The Reasons Why?

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Why are representatives from tens of thousands of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) willing to wait in the freezing cold and snow just to get into meetings at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen?  The answer can be summed up in two words — leadership and solutions.

The UN may be an organization of nation states, but this climate summit has drawn thousands of grass roots organizations that work everyday to solve basic issues connected with climate change such as access to water, sustainable urban habitat, energy generation and expanded mass transportation options.

The lord mayor of Copenhagen took note that local government leaders, especially a large group of global big city mayors, arrived many days before the delegations of heads of state.  “Local government,” she said, “arrived early with climate change solutions.”  In effect, cities have been willing to act, to be ambitious, and to exercise leadership.

In the hallways of COP-15 you can see and hear dozens of worldwide celebrities and luminaries on big screen monitors while you walk to exhibits from private sector companies and NGOs.  More interesting however are the briefings, lectures, workshops and personal conversations with literally thousands of municipal officials, city planners, and specialists in land use, water systems, technology application and health care, as well as scientists, authors, entrepreneurs, NGO staffers, and bankers.

At the local and grass roots levels, there is an enormous level of comity, respect, information sharing and trust.  These are the characteristics that appear to be lacking among the leaders and delegations from national governments.  What you see at the center of COP 15 are thousands of solutions being tried by local actors.  Alas, among less than 200 national government delegations there is a level of mistrust that is a barrier to organized and coordinated global action on climate change solutions.

City governments and grass roots organizations have taken on the climate change solutions and have demonstrated genuine leadership. The call to national governments, as expressed by Senator John Kerry, is to have the courage to take the risks to implement the solutions.