– 22 October 2009 – In Melbourne this month was Gino Van Begin, Deputy Secretary-General of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, to spruik his urgent message of including cities into post-Kyoto climate change agreements.

From ICLEI’s point of view, if effective climate change action is going to happen – and warming kept to 2 degrees – the actions of local council authorities, especially in cities, will be critical to a co-ordinated international framework. The trouble is the United Nations convention on climate change does not specify anything at the sub-national  level.

The proposition is straight forward, Van Begin explains in an  interview with TFE on his way from Bangkok between countless talks with government representatives ahead of the Copenhagen meeting  in December.

“Half the population lives in urban areas and 73 per cent of all energy is consumed in urban areas.

“So if we’re talking about behavioural change then it can only occur at these [local urban[ levels.”

According to Begin this is a message that rings loud and clear in the ears of most local government authorities.

“What we’re saying is that 87 per cent of all councils are already taking climate action very significantly.

“ICLEI has been instrumental in facilitating that in Australia. We’re saying to the Australian Government, build on this and convince your peers to do the same.”

But Van Begin says there is a reluctance of national governments to include local governments in international frameworks because of fear that they will be held liable if agreed targets are not met.

And this is a reluctance he is working hard to overcome.