Ann Arbor will be recognized at tonight”s City Council meeting as one of six cities worldwide selected to host a preparatory United Nations meeting on sustainable living.
Last fall, David Konkle, energy coordinator for the city, was told by Mayor John Hieftje that the city had been invited to submit an application to host the conference, which will address issues such as climate change, water pollution and the retention of natural spaces.
“Just being invited was great,” Konkle said. “I don”t think any of us thought it would happen.”
Ann Arbor was chosen from 35 cities to be the North American host for the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. It is being held June 20-22 to prepare for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Ann Arbor beat out Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Berkeley, Calif., among other North American applicants. The other meetings are being held in London Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Johannesburg, South Africa and Hamilton, New Zealand. The sixth city is still unknown.
Konkle said Ann Arbor is very fortunate to have this honor bestowed upon it and received support from both the University and the community. Letters of recommendation were submitted by the School of Natural Resources, the Ecology Center and the School of Architecture and Urban Planning, among others.
“We found all kinds of enthusiasm and support from the community,” Konkle said. “When they finally chose us, they said they were impressed with the various level of support Ann Arbor received.”
The meetings are set to continue the ideas which originated at the 1992 Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro. It was at this conference that the Agenda 21 environmental act called for local governments to undertake local environmental initiatives.
Allison Quaid, director of the local Agenda 21 project for the United States, said there were several reasons Ann Arbor was chosen over the other applicants. Quaid cited the environmental record of Ann Arbor, the communitywide initiatives and the support from the University.
“It”s great to have such a widespread interest,” Quaid said. “They were really enthusiastic and it is wonderful to work with a city that is equally as enthusiastic as we are.”
Quaid added that Ann Arbor is an example of progress since the original ideas of local sustainability were first developed.
“National, state, and local governments can contribute to creating a more sustainable community.”
Hieftje said city officials are very excited about the meetings, and attributes the choice of Ann Arbor to its numerous programs and collaborations with various entities.
“We are very progressive in the way of environmental programs we are energy conscious, and very pro-active when it comes to finding alternate fuels,” Heiftje said. “Our collaboration with the University of Michigan has also worked greatly. All these things come together to make us a shining community.”
The meetings will be attended by city officials from throughout the country, although the keynote speaker has not been formally announced.
Ann Arbor officials will also be on hand for the discussions, which Konkle said exemplifies the city”s strong commitment to the environment.
“Ann Arbor has been different since the beginning,” Konkle said. “The city is an example that can go on as time goes on and others can see the wisdom of the things we do.”
Konkle said the Business school has donated its facilities for the meeting and many corporations are offering to help. He added that Ford Motor Company promised their new small, electric “think-mobiles” for trial and transportation use and other companies are considering sponsorship.