St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, about to wrap up a week in Paris at the United Nations international climate change talks, said Tuesday that the conference underscores the critical role played by local leaders and business in making environmental progress.

“One of the key takeaways I have is that this conference is different. This is 500 mayors from across the globe” taking a hard look on the impact of climate change on communities and local economies, Coleman said in a conference call with reporters.

The St. Paul mayor is attending the conference as co-chair of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, a group of 68 mayors along the Mississippi with the goal of protecting the river basin as an economic engine and important source of water and agricultural crops. Members of the delegation include St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis.

Coleman said they have met with mayors from other countries to share ideas and issues in managing river basins in the face of extreme drought and flooding, which many scientists say result from the earth’s gradual warming. He said that water management will become an increasingly important topic at future conferences.

A number of international river basin groups signed an agreement this week to protect rivers, streams and lakes from pollutants, sewage and agricultural runoff.

Two weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Coleman said that security is tight but that “life continues to go on . . . It’s important for us to be here to stand strong with Paris.”

Coleman said his official business in Paris will end Wednesday. He will travel to Prague to spend a few days with his brother before returning this weekend to St. Paul.