Travis County commissioner to lead local government group at UN conference in Dubai

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TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The annual United Nations Conference of the Parties begins Thursday in Dubai, and one Central Texas leader will bring her local experiences to the international gathering.

The conference, also called COP, brings countries together to focus on climate change, and this year will have a distinct focus on local government.

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea will serve as the US board chair of the ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and lead a delegation of local elected officials who look at what local governments are doing and can do to have an impact.

Shea said most people probably don’t think local governments have much of a role in climate change.

“But because local governments are where the population is and local governments have the responsibility to help put their communities back together after a disaster, I think the role of local governments has been maybe underappreciated in the work that’s gone on on this issue,” Shea said.

She said about 2,700 local governments will participate in the COP this year.

Shea, who will be going to her sixth UN climate conference, hopes to share some local successes in Travis County, such as the neighborhood-based wildfire evacuation drill, improved cell phone emergency response systems and the county’s work-from-home policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

She also hopes to find “best-case solutions” and bring home examples of other local initiatives.

“The reality is, it’s an all-hands-on-deck moment,” she said.

Also unique to this year’s conference is the presence of Pope Francis — the first pope to attend the climate conference. Shea said his attendance is another indication of the severity of the climate issue.

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