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Politicians Form Alliance to Reduce Urban Pollution
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (right) and former President Bill Clinton appeared at an invitation-only event at the UCLA Anderson School of Management on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Photo by Dharmishta Rood, Daily Bruin senior staff)

Politicians Form Alliance to Reduce Urban Pollution

Though speakers at the meeting said they believe greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to a dangerous warming of the global environment, they were also optimistic about their ability to solve the problem.

Some of the cities included in the alliance are Los Angeles, London, Houston, Mexico City, Rome and Seoul.

This article was first published in the online edition of The Daily Bruin, UCLA's official student newspaper. The paper also posted video of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This event was hosted by the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

By Anthony Pesce, Daily Bruin senior staff

Tuesday afternoon secret service agents diverted students passing near the UCLA Anderson School of Management, which played host to several politicians including former President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Included among those present were Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and, because of their cities' environmental records, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

All were there to witness and discuss an alliance between the Clinton Climate Initiative and the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, which Livingstone started last October as a means for large cities to band together and collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Some of the cities included in the alliance are Los Angeles, London, Houston, Mexico City, Rome and Seoul.

Near the end of the meeting, Clinton and Livingstone signed an agreement representing all cities in the arrangement, which states that the Clinton Initiative and the leadership group will work together toward reducing individual cities' pollution production.

"We can't think about global warming as some far-away problem of melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and distant hurricanes. It's our problem, here in the city of Los Angeles," Villaraigosa said. "This is a global problem with global repercussions. The time to act is now."

Though speakers at the meeting said they believe greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to a dangerous warming of the global environment – which Livingstone called "the biggest single threat that faces human civilization" – they were also optimistic about their ability to solve the problem.

"The consensus now is that the (environmental) tipping point now is most probably 10 to 15 years away at best and therefore it is incredibly urgent that we move on all fronts to tackle this problem," he said.

But all five politicians present said despite the severity of the problem, the solution is deceptively simple.

"We know what needs to be done," Clinton said. "We have to use less energy and find cleaner sources."

The Clinton Initiative will apply three business-oriented tactics which have been used successfully by the foundation in the past, Clinton said.

First, the foundation will create a purchasing consortium so the participating cities can pool their funds and buy energy-saving products in bulk for a lower cost.

Second, a team of experts will be deployed to cities to help them in achieving their goals.
  
Last, a standard form of measurement will be established so cities can have a universal means of gauging their progress in reducing emissions.

"We want to help to create systems to measure greenhouse gas uses and energy emissions ... and then to share all the information," Clinton said.

Clinton said the idea that it is impossible for a country to increase economic viability without putting out greenhouse gasses is defunct, and there are considerable economic advantages to going green.

"This is important for me not only because of climate change, but for national security reasons and because, as the United Kingdom has shown, it's actually the only viable economic strategy," he said.

Blair said he hopes to reach those outside of Korn Convocation Hall and inspire the community into action. 
  
"We have our work cut out for us in the international community. ... We have got to have

a binding framework and binding targets," Blair said. "We have to combine the collective experiences of cities and feed off of each other."

All three mayors also discussed the progress they have made in their cities.

Livingstone said in London he increased the price of fuel and charged people who drove into the city, and that through incentives people can begin to make an impact.

Villaraigosa outlined Los Angeles' plan to reduce emissions throughout the city by 20 percent and eventually run a subway all the way to the beach.

He also said he plans on planting 1 million new trees in Los Angeles and improving the efficiency of the city's waste-management system.

"We're looking at every measure we have to conserve every watt of energy, every drop of water," he said.

Chancellor Norman Abrams said that UCLA is doing its part to combat global environment change.

UCLA has already built one green building and most of the school's vehicles run on alternative energy sources, he said.

With reports from Sara Taylor, Bruin senior staff

UCLA International Institute

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