Mayors sidestep Kyoto row to set sights on Green Cities

Civic leaders from around the world are meeting in San Francisco this week to thrash out international guidelines for sustainable urban living.

More than 70 mayors from major American cities and global population hot spots like London, Rio, Cape Town, Sydney, Tehran and Shanghai are taking the first steps towards transforming the world metropolitan centers into eco-friendly utopias by signing up to an agreement that is being dubbed the municipal Kyoto protocol.

The Urban Environmental Accords will be signed by the mayors on June 5 at the UN World Environment Day Conference at the culmination of the five-day Green Cities gathering.

The accords stemmed from the reluctance of the US Government to commit to targets combating climate control.

Led by Seattle several separate cities decided to go it alone (see related story) and the accords were drawn up.

The mayors are pledging to meet the challenges of sustainable urban development and looking at seven diverse areas including public transport, renewable energy, recycling, city parks, planning, environmental health and clean air and water.

The accord spells out 21 specific actions that can make a city greener and signatories will be expected to adopt at least three per year.

Many cities, particularly in the developed world, will already meet at least some of the standards such as providing adequate public transport and clean drinking water but will be expected to make progress in the other areas to show things are moving forward.

  • Energy actions include using renewable energy to meet 10% of a city's peak electricity demand and reducing demand by 10% in the next seven years and reducing greenhouse gases by 25% by 2030.

  • The waste reduction actions include setting in motion plans to ensure nothing is sent to landfill by 2040, reduce the manufacture of disposal, toxic or non-renewable goods by at least 50% within seven years and implement user friendly recycling and composting schemes to reduce waste sent to landfill or incineration by 20% within seven years.

  • Urban design categories cover creating environmentally beneficial jobs in deprived areas and slums, ensure all new municipal buildings are built to meet high green standards adopt planning policies which encourage walking, cycling and incorporation of open spaces for recreation.

  • The urban nature targets include planting trees to shade at least half the city's pavements, ensuring there is a park or recreation area within 500 yards of every home and passing legislation to protect wildlife corridors from development.

  • Transportation targets are providing affordable public transport to all residents, with pick up and drop off points within 500 yards of every home, pass a law to phase out leaded petrol, cut sulphur levels in diesel and petrol while reducing emissions from buses, taxis and municipally-owned vehicles by 50%. The third target is to reduce the number of commuters traveling to work alone in their vehicles by 10%.

  • Environmental health targets require cities to find a product or chemical that is the doing the most harm to residents and provide incentives to reduce or eliminate its use, promote locally grown organic food and ensure 20% of all city schools and city facilities serve it within seven years. They must also measure air pollution and cut the number of days it reaches unhealthy or hazardous levels by 10% within seven years.

  • Finally the water targets require cities to make safe drinking water available to all residents by 2015 and those with high water consumption levels to reduce that by 10%, protect the ecological integrity of the city's primary drinking water sources and adopt waste management guidelines that reduce untreated wastewater discharges by 10% in seven years.

    By Sam Bond

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