A real national to local conversation on climate governance

For Manuel Alculete Lopes de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique, governance is an issue that extends well beyond climate. Cooperation between national and local governments has, to date, been limited on a number of development issues. The Mayor shared strong views on the need to scale up climate action and on the need for effective multi-level governance between all levels of governments.

With the Paris Agreement, national governments pledged to implement large-scale greenhouse gas emissions reductions within the next decade. Each country can choose their own path, and these plans are translated into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). These NDCs are what countries promise to do in order to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century – and aiming for a lower, 1.5-degree increase.

Yet the current NDCs are not nearly enough to achieve this goal.

According to the latest projections by UN Environment, if all the NDCs were fully implemented, the world would warm up to 3.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with catastrophic effects on ecosystems, livelihoods and human settlements.

It is clear that to push further on climate action, nations cannot act alone. They will need a hand in delivering the promises of the Paris Agreement. This is where local and other subnational levels of government come in.

The Paris Agreement recognizes that local and regional governments have an important role to play in global climate action. Nations can and should take this recognition a step further. They can set clear mechanisms for consulting and engaging with their local and regional governments, making them equal partners in a well-coordinated effort. This is what we call multilevel governance for climate action.

Today at COP23, the NDC Partnership and ICLEI took a closer look this concept. Together, these two organizations aim to put multilevel governance into practice, making it a core element of successful NDC implementation.

The NDC Partnership, launched at COP22 in Marrakech, is a global network of countries, development organizations, multilateral development banks and organizations focused on implementing the NDCs. It facilitates technical assistance, creates and disseminates insightful knowledge products that fill information gaps, and promotes enhanced financial support for NDC implementation.

Earlier this week, ICLEI, as a global network of cities, towns and regions, became its first non-country associate member, a privilege and a good sign that, through partnership and shared goals, the climate challenge can be overcome.

So what does multilevel governance really mean? Representatives from national and local governments dove into this issue during the joint event between ICLEI and the NDCP Partnership at COP23.

For the German government, multilevel governance means consultation, coordination and cooperation. In Germany, municipalities are quite autonomous as compared to other countries – they have the power and the financing. The German government emphasizes the importance of bringing together different levels of government when developing national plans and targets, across all stages, from planning to implementation.

“It is a question of getting the dialogue going between all these levels. Because this is missing,” says Vera Rodenhoff, Head of Division for Environment and Energy and Environment, Building and Urban Development at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

Enabling frameworks are critical. This can include laws, incentives and support mechanisms. Germany puts this into practice on the national and international levels. The national government runs a national climate initiative, through which the state supports municipalities to develop climate and energy plans and implement energy efficiency measures. The German government also runs an international climate program, the Internationale Klimaschutzinitiative, through which they support climate and energy action globally, to help reach the Paris Goals – and show to solidarity in global climate action.

Not every country is as advanced with multilevel cooperation on climate. For Manuel Alculete Lopes de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique, governance is an issue that extends well beyond climate. Cooperation between national and local governments has, to date, been limited on a number of development issues. The City of Quelimane, a coastal city relying on mangroves as its first line of defense, lacks the funds and human capacity to implement and enforce local policies and regulations. Mayor Araújo has sought was to ways to circumvent these limitations, by working with international donors to build local capacity and by speaking on the international stage at the annual climate COP – like he did today at COP23.

From his work in the international arena, the national government of Mozambique has taken note of his efforts, recognizing the positive steps forward he is taking as a mayor. “ICLEI has been an important window for the community to get recognition within our own country,” said Mayor Araújo. This recognition may be a small but important first step in establishing better multilevel collaboration in his country.

For Pakistan, there are three key dimensions of climate policy. There is the political aspect, which means defining the contours of who will do what at the global level. There is also the technical level, in which countries identify their climate needs. Third, and arguably the most important, is climate governance.

“The NDC needs to be coordinated with our national governance structure,” says Muhammed Irfan Tarique, Director General of Environment and Climate Change, Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan, highlighting this statement as his key takeaway message.

There is a three-tiered governance structure in Pakistan. The country is a Federal State, with federal, subnational and local governments. When it comes to climate action, the federal government focused on large scale projects and on reporting to international platforms. Subnational governments have the constitutional power to allocate resources to implement their development strategies and monitor their efforts. However, some sectors, such as waste management, need to be managed locally, despite the fact that the resources available for waste management are held at the subnational level. Pakistan is working with the NDC Partnership to develop a roadmap to unpack and identify the level of responsibility to be taken at each level of government to optimize efforts. There is, according to Tarique, a strong role that subnational and local governments can play in delivering on the climate goals that Pakistan has set as a nation.

Multilevel governance in climate action is a way to ensure that nations shape and implement climate policy in a way that reflects the realties on the ground. A number of countries in the NDC Partnership have recognized this and are taking action accordingly. Vietnam is relying strongly on the provincial level for climate action, while Brazil has created a working group to explore how to construct the climate responsibilities of different jurisdictions. Meanwhile, Peru has developed, through its development bank, domestic, international and private financing for local low carbon projects.

Without effective collaboration, national governments run the risk of making decisions that are detached from local issues and the real difficulties of implementing climate projects. This is a common message coming from the local level, one which is well recognized by ICLEI and the NDC Partnership who intend to bring multilevel climate governance forward in support of global climate targets.