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Jo'burg World Summit Nicky Gavron news release

5 September 2002

European Local Government: We Can and Must Lead on Sustainability

Sustainable Development Commissioner and Deputy Mayor of London, Nicky Gavron, has called for local governments across Europe to unite and lead on action for sustainability.

Delivering European local government's closing message to world leaders at the Summit, Ms Gavron said that Europe had both the capacity and the moral obligation to lead on sustainable development. 'Europe, with its huge investment muscle is in a position to incubate clean technologies and to lead sustainable development worldwide. There can be no excuse. Europe is highly profligate in its resource use - it consumes far more than its fair share. It has a duty to deliver concrete action on sustainability, not just to itself, but to the rest of the world.'

Gavron wants to spotlight local government which she believes is, 'critical to delivering national targets, and uniquely able to maximise opportunities and innovate at the local level'. Gavron wants to see high-level agreements at the Summit related to local government empowerment.

Gavron identifies three factors for improving delivery; 'Firstly, many local governments need strengthening through greater financial autonomy. Secondly, we must continue to transform local government, mainstreaming the interrelationship between economic, social and environmental responsibility into all policy development and implementation - in every department, in every action.'

'Most importantly, we must involve people: we must engage with them in participative democracy', insists Gavron. 'As politicians we have to be willing to share power and give communities and individuals freedom to make a difference. As political leaders, we must better empower our citizens to achieve sustainable development.'

The Commissioner believes that tackling poverty in any form is a prerequisite of sustainable development and sees tackling relative poverty in Europe as axiomatic to its future. Citing London as an example, she said, 'We are one of the world's leading financial centres, but shamefully, 43% of London's children live in households with less than half national average income: that is our poverty line' says Gavron. The experience is common to many European cities who are watching the gap between rich and poor widen as their economies grow.

The Commissioner believes European cities acting together can make an impact globally and accelerate the slow pace of change. She cites the Cities for Climate Change project where over 500 councils have signed up to targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, many going beyond national targets. 'Imagine the message it would send to world leaders if the world's largest cities were to agree to radical carbon dioxide reduction targets', she said.

Gavron concludes, 'European Local Government must seize the powers it already has and it must seek more powers and autonomy in close collaboration with national government. Local governments across Europe must all pull together to push each other on.'

Notes to editors

1. A member of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, Nicky Gavron is Deputy Mayor of London and the Mayor's cabinet adviser on spatial development and strategic planning. She is responsible for shaping the long-term direction of London through the London Plan. Since 2000 she has represented Enfield and Haringey on the Greater London Assembly and was a Haringey Councillor for 16 years. Nicky Gavron is an observer on the Transport for London Board and sits on the London Advisory Committee of English Heritage and the Inter-regional Forum. She is also the Mayor's lead on the first Children and Young Person's Strategy for
London.

2. The Sustainable Development Commission's remit is to advocate sustainable development across all sectors in the UK, review progress towards it, and build consensus on the actions needed for further progress. SDC is currently working in the areas of climate change, energy policy, food, health and agriculture, and regeneration.

Sustainable development provides a framework for redirecting our economies to enable everyone to meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life, while ensuring that the natural resources upon which they depend are maintained and enhanced, both for their benefit and for that of future generations.

3. Nicky Gavron was speaking at the closing plenary of the Local Government Session at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

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