LYON • Leaders of city and regional governments gathered on Wednesday in the French city of Lyon, in the grip of a western European heatwave, to demand a bigger stake in the worldwide push to curb global warming.
Local and regional governments often bear the biggest burden for dealing with the fallout from extreme weather events, which scientists predict will become more severe and commonplace as the climate changes.
More than half of the world's population live in urban areas, and are blamed for more than 70 per cent of the world's earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet cities and regions have no formal seat at the negotiating table for an agreement to be signed at a year-end United Nations conference in Paris to limit average planet warming to 2 deg C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Nor do they have easy access to climate finance, mainly entrusted to and disbursed by the national authorities.
Cities "are today much more exposed to climate risk," said Mr Clement Larrue of France's AFD development institute.
"How to redesign a town to be more resilient and less energy-hungry? This can be achieved only through investments in energy-efficient transport and buildings, measures often within the competencies of local government," he said.
Beginning on Saturday, this heatwave will be felt in France, Germany, Italy, southern Sweden, Poland and other nations in central Europe
A SPOKESMAN for the national weather office in Spain
Dakar mayor Khalifa Ababacar Sall said: "Communities have to assume their share of the responsibility. The problem is to obtain finance... we need to free ourselves from state financing."
French President Francois Hollande, who will preside over the Paris conference, told delegates on Wednesday that he agreed that "a portion of these (climate) funds must be accessible directly by local and regional governments".
Mayors and governors, along with representatives of non-governmental organisations, company bosses, workers, labour unions, scientists and social groupings, were gathered in Lyon for the two-day summit.
Organisers dubbed it "the principal gathering of non-state actors before COP 21", using the acronym for the Conference of Parties to be held in Paris from Nov 30 to Dec 11.
The Lyon gathering will produce carbon-reducing commitments and proposals for COP negotiators.
The mercury pushed 40 deg C across much of northern Europe on Wednesday as a blistering heatwave saw blackouts in France and emergency ice cream handed out to lemurs at a Dutch zoo.
The UN warned that heatwaves are growing more frequent and intense because of climate change, and called on more countries to put warning systems in place to inform people of the dangers.
Spain is heading for a new heatwave which will last for at least nine days and extend to the rest of Europe, the national weather office said on Wednesday.
The heatwave, the second of the summer, will affect almost all of Spain from today.
"Beginning on Saturday, this heatwave will be felt in France, Germany, Italy, southern Sweden, Poland and other nations in central Europe," said a spokesman for the weather office.
At the Safaripark Beekse Bergen zoo in The Netherlands, workers have already put emergency procedures in place - including ice cubes for baboons, cold showers for the elephants, and special meat- and fruit-flavoured ice cream for the ring-tailed lemurs.
Around a million homes in western France were left without power overnight on Tuesday after the heatwave moved in from Spain, and another blackout struck the western Vannes region on Wednesday morning, cutting electricity to 100,000 houses. Many schools across Europe have shifted their start times to keep children out of the sun's glare.
Meanwhile, in central London, public fountains became impromptu beaches, with parents sunbathing on benches and children playing in the water in their swimming costumes behind King's Cross station.
The first death linked to the heatwave was reported in the British press after a father drowned while trying to save his young daughter cooling off in a river in the northern Cumbria region.
The Muslim Council of Britain warned people fasting for Ramadan to take extra care, and said Islamic law allowed the sick and vulnerable to break the daytime fast during extreme conditions.