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Good night Doha and wake up!

Editorial note: Just in time for the Doha climate talks, Kaj Embren takes a strong stand in his blog on where the real action on climate change can be found - local governments. In recent events, others have said it is time for business to step up and take the lead. Still others caution that this is no time to let up on multilateral negotiations: “There is no Plan B,” says UN climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Why should we hope for national governments to succeed in a deal on climate change? It is a waste of money to take more than 10,000 people to a negotiation in Doha based on false hope. It is time to create a parallel negotiation with city leaders and put the investors money into cities – then you will see results.

National governments have proven that they do not have what is required to meet the global challenges of climate change and the unsustainable use of our planet’s resources. The shortcomings of the latest Rio summit acts as testament to this. With the burden of recession and austerity, short-sighted national governments have thus far shown themselves unable to handle sustainable development issues.

Within the arena of sustainable development, the boundaries of responsibility are undergoing a monumental shift. This allows new actors to take pole position in the creation of new opportunities. Old infrastructures are being replaced by new ones that are better designed to cope with the challenges facing cities and regions.

We should stop directing our attentions and frustrations towards impotent governments. Instead we must focus on more localized models that simmer from below but come to influence and inspire national actors to greater action.

Better levels of engagement and the development of local and international networks have prompted a wider range of actors to become involved in sustainability, from both within and outside the market. The umbrella term for this is usually ‘Sustainable Cities’, but as we say in Sweden, ‘a loved child has many names’.

Over the past five years we have seen several strong international networks emerge from municipalities and regions. To get a wider understanding of this phenomenon, I undertook some research that shows just how many locally-focussed organizations use their involvement in these networks to bring about sustainable solutions that can have a real impact. I must say that I was impressed by what I found. You can read the full report here.

But the question in front of Doha is now: Where are the Mayors that will take the lead?

Stockholm-based Kaj Embrén has been involved with Sustainable Development for more than 30 years. He writes at, where this blog was originally published.

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