Former Vancouver mayor lands international gig to fight climate change

Vancouver Courier

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Former Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has landed a part-time job with an international organization that will see him travel the globe to fight climate change.

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy announced Monday that Robertson is now the organization’s ambassador, a role he said is a good fit for him.

Former Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, seen here in January 2018 prior to announcing he was retiring, is now the ambassador of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. Photo Dan Toulgoet

“It’s familiar territory,” he told the Courier by telephone, referring to his work as mayor to make Vancouver the “greenest city” in the world.

Robertson, who retired last fall as mayor after a 10-year run at city hall, served on the board of the organization while he was mayor. He wouldn’t disclose terms of his contract as ambassador.

“We kept in touch after I stepped down as mayor and they asked me to jump in and help the work of mayors around the world at a more international level,” he said, noting he will be in New York next week at a “Smart Cities” conference.

The organization of mayors is an alliance of more than 9,000 cities and other agencies, including the United Nations, national governments, members of academia and the private sector.

Robertson’s mandate is to “accelerate collaboration on research, innovation and investment” in cities, according to the news release from the organization.

Asked what that looks like, he said:

“A combination of educating partners on the needs of cities to tackle climate change and helping construct the tools to get resources to cities—whether that’s in research dollars or infrastructure funding or public-private partnerships. We need to be more creative.”

Robertson said billions of dollars in promises from governments and other agencies have come out of international climate change conferences that have yet to reach cities.

He referred to the Paris Agreement and the annual meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Right now, the structures aren’t delivering and a lot of the national and international governments are not tuned in to the needs of cities,” Robertson said.

The news release announcing Robertson’s appointment claims Vancouver has the smallest carbon footprint per person in North America.

It’s a claim that checks out with the City of Vancouver, which said in an email Monday that “based on a series of environmental performance reports and data comparisons of emissions from cities, we believe that Vancouver does have the lowest per capita GHG emissions of any major city in North America.”

Some European countries, including Germany, have even smaller carbon footprints per person.

Since he retired as mayor last fall, Robertson said he has been travelling and spending time with family. He said he hasn’t been closely following the work of the new mayor—Kennedy Stewart—and council.

With his appointment as ambassador being part-time, Robertson acknowledged he had some “other projects that I’m working on that you’ll hear more about soon.”

Those projects don’t include politics, he said.

“Nope. I’m taking a break from that, that’s for sure.”

Does he miss being mayor?

“I got my fill. I miss all the people I worked with and being on the day-to-day pulse of the city, but it’s a tough job and I’m happy to be on to new things.”

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