Photo by kindsir @ flickr
Growing automobile usage in Chongqing, China. Photo by kindsir @ flickr

In the long media shadow cast by UNFCCC COPs many other international negotiations and summits are over-looked. This week a 900-participant meeting in Asia is attempting to make specific contributions to climate change policy, with another announced for 2009.

In Bangkok, Thailand, the Better Air Quality Workshop (BAQW) is currently underway. The event is aimed at regional and local government delegations to foster cooperation on reducing urban pollution, notably of CO2.

Delegates have heard about the challenges faced by projected population rises of half a billion by 2030 in Asian cities alone. One major challenge for climate policy is how to deal with a parallel rise in cars–and with them carbon emissions.

While more low-key than the UNFCCC, the BAQW is making important in-roads, particularly in the area of information sharing and best practice. Participants have been using Singapore’s model of urban expansion as prototype for growing Asian metropolitan areas; instead of building outwards from the city and increasing travel distances, BAQW workshop presenters have advocated building upwards, creating a compact urban area with well-planned public transport systems. This, they argue, allows city and population growth without parallel automobile increases.

In comparison to the burgeoning UNFCCC process, BAQW appears to benefit from a focus on spreading best practice through information sharing, rather than engaging in complex negotiations to find a common treaty. BAQW essentially encourages national-level policy through international coorperation, as opposed to the law-making UNFCCC that attempts to create international-level policy.

A second ‘best practice’ summit has also been announced for March 2009: the Green Energy Summit (GES), this time in Bangalore. While a more high-level meeting, agendas for GES once again appear focused on national policy comparisons, assessments of successes and failures, and, fundamentally, a discussion of how to move forward.

In this growing season for summits not all approaches to yielding the low-carbon fruit are the same. As the over-arching greenhouse continues to warm, and the summit growing seasons intensify, there are certainly things to be learnt from the new kids on the block.

UPDATE–12/11/08 10.17 GMT: News just feeding in this morning is that the U.S Governors–led by California’s Schwarzenegger–will also host a global summit on climate change. The meet is scheduled for Nov. 18-19.

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