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Mayors hope to advance city issues at Paris climate summit

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will be attending climate change talks in Paris along with his counterparts from Toronto and Montreal.


Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says Canadian cities are entitled to a space at the table of this month's climate change talks in Paris because they produce a fair bit of pollution and also have ideas for reducing it.

For that reason, Mr. Robertson said Thursday he will be headed to France along with his counterparts from Toronto and Montreal to advance city issues during the global gathering titled the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"The vast majority of greenhouse-gas emissions and climate pollution comes from cities around the world," Mr. Robertson told reporters.

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"We're hopeful the national leaders are going to make bold commitments in Paris to deal with climate change," he said. "The work will have to happen in cities. Mayors are showing up in force to make sure we're connected to the decisions that are being advanced."

The conference is aimed at developing a binding international climate-change agreement to reduce global warming. Vancouver, which aspires to be the greenest city in the world, also sees a venue for telling a story that includes balancing a reduction in greenhouse gases with economic growth.

Other large Canadian cities said they are not sending their leaders, though some said they are awaiting ideas from the gathering of global leaders.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson won't be in France, but "looks forward to speaking with those mayors who do attend upon their return," his spokesperson, Brook Simpson, said in a statement.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage cannot make the meeting, but is interested in ideas raised at the conference for dealing with climate change in his city.

In a statement, Halifax spokesperson Shaune MacKinlay pointed to rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms.

Alberta Mayors Naheed Nenshi of Calgary and Don Iveson of Edmonton are also not attending. While Winnipeg's Brian Bowman is not going, Councillor Jenny Gerbasi will be headed to France with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities delegation.

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Vancouver's mayor was talking about the conference at a pair of meetings with reporters on Thursday, where he said it will be tricky for Vancouver to be heard at among the buzz of 40,000 delegates from 195 countries – a mix of prime ministers, presidents, and other national and municipal leaders.

But Mr. Robertson said he will be speaking at a number of events, and he expects "people will be tracking us down."

"We're looking at all the various opportunities to speak, to present Vancouver's story," he said.

Vancouver has a key connection to the organization representing Canadian cities unable to attend the meeting. Acting mayor Raymond Louie, a fellow councillor in Mr. Robertson's governing Vision Vancouver party, will attend the conference as president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

The organization will represent all local governments in Canada.

"International climate change objectives to be negotiated in Paris will have to be implemented at the local level, placing municipalities at the forefront of greenhouse gas reductions," Mr. Louie said in an e-mail exchange from Manitoba where he was attending a meeting.

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He said he has met with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who he said described Canadian cities as "key partners" with the federal government in the talks.

A spokesperson for Ms. McKenna said in an e-mail exchange that she has met with several mayors from across Canada and is committed to working with cities and provinces to reduce emissions.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More


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