Portland Mayor Charlie Hales rubbed shoulders Thursday with leaders of the world’s “megacities,” where he shared Portland’s experiences in urban planning at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Most of the cities in the group are much larger than Portland, but Portland is seen as a world leader in the effort to combat climate change, Hales said in a phone interview from Johannesburg.

Hales was a featured speaker Thursday morning in a plenary session on Smart Planning and Infrastructure, appearing alongside the mayors of Mexico City, Milan and Curitiba, the fourth-largest city in Brazil. It was one of six such sessions at the conference.

“I think we’ve contributed and we’ve learned,” said Hales, speaking for himself and city staff that attended.

Hales said he was inspired by listening to the mayor of Johannesburg speak of the challenges of making environmental gains when there is so much poverty and a wide gap between the haves and have-nots.

“He really makes a powerful case that livability is a path to social equity,” Hales said.

Portland’s mayor also was intrigued about hearing of a smartphone app used by the mayor of Mexico City, which provides real-time data on air quality and transit ridership.

Hales said he’d like to ask some of Portland’s app developers to devise something that might prove useful here, perhaps something that can be used to bolster the number of people using the transit system.

C40 was created by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative.

The mayors argue that while national governments have been slow to respond to the threat from climate change, much of the world’s carbon emissions stem from cities, along with much of the innovation and progress in reducing carbon emissions.

For more information about C40:

To see a videotape interview of Hales produced for the conference:

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib

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