Mayors from around the world at Vatican urge ‘bold climate agreement’

July 22, 2015 3:15 am

Mayors from around the world have declared that is
real, man-made and must be stopped as a matter of moral imperative,
gathering at the Vatican to announce new measures to fight global
warming and bask in Pope Francis’ ecological star power.
The
Vatican invited the 60 mayors to a two-day conference to keep up
pressure on world leaders ahead of UN climate negotiations in Paris
later this year. The meeting also aimed to promote Francis’ environment
encyclical, which denounced what he calls a fossil fuel-based world
economy that exploits the poor and destroys the Earth.

One by
one, the mayors lined up to sign a final declaration stating that
“human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective
control is a moral imperative for humanity.”
Francis told the
gathering that he had “a lot of hope” that the Paris negotiations would
succeed, but also warned the mayors: “You are the conscience of
humanity.”

Experts have long said that cities are key to reducing global
warming since urban areas account for nearly three-quarters of human
emissions. Mayor after mayor made an individual plea for the world to
change its ways.
Drawing rousing applause, California Gov. Jerry
Brown denounced global warming deniers who he said were “bamboozling”
the public and politicians with false information to persuade them that
the world isn’t getting warmer. California has enacted the toughest
greenhouse gas emissions standards in North America.

Pope Francis greets Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino as he meets mayors during a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change at the Vatican. Photo / AP
Pope Francis greets Rome Mayor Ignazio
Marino as he meets mayors during a conference on Modern Slavery and
Climate Change at the Vatican. Photo / AP
“We have a very powerful opposition that, at least in my
country, spends billions on trying to keep from office people such as
yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious
science,” said Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian.
New York City
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new greenhouse gas emissions targets for
the Big Apple – committing the city to reducing its emissions 40 percent
by 2030 – and urged other cities to follow suit.
“The Paris
summit is just months away,” de Blasio said. “We need to see it as the
finish line of a sprint, and take every local action we can in the
coming months to maximise the chance that our national governments will
act boldly.”
De Blasio is a founding member of an alliance of
world cities that have committed to reducing emissions by 80 percent by
2050 or sooner.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee announced new
measures of his own, saying the city that takes its name from the pope’s
nature-loving namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, would transition its
municipal fleet of fire trucks, buses and trucks from petroleum diesel
to renewable energy sources by the end of the year.
Stockholm
Mayor Karin Wanngard said the Paris climate talks in December must take
fossil fuels off the table and focus instead on renewable energy
sources.
“Climate negotiators must dare to push boundaries and
exclude fossil fuels as an option and reward solutions that are
long-term sustainable and renewable,” she said.
Stockholm is one
of the world’s leaders in using renewable energy sources, with 75
percent of the city’s public transport network running on renewable
energy. Wanngard’s goal is to make the Swedish capital fossil fuel-free
by 2040.
The climax of Tuesday’s inaugural session was the
afternoon audience with Francis, who has become a hero to the
environmental movement and has used his moral authority and enormous
popularity to focus world attention on climate change and its effects on
the poor.
Francis’ other main priority has been to raise
awareness about human trafficking. The Vatican conference is aimed at
showing how both are related: The exploitation of the Earth and its most
vulnerable people, with global warming often responsible for creating
“environmental refugees” forced to flee homes because of drought or
other climate-induced natural disasters.
Francis told the
gathering that while he had high hopes about the Paris climate
negotiations, he also wanted the United Nations to focus more on human
trafficking.
“The United Nations has to deal with this,” he said.
The
Vatican is angling for the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals, to
be finalised in September, to make a solid reference to the problems of
human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Day 2 of the Vatican
conference was to deal specifically with the development goals.
“Addressing
both of these phenomenon, climate change and modern slavery, is a
herculean task for us as city administrators,” said Tony Chammany, the
mayor of Kochi, India.
Chammany detailed how years of global
warming-induced drought in India was pushing impoverished farmers into
cities, making them ripe for the “dark dungeons of slavery” and
exploitation.
The conference got off to a sobering start by hearing from two Mexican women who were victims of modern-day slavery.
Ana
Laura Peres Jaimes showed the mayors photos of some of the 600 scars
she suffered as an indentured servant, forced to iron for hours a day
without food, water or even a bathroom. She said she had to urinate in a
plastic bag.
Karla Jacinto, a 22-year-old mother of two, told
how she was forced into prostitution at the age of 12, servicing more
than 30 men a day for the next four years until she was rescued.
“I
didn’t think I was worth anything. I thought I was just an object that
was used and thrown away,” she told the hushed audience hall.
Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, Alabama, also offered a personal story that brought home the reality of slavery.
“At
the time of my birth, I was born into a society in Birmingham, Alabama,
that existed as a close cousin of slavery called segregation,” said
Bell, who is African-American. “Segregation was designed to exploit
individuals and groups based on race and race alone. It was for the
economic purpose of cheap labor. It was to control society. It was to
control human beings.”
The conference’s final declaration calls
modern-day slavery a crime against humanity and commits signatories to
developing resettlement and reintegration programs “that avoid
involuntary repatriation of trafficked persons.”
On climate, the
conference’s final declaration calls for financial incentives to
transition economies from using fossil fuels to low-carbon and renewable
energies and to shift public financing away from the military to
“urgent investments” in sustainable development, with wealthy countries
helping poorer ones.
And it says political leaders have a
“special responsibility” at the Paris talks to approve a “bold climate
agreement that confines global warming to a limit safe for humanity,
while protecting the poor and the vulnerable from ongoing climate change
that gravely endangers their lives.”

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