Local sustainability enters the mainstream
Ania ROK, Stefan KUHN, 2012
This section presents a short history of the term “Local Agenda 21”, from its sharp rise in usage in the 1990s to its gradual decline in recent years, in which it has been increasingly replaced with other, often local, terms. Fortunately, in stark contrast to the term that symbolized its beginnings, the local sustainability movement is growing fast, spanning thousands of cities across all continents.
1 - Local Agenda 21 and other terms
From the very beginning the term “Local Agenda 21” was met with mixed reactions. Some countries, particularly those that established strong national campaigns, embraced it from the start and it remains the main reference point for their local sustainability processes today (e.g. France or South Korea). Others have never used it. Three key factors can be identified that determine the use of the LA21 term:
technical (e.g. Finland where “sustainable development” simply sounded better than “Local Agenda 21”, when translated to Finnish)
political (e.g. Quebec was the only Canadian region to refer to local sustainability processes as LA21, due to its historical ties with France)
funding-related (e.g. in the case of Latin America where the term has been “localized” following the completion of donor-funded projects)
2 - The emergence of a global movement
Even though, for reasons mentioned above, we are not able to estimate a number of local sustainability processes underway, there are strong indications that the last decade has witnessed a sustained growth in the local sustainability movement.
One way of estimating the popularity of local sustainability initiatives is to look at the multitude of international and regional associations and schemes that have further developed or appeared in recent years. ICLEI, which is the largest international association of local governments dedicated to sustainable development, has today about 1200 members in over 70 countries. There are a number of strong regional associations dedicated to sustainable urban development, such as Energy Cities that represents over 1000 European cities and towns working on sustainable energy management. In 2005, soon after the Kyoto Protocol entered into force, the Mayor of the City of Kyoto founded the World Mayors Council on Climate Change, an alliance of committed local government leaders that now counts over 60 members. Newcomers, such as C40, founded by 18 big world cities to work on climate issues, seek to cater to the needs of specific segments of cities. The African Local Agenda 21 Cities Network is to be launched in December 2012, during the 6th Africities Summit in Dakar, Senegal. Sub-national governments also organize for sustainable development, with the global Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD) launched in 2002, following the Johannesburg Summit, and R20 Regions for Climate Action founded in 2011.
New campaigns, often backed by international organizations, are being launched, as the examples below outline. With over 3000 local government signatories to date and covering almost a quarter of the EU-27 population, the EU-backed Covenant of Mayors can play a key role in achieving its emission reduction targets. In the US more than 1000 mayors have signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement since 2005, vowing to reduce carbon emissions in their cities below 1990 levels, in line with the Kyoto Protocol.
Local sustainability has been integrated into the mandates of virtually all organizations and associations that work with cities, such as United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Citynet, Metropolis, Eurocities or national municipal associations. Same could be said for international donors, both multilateral and bilateral, that increasingly support sustainable development on the local level, often through twinning programmes.
Published by :
ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability
Leopoldring 3, 79098 Freiburg, Germany
In Partnership with :
Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind
United Nations Human Settlements Program UN-HABITAT
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This study would not have been possible without the contributions made by a number of experts from all around the globe who shared their knowledge with the authors in the form of both written and oral answers to a set of guiding questions. We extend our gratitude to the staff of the following organizations and individuals:
ICLEI Offices: Africa Secretariat, European Secretariat Japan Office, Canada Office, Korea Office, Mexico Office, Oceania Secretariat, South Asia Secretariat, Southeast Asia Secretariat, USA Office, World Secretariat.
Regional and Country Offices of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme UN-HABITAT: Arab States Region, Burkina Faso, Central America, China, Indonesia and Pacific Island countries, Latin America and Caribbean Region, Sri Lanka, Western Balkans.
Further: Africa: Johan Nel (North-West University, South Africa), France: Ministry for Sustainable Development, Association 4D, Japan: Katsutaka Shiraishi (Ryukoku University), Hidefumi Imura (Yokohama City University), Korea: Korean Institute Center for Sustainable Development, Latin America: Francisco Alarcon (Finland).
The study was financed by the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind, Lausanne (Switzerland), the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety, and Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt DBU. Its publication was supported financially by UN-HABITAT.
To dowload the complete study : local2012.iclei.org/local-sustainability-study/