and beginning to clean the air:

24.5% less vehicles in the Ecopass zone, 12.5%  less traffic in the whole city, PM10 polluting emissions cut by 30% in the Ecopass zone and more than 23,500 new passengers on the subway.

In the weeks and month ahead our job as Mayors is not just to continue innovating, but to demand that more cities join us.
In Europe sharing with us the commitment we took with the “Covenant of Mayors”, that fixed very concrete and measurable target  within 2020:

- to reduce the degree of CO2 and other atmospheric emissions due to public and private means of transport by more than 20%;
- to increase by 20% energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in the energy mix.

We need to make people aware and participate to this process, we need to share their ideas and enthusiasm to reach this goals.
In our view Expo 2015 represents a flagship event for this purpose.
Milan is bidding to host Universal Exposition in 2015 with an urban development project closely linked to sustainable development, with a theme –“Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”- in line with the Millennium Campaign goals, that bears great interest for the whole international community.

As the Nobel Prize Al Gore has stated, “Expo 2015 is in itself a soundly planned project: emissions generated by the event will be entirely offset by international  cooperation projects reducing GHG emissions. These projects will be developed in partnership with other cities in the World and will generate green credits under the Kyoto Protocol through the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation program”.

The Nobel Prize Amartya Sen also endorsed the candidature of Milano  assuming it can represent a relevant opportunity of international exchange and learning.

Not only the event will be carbon neutral, as the greenhouse gases emissions generated will be entirely offset, but Milan has included in the bid an international cooperation program with a funding of 52 million euros to promote projects to be developed  in partnership with other cities in the World through the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation under the Kyoto Protocol.

We need people participation to reach our targets. This  means to empower citizens and to promote personal responsibility in  creating the condition for every person, every family, every community to live in a clean and safe environment. Citizens are willing to be involved.

Through public participation cities can design a new path to sustainability and also anticipate and foster the involvement of entire Nations.

It’s time for all national leaders to stand up, and be honest and responsible about the cost  of climate change for future generations and for ourselves. It’s time to make clear the options and offer credible solutions.

This is an extraordinary opportunity to model our future. A future that we would like to build with other cities, other regions and other countries, under the guidance of United Nations.

Because only the international community can deliver the change at the scale and at the pace we need.