Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and City Councilor Yassamin Ansari will attend the United Nations climate change conference this week in Glasgow, Scotland, as world leaders face the growing threat of global warming. planet.
Gallego and Ansari plan to meet with local officials from around the world and discuss topics such as water conservation, accessibility of electric vehicles, heat mitigation and the role of cities in combating change. climate.
This year’s conference, known as COP26, is seen as particularly important after a UN report found the world is locked into certain climate impacts, like extreme heat and drought, which are taking hold. will worsen for at least the next 30 years.
Gallego and Ansari’s presence highlights how Arizona cities have played a leading role in addressing climate change and environmental issues at a time when the state has come up with few new ideas.
Earlier this month, Phoenix established one of the country’s first heat response and mitigation offices. Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson and Tempe have all created climate action plans to set concrete, measurable goals to reduce emissions.
Arizona does not have a recent statewide climate action plan. The state was part of a regional climate initiative more than a decade ago, but it has largely been abandoned. Governor Doug Ducey will not attend the Glasgow conference, according to a spokesperson.
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Nearly 1,000 cities around the world and more than 100 US cities are committing to net zero emissions by 2050 in a “Cities Race to Zero” campaign by C40 Cities, a network of cities around the world, according to Gallego.
“In many ways, this is the first global event of its kind where cities are given a leading role in the solution,” said Gallego. “We can play an important role in achieving the global goals. The United Nations and the C40 have focused on what cities can bring to solutions. ”
C40 Cities, for which Gallego is the North American Vice President, aims to share ideas and policies on how to make cities more sustainable and encourages mayors to take an active role in tackling the climate crisis.
It represents “nearly 100 cities around the world with a population north of 700 million. And we are responsible, I’m proud to say, for over a quarter of the world’s wealth. So we are really important, ”said new C40 chairman and mayor of London Sadiq Khan in an interview with the Washington Post this month.
COP26 will provide both a private “blue zone” for diplomats to conduct international negotiations on climate change agreements and actions, and a public “green zone” for other elected officials, climate activists, academics and heads of government. company to share ideas.
“The COP is very open to anyone who wants to go,” Ansari said. “The goal of the conference for many years now has been for it to be as open and accessible as possible, given that the climate crisis is a problem that affects all people.”
Gallego and Ansari will participate in the Green Zone and Blue Zone events. Gallego plans to speak on several environment-related initiatives in Phoenix, including a cool pavement program that reduces surface temperatures by 10 to 12 degrees, and the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation of the city.
“Sometimes Phoenix is known as a retirement community or other inaccurate stereotypes,” Gallego said. “We are currently a global semiconductor investment hub. This will be the key to clean technology. And I want to tell this story on a global scale.
Gallego and Ansari have long been interested in the environment and climate change. Gallego received his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and has made climate change part of his platform since running for office.
Ansari worked as a climate advisor to the United Nations, organizing several climate summits herself, before being elected to Phoenix city council.
The city of Phoenix has spent $ 2.8 million in funding for climate change and environmental issues, the same amount for affordable housing and homelessness, and more than the city has set aside for efforts COVID-19 relief. The money will fund 14 new positions, including the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, provide Phoenix air quality modeling and analysis, plant additional trees and other initiatives.
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Ansari praised Phoenix, Tempe and Flagstaff specifically for leading climate action in Arizona.
“We have strong leaders in each of these cities who recognize the urgency of the climate crisis, not only as a global problem, but also how it is affecting the lives and livelihoods of people right here at home,” Ansari said.
“I also think people recognize these threads. When I was campaigning, and even now as a city councilor, air pollution is one of the issues that comes up so often in my conversations and when residents share their concerns with us, ”she said. declared.
Environmental justice will be a topic of conversation at COP26 for several reasons. indigenous peoples called for a greater voice in the conference and future climate action plans.
Rich countries have also pledged to give poor countries $ 100 billion a year in aid from 2020 to tackle climate change, recognizing that rich countries are responsible for the majority of even greenhouse gas emissions. whether climate change will disproportionately affect poor countries.
The commitment was made over ten years ago and enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, but countries have yet to meet this target.
COP26:Indigenous peoples demand more voice and influence at climate conference
Ansari said environmental justice will be important not only for low-income countries, but also for his constituents. It represents District 7, where some areas are 10 degrees warmer than others depending on the amount of concrete and asphalt present in the area instead of trees and grass, which can lower temperatures.
“It’s very interesting… some countries are facing environmental racism and the impacts of the climate crisis created by developed countries, but we also see it at the local level,” she said.
While Ansari has said she wants the state of Arizona to play a more active role in climate leadership, cities are “absolutely crucial” in the absence of state leadership.
“With cities, you make many decisions on a daily basis related to transport or related to new development projects,” said Ansari. “There are so many decisions that we make where if you have the climate and sustainability in mind, you can make better choices and cut the problem out.”
Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow The Republic’s environmental reporting team on environment.azcentral.com and @azcenvironment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.