Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, a city where many residents earn their way thanks to the oil and gas sector, might seem a different choice to host an international climate change conference.
But Marcus Mayr wants the world to know that that very connection made the difference in awarding Edmonton the 2018 Cities and Climate Change Science Conference, co-sponsored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“It’s very encouraging that in a region that is so dominated by the energy economy that you are able to take these bold transformative measures,” Mayr said.
“It’s positive to see that not only the mayor is fully onboard with the conference theme and pushing sustainability, but also to learn that the province and the national government are all fully onboard,” Mayr said.
Mayr is Associate Human Settlements Officer at UNHabitat and an IPCC member. He was one of 14 colleagues who visited Edmonton last month to help plan the conference. The group also learned more about some of Edmonton’s leading environmental projects, including Blatchford and the Waste Management Centre. Mayr came from Kenya, via Montréal, for the meeting.
The conference will be the world’s first to tackle the role of cities in climate change. As many as 600 scientists, policy-makers and academics from around the world will exchange best practices on using scientific evidence and hard data to inform policy at local levels.
“My hopes for the conference are that…these three groups are aligned and we’re taking decisions based in science, and the practitioners are implementing scientifically-based decisions,” Mayr explained. .
Julie Greenwalt, Urban Environment Specialist from Cities Alliance, who came from Brussels, Belgium, also via Montréal, for the Edmonton meeting, said she’s been impressed with Edmonton’s advocacy for climate change action, and that’s another reason the city won the conference bid.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve really seen how invested the city is and how different people working for the City and also academic and private organizations are really invested in this topic,” Greenwalt said.
Despite the seriousness of climate change and its impacts around the world, Greenwalt remains optimistic about the future of the planet.
It’s everyday people, Greenwalt said, citizens of the world who make a commitment to the planet, who will make progress on climate change by changing the way they live.
“I think there’s so much space for so many people to lead and to contribute to this,” Greenwalt said. “I think it’s great to see world leaders, but it’s also inspirational to see city leaders, to see community-level leaders, to see youth.
“I think it’s more inspirational to [see] real-life people who in their everyday lives are making efforts to be leaders…who understand the challenges and the complexities and made a commitment…in the way they live or the way they dedicate their lives.”
Mayr echoed Greenwalt’s optimism.
“I see that more and more people are taking initiative, are owning up to the situation, are taking actions and, I think, the English term is to put money where your mouth is?
“I think this is the foundation on which this global transition will be built, and that’s why I’m optimistic that my daughter grows up in a world which is not near the world that we somehow feared.”
The 2018 Cities and Climate Change Science Conference goes March 5 – 7, 2017, at the Shaw Conference Centre.