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Cities leading the way on environment: Toronto mayor

Toronto Mayor David Miller at home in September: 'Cities are acting,' he says. 'We are making real change, we're setting real targets and we're achieving them.'

Charla Jones/The Globe and Mail

On the eve of his departure to the United Nations climate change conference under way in Copenhagen, Toronto mayor and C40 global cities chairman David Miller sat down Wednesday with The Globe and Mail to discuss prospects for worldwide action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Q. Three days into the climate change meeting, what are your impressions from afar?

A. We are seeing two things, neither of which are surprising. There are significant parts of the world directly affected by climate change now ... who are speaking up.

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The other thing we are seeing is that some parts of the oil and gas interests have led a campaign based on the strategy tobacco [companies]used to deny the health effects of tobacco to deny the existence of global warming, and of course they are ratcheting that up in the run-up to Copenhagen.

Q. What will you do at the Climate Summit for Mayors Dec. 14-16, which wraps up as global leaders meet on a possible deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions?

A. There are events over the weekend with non-profits and others which are consistent with the efforts of the C40 [group of global mayors] ... The mayors' conference is in between [diplomatic negotiations in the early phase of the conference and global leaders arriving at the end]because we thought we could have the most impact on the successful conclusion of the negotiations.

Q. How can mayors have an impact if they are not at the negotiating table with world leaders?

A. Through the presence of 100 mayors representing 700 million people - that's one in 10 people on the planet - that is a very strong statement. Secondly, our message is that cities are showing how [on climate change] We are undertaking strategies today that lower our greenhouse gas emissions, fight climate change and create jobs. The economy and the environment are not opposed, they are one. ... National governments need to know there is a "how" [to do it]

Q. What is the significance of U.S. President Barack Obama joining other world leaders at the end of the Copenhagen meeting?

A. President Obama's attendance is a sign of hope for everybody, a sign for optimism [for an agreement] It is very important, particularly in Canada where our national government in one fell swoop is harming Canada's [environmental]reputation built up over decades.

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Q. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper now plans to join other country leaders in Copenhagen. What is your message for him?

A. Find a path to "yes." That path to yes goes right through Canada's great cities.

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