Des Moines mayor wants to be a voice for local government at COP21

Des Moines mayor Frank Cownie speaks at a World Canvass event highlighting the 25th anniversary of CGRER at FilmScene in Iowa City. (KC McGinnis / CGRER)
KC McGinnis | December 4, 2015

Among thousands of delegates from high-ranking international posts, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie wants to bring a voice for local government to the COP21 U.N. climate summit currently in progress.

Mayor Cownie, who will be in Paris for the COP21 talks next week, sees climate change as a direct threat to Iowa infrastructure and development, particularly in its links to severe flooding and agricultural runoff.

Cownie will one of several mayors at COP21 representing the U.N. Compact of Mayors, which aims to increase the visibility of local leaders seeking climate solutions.

“I want to bring a local voice – local eyes, local ears,” mayor Cownie said in an address in November at Plymouth United Church of Christ in Des Moines.

Mayor Cownie sees climate change as a local issue in part because of climate-driven immigration, which he believes could force hundreds of millions to relocate due to issues like sea level rise. Local governments will be at the center of these relocation efforts.

Cownie recently recalled that participants from local governments were called “disruptive” at another international climate conference he attended by an international delegate who didn’t want them to participate. But disruption, according to Mayor Cownie, can be a good thing if it helps spur people toward solutions.

“Let’s hope they’ll want to hear from local government that we have issues and we’d like to partner with them,” he said. “We’d like to help find solutions.”

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