Throughout the four days that I have been able to participate in the conference, I have attended a number of talks focused on the role and action of local and sub-national government leaders in environmental and sustainability efforts. The message has come across loud and clear: The U.S. local and state governments have already and will continue to act with or without the action of our federal government. It has been really exciting to hear such passionate individuals talk about their efforts (such as Governor Gregoire of Washington state or Mayor Greg Nichols from the City of Seattle).
During these talks, I learned that over 1000 U.S. mayors have united to sign the Climate Protection Agreement, which essentially pledges that these cities will meet the requirements outlined in the Kyoto Protocol for the reduction of GHG emissions. Mayor Elizabeth Kautz (City of Burnsvile, MN), who is the VP of the U.S. Conference of Mayors pretty much summed up the message of all local and state officials by saying: "Local governments are at the forefront of innovative policy". This makes sense, since after all changes really do need to start from the ground up and need to be tailored to the issues and needs of specific communities.
On a more global level, I attended three separate talks that highlighted global collaboration with local and sub-national leaders. Sitting in these talks and observing the enthusiastic and collaborative spirit of these leaderes is such a stark contrast to the tone of discussions among the national leaders.