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Laboratories of the low carbon economy

The theme today in Bali perhaps could best be summarized by the bumper sticker maxim, "think globally, act locally." While the delegates continued negotiations on an international climate change agreement, several events highlighted efforts by local communities around the world to confront the climate crisis and secure their own clean energy future.

Local cities from Milano, Italy to Betim, Brazil to Bhubaneswar, India shared their experiences deploying renewable energy projects in their cities. In partnership with ICLEI, they have banded together with other cities around the world (ICLEI map below of participating cities below) to share expertise and best practices on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The U.S. Climate Acton Network highlighted efforts by U.S. states (including 9 of the country's 10 largest emitting states) to reduce emissions, along with the pledge by over 700 U.S. mayors to meet the Kyoto Protocol targets in their cities and towns. Other innovative programs mentioned included the City of Berkeley's solar home financing plan; Chapel Hill, North Carolina's free public transit; and the City of Austin's plan to power all city facilities with 100% renewable power.

The Climate Group released a report on state and regional Low Carbon Leaders showing that emissions reduction targets set by local governments are often more ambitious than commitments pledged by national governments under the Kyoto Protocol. ICLEI convened a series of local government climate sessions as parallel events to the Bali meetings.

The flurry of local activity represents some frustration with the pace of international action, according to German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. "We can't wait for every detail to be correct at the international level; we have to act now and we can act now if we act locally." Monika Zimmermann of ICLEI hopes the 'can-do' attitude of state and local governments will be contagious. "We're not just doing the right thing for our own sake, we want to prompt national governments and the international community to follow our lead."

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