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The Local Goes Global, As Mayors Talk Climate Change In Paris


While global leaders hammer out an international accord on reducing greenhouse gases in Paris, thousands of mayors are also gathered. The mayors are not officially part of the climate negotiations, but they say international deal or not, cities have to act now. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Mayors from Dakar to Los Angeles came to Paris's ornate city hall to share experiences, advice and technology on how to slow global warming. With 50 percent of the world's population living in urban areas, mayors here say there is no time to lose. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says unlike at the state and national levels in the U.S., there is no dispute over global warming in his city.

RALPH BECKER: People understand when our water supply is in jeopardy as the second-most arid state in the country that we need to take action to be resilient and provide for changes in our infrastructure. We need to reduce our emissions to protect our snow pack. Our businesses, our ski areas are right there with us.

BEARDSLEY: Becker says all new buildings being built in his city are powered by solar energy and have zero carbon output, even though he says Utah is almost entirely powered by coal.

Becker tries to reassure his colleagues that the U.S. will make good on any agreements made in Paris, despite opposition from Republican politicians back home. George Ferguson, mayor of Bristol, England, says people are worried about that.

GEORGE FERGUSON: Don't get me wrong, there is resistance in Europe as well but mainly around the public opinion that doesn't always understand the full consequences. So there's still an educational role to play. What is worrying about the United States, it's very obvious that this is divided around party politics.

BEARDSLEY: Mayor Martin Haese of Adelaide says his city doesn't have the luxury of debating climate change.

MARTIN HAESE: South Australia is the driest state in the driest continent in the world. So when you are the Lord Mayor of a city which effectively is the driest place in the world in terms of a city, what that means is that we've always had a high consciousness about this.

BEARDSLEY: Adelaide, like hundreds of cities here, has signed on to a coalition called Compact Cities and has pledged to reduce emissions and move toward developing renewable energy sources. The initiative was launched last year by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Mayor Haese says traditional manufacturing in Adelaide is in decline, but his city is seeing that as an opportunity.

HAESE: So we see this as the birthplace for new industry, for technology, for clean energy, for entrepreneurs, for international investment and a whole range of things.


BEARDSLEY: The gathering got glamorous when Hollywood star Robert Redford showed up to support the mayors. The longtime environmentalist said he was doubling his multimillion dollar fund to help cities develop renewable energies. Redford said he believed for the first time in Paris the world was waking up and would take real action against climate change. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.