UNFCCC Events Focus on Actions by Cities and Subnational Authorities

UNFCCC10 June 2014: A Forum on Experiences and Best Practices of Cities and Subnational Authorities, as well as a Thematic Expert Meeting (TEM) on Urban Environment, convened under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) during the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. The events discussed the implementation of sub-national and city-level action on mitigation and adaptation.

The Forum showcased initiatives and best practices in creating an enabling environment for action and mainstreaming climate change into local development plans. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), who chaired the Forum, called on participants to share views on ensuring the centrality of cities in responding to climate change. Tomasz Chruszczow, Special Envoy for Climate Change, Poland, stressed the importance of building both top-down and bottom-up momentum.

A series of keynote addresses reviewed the extent to which cities and subnational authorities impact the policy landscape and their role in guiding and undertaking mitigation and adaptation action across sectors. Speakers emphasized: the need for information and technology to be carbon-neutral by 2030 in the building sector; that low-carbon development policies are good for the environment and also drive investment, growth and jobs; and that reducing travel and increasing transport and vehicle efficiency can reduce emissions in cities. On how national governments can support subnational action, one speaker identified the need to: provide direct financial, skills and knowledge support; and improve integration, coordination and access to data.

A panel discussion took place with representatives from different cities and subnational authorities, who shared concrete actions taken in designing and implementing climate-sensitive development. They focused on building resilience and mainstreaming mitigation and adaptation into local development agendas. The representative from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, stressed lack of capacity for project development, weak institutional and policy frameworks and inability to access international funding as barriers to addressing climate change in his city. A representative from Paris, France, reported on his city's Climate Protection Plan, emphasizing opportunities for cities to connect with other actors and territories at regional and national levels to develop integrated climate change programmes. A representative from the state of California, US, highlighted the role that states can play in building connections among different levels of governance.

In the ensuing discussion, which aimed to generate proposals for next steps, participants focused on examples of successful implementation, including subnational and regional carbon markets, and an integrated Smart City Department for city-level departmental coordination. Participants suggested that the 2015 climate agreement promote coordination between national and subnational levels. At the session's conclusion, Gino van Begin, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), stressed the need to cement local and municipal action in the climate regime between now and 2020. Chair Kirabo Kacyira concluded by stating that “it is in cities where the sustainable development battle will be won or lost.”

The TEM on Urban Environment, which met after the Forum, discussed ways to support and scale up feasible policy options for sustainable urban development. Opening the meeting, ADP Co-Chair Kishan Kumarsingh said the design of the “new urban world” would define the success or failure in achieving a low-carbon, climate-resilient world. TEM Facilitator Brian Kilkelly, World Cities Network, stressed the urgency of action in urban environments and called on participants to discuss: matching projects and funding; feasibility of policies and actions; and achieving commitment from a greater number of parties.

The first session focused on scaling up efforts. James Close, World Bank, discussed capitalizing on opportunities for green growth, urged linkages between evidence-based planning and investment and emphasized cities' credit worthiness to enable access to low-cost finance. Matthew Lynch, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), stressed the importance of avoiding lock-in of high-carbon infrastructure and highlighted opportunities around climate-smart infrastructure. Participants discussed, inter alia: promoting good investments, including a price for carbon; and understanding political dynamics around decision making to move to a green economic model.

A panel then shared their experience on financing urban infrastructure development and outlined ways they plan to further scale up efforts. Panelists represented: Malmö, Sweden, where the shipyard was transformed into a sustainable area; Kampala, Uganda, which is planning to incorporate climate change into all infrastructure project designs; Bogota, Colombia, where the public transport system is being transformed from diesel to electric/hybrid; Cebu, the Philippines, where a bottom-up disaster risk management (DRM) system is in place; and Tokyo, Japan, where a cap-and-trade programme has been implemented.

Participants then shared their experiences on how policy frameworks can be supported to promote sustainable infrastructure development. They underscored, inter alia: the city level can bridge North-South divides; and the need to align institutional arrangements, governance mechanisms and financial resources with urban mitigation goals for effective design and implementation. A World Health Organization (WHO) representative said low-carbon “healthy cities” could be established through political commitment and institutional change.

On the way forward, Mark Watts, C40, underscored opportunities for creating markets through horizontal cooperation amongst cities. Gino Van Begin, ICLEI, proposed building on the Forum and TEM by seeking an ADP mandate for local governments and municipal authorities to work on an action programme, that could be established through a COP decision in Paris in 2015. [Forum Website] [Forum Webcast] [TEM Website] [TEM Webcast] [IISD RS Sources]