THE BLOG

An Update From COP 21, Wednesday 2nd December

05/12/2015 22:07 GMT | Updated 03/12/2016 10:12 GMT

'Resilience' is the buzz word on day two of the Cities and Regions Pavilion at COP21. Resilience goes far beyond the issue of climate change and our ability to limit its potentially devastating effect on the globe. It is about our ability to handle everything the world throws at us - be it mother nature, the fragile economy or the threat of terrorism, a topic that has a particular poignancy in Paris at the moment.

Bristol - in its usual pioneering spirit - is a founder member of the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities, a great global project which funds a full time Chief Resilience Officer for the city and supports our resilience planning with consultancy advice and the powerful shared resource that 100 very different cities brings. It means a lot to us, adding to our environmental mission as European Green Capital, so I was delighted to be invited to participate in a Rockefeller moderated discussion hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands' within the negotiating 'Blue Zone', including other leading 100 Resilient city mayors, Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam and Clover Moore of Sydney Australia.

Soon we are on stage with Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities, sharing the challenges in building resilient cities and our progress to date. A common theme emerges. It's one that's becoming a familiar refrain and still echoed in my ears from the previous evening's panel debate with Mayors from winning European Green Capitals. The sense is that we as cities can do more, but are hampered by a lack of power to act sufficiently without strong national legislation.

However we were able to conclude the session by signing a pledge that will release further funding for investment in city resilience. This commits us to putting at least 10% of our annual budget towards measures which make us more resilient. I was able to do so because we have carried out a preliminary audit that indicates that we can reach 15% in the coming year. This is vital. It protects our citizens, secures our future and sets our long-term trajectory over the next 50 years or more. It touches every aspect of what we do and everyone's life. It's a valuable pledge to make, and a strong outcome from the day.

The Blue Zone houses the high security negotiating area in which 197 countries are attempting to hammer out a global climate deal. Each represented nation has its own 'Pavilion' inside, a grand description of a mix of displays, stages and meeting areas. It is striking - and perhaps a little telling - to see the difference in these, from the functional no-nonsense approach of some, including the workaday office space of the UK pavilion, to the ostentatious peacocking of others. India, for instance, makes a stylish splash with a stunning floor to ceiling water feature, beautiful white robed attendants and the kind of digital screen usually reserved for summer blockbusters - striking an ironic note following Prime Minister Modi's stance on coal fired power.

Back to our Cities and Regions Pavilion, where delegates charge their phones by pedal power! Here we are bringing together leaders of cities and regions with national delegations. French Minister of Environment, Segolene Royal, a star in the French political firmament, brings her message of optimism for an agreement to a session with our fellow Green Capital, Nantes (2013).

It does seem progress is being made. Bringing people together in the way COP does is rare, but following the failures of the past and a greater realisation than ever that the world cannot afford to sit on its hands, there is a spirit of cooperation, hope and commonality.