Canberra climate action on show at UN talks in Germany

Canberra climate action on show at UN talks in Germany

The role of cities like Canberra in affecting progress against global warming has been considered in the latest United Nations climate talks, with experts welcoming "a groundswell" of innovation.

World leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and environment advocates gathered in the former German capital of Bonn last week for the 23rd conference for signatories to the UN Convention on Climate Change.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and world leaders, with Fijian child Timoci Naulusala at the United Nations climate change talks in Bonn

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and world leaders, with Fijian child Timoci Naulusala at the United Nations climate change talks in BonnCredit:AP

University of Canberra chair of Urban and Regional Planning Barbara Norman said a key message from the talks had been how mayors, governors and regional leaders could work together to create large-scale change, boosting wider efforts on a national and international basis.

Professor Norman said powering cities with 100 per cent renewable electricity, building integrated transport systems, designing green precincts and environmentally sustainable developments were key to meaningful progress.

From Canberra to Bonn: Professor Barbara Norman

From Canberra to Bonn: Professor Barbara Norman

"Sustainable solutions such as these need green financing mechanisms and support from national governments if they are to deliver real outcomes on the ground," she said.

"At COP 23, the World Bank unveiled a new program designed to provide cities with a vehicle to raise necessary funding and investment, in partnership with private enterprise.

"In one of the conference's key finance sessions, the former leader of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, stressed that green finance will be the key to urban change, with a current industry target of $US1 trillion, and more in green bonds by 2020."

In a piece for The Conversation, Professor Norman wrote national governments should enable the coming wave of urban innovation to move forward, including through the Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

"While a few states may choose to ignore international agreements, this groundswell of collaborative action across businesses, governments and communities is sending a strong message that national governments would be wise to heed.

"Embracing and investing in urban transformation that improves the health of people and the planet is clearly a winning strategy."

Chair of the ACT Climate Change Council, she said Canberra stood out among cities involved in an international cooperation network, including because the territory was on track to achieve its target of 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop used Fiji's presidency of the conference to announce Australia would provide additional support to key climate initiatives in Pacific countries.

The government will spend $6 million to support protections and management of coastal blue carbon ecosystems, in partnership with governments, regional institutions and private sector organisations.

The ecosystems, which include mangroves, tidal marshes and sea grasses, capture carbon and help mitigate costal erosion.

The federal government said Australia has committed to spend $300 million on climate change and resilience activities in countries in the Pacific Islands by 2020, including $75 million for disaster preparedness.

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Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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