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Local Environment, Vol. 7, No.

2, 117118, 2002

EDITORIAL

Local Action Moves the World?


This February in Vancouver, at one of the nal local government meetings prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) drove home their variant on the think globally, act locally theme: Local Action Moves the World. This is of course a core theme of our journal; one of our fundamental beliefs. Even on global issues, we take the local route to their resolution. For instance, in Vol. 3, No. 3, our Greenhouse Gases Special, our editorial noted that the actions taken in greenhouse gas abatement are never really global. They are, and will continue to be, mostly local, the result of efforts by local institutions , communities and individual consumers (Agyeman et al., 1998). We still believe this, and applaud the vision, leadership and resolve of those cities participating in ICLEIs Cities for Climate Protection campaign, but our optimism about local action moving the world has suffered a recent blow. In March, an ice shelf the size of the country of Wales, or the US state of Rhode Island, collapsed and broke off the Antarctic continent, shattering into thousands of icebergs in one of the most dramatic examples yet of the effects of climate change. The shelf, called Larsen B, was 200 metres thick with a surface area of 3250 sq km, and, according to scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), was thought to weigh almost 500 billion tonnes. The nal break up of the whole shelf took only 31 days, shocking glaciologist s with its sheer scale and speed. The collapse is thought to have dumped more ice into the Southern Ocean than all of the previous half centurys icebergs combined. Both the BAS and the US governments Ice Center consider this, and the 5500 sq km Iceberg B22, which broke off from the Thwaites ice tongue into the southern Amundsen Sea, as rm evidence of climate change. And what of the political response? The British Minister for the Environment, Michael Meacher, said the collapse of the Larsen B shelf was a great cause of concern and a wake-up signal to the whole world. When an ice-shelf of such enormous proportions can break up, that shows the effect that we are having. The rapid warming at the Antarctic Peninsula is broadly consistent with global warming but it is not understood why its rate of warming is so much greater than the global average. The silence among US politicians immediately following the 19 March collapse was deafening. The international agreements from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted at Rio in 1992, through the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and subsequent Summits, have yet to deliver the necessary reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions world-wide. Some countries have managed reductions in GHG emissions. In the case of the UK, for example, levels are now 7% lower than a
1354-983 9 Print/1469-671 1 Online/02/020117-02 DOI: 10.1080/1354983022013651 7 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd.

Editorial decade ago. However, it has been estimated that the UK will need to secure an 80% cut over the next 100 years if global targets for both GHGs and development in Southern countries are to be achieved. This is no small task, and it is clear that national governments cannot deliver this alone. This was the impetus behind the launch of the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Campaign by ICLEI in 1993. Under the CCP, national campaigns have been establishe d in the US, Australia, Canada and Japan, with further programmes under development in Finland, France, Italy, Mexico and the Philippines , with a new initiative , CCP-Europe, developing partnerships within the European Union. Local action can indeed move the world. But we also need global action as well. And fast. JULIAN AGYEMAN & BOB EVANS Reference
Agyeman, J., Evans, B. & Kates, R.W. (1998) Thinking locally in science, practice and policy, Greenhouse Gases Special Issue, Local Environment , 3(3), pp. 245246

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