20th Feb 2020

Local politicians urged to pick up the slack on climate policy

  • Tallinn in Estonia recently made public transport free for its citizens (Photo: EC)

Film star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unleashed lashings of can-do attitude on a group of European mayors in Brussels on Monday (24 June), saying it is up to local politicians to tackle climate change as global talks falter.

"Each of you has an enormous opportunity to fight climate change," he told the gathering of around 300 mayors, who have voluntarily committed their cities to improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases.

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He urged the local leaders to "think differently" and not to be discouraged by inaction or opposition at the federal level, noting that if he had not followed the motto he would still be "yodeling up there in the [Austrian] Alps."

The actor urged the audience not to think that a new international treaty on climate change - talks to establish a global deal by 2015 are limping along - is the only way forward, but to take local action.

Anni Podimata, vice-president of the European Parliament, noted that there are almost 1,400 "sustainable energy action plans" agreed by local leaders, with over 50 percent of Europe's 500 million-strong population living in large cities of over 50,000.

Schwarzenegger's Brussels visit was to mark the beginning of co-operation between the EU and R20, a climate action network of regional governments, founded by the actor and linked to the UN.

For his part, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he believed "that the great movement for planet protection can only come from this grass root level."

He pointed to local examples such as Binissalem in Spain, where a network of recharging stations for electrical vehicles is being established, or Portugal's Loures which is trying to make the transformation to electric cars.

Ramon Luis Valcarcel Siso, president of the committee of the regions, said the "Covenant of the Mayors" - set up four years ago - as been a "huge success" with a further 150 local authorities signing up on Monday.

Signatories pledge to meet or go beyond the EU goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 20 percent by 2020.

According to Schwarzenegger, the green movement needs to move away from making people feel "guilty" to showing how they can help.

"Instead of using doom and gloom and telling people what they can't do, we should make them part of our movement," he said.

"You can still have all the Jacuzzis you want, just install solar panels," he added.

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