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Anchoring Sustainability in the Post-2015 Agenda

The second plenary session of Day 3 of the ICLEI World Congress 2015 looked at how to anchor sustainability in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Yvo de Boer of the Global Green Growth Institute highlighted three key events in 2015: the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in May; the United Nations Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda; and the COP21 in Paris in November/December. He urged cities to consider what they needed from these conferences, and to bring their demands.

He also pointed out that more and more financial institutions with a focus on sustainability are emerging. This is part of a broader shift in the mindset of the private sector, which is, as de Boer put it, “recognizing that it cannot survive in a society that fails.” It is important for cities to see how they could best take advantage of these new opportunities, de Boer noted.

The GGGI works to establish where national governmental policy is standing in the way of local sustainability. As de Boer noted, “If sustainability was easy, we wouldn’t need sustainable development goals.” It also works with local governments to develop “bankable” projects – the kinds of concrete projects that attract funding.

Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, highlighted the need to communicate how urbanization is not an unwanted outcome of development, but a key component of it.

If you don’t urbanize, you are not going to develop.

Clos added:

It is important that we start a  new relationship with national governments focused on improving the lives of the citizens.

He outlined UN-Habitat’s “New Urban Agenda”, which sets out a strategic approach to urban development. This kind of approach is required to avoid adding to the piecemeal confusion that has resulted from previous unstructured urbanization.

There is not enough money to develop projects individually; we need to develop strategies.

Clos concluded that, in order for local governments to develop and demonstrate the stable income base needed to attract funding for development projects, they must be empowered by national governments.

Patricia McCarney of the World Council on City Data highlighted the problems of gathering standardized data on cities. The lack of standardized measures, for example on violent crime, make gathering meaningful data difficult. To address this, the WCCD is working on a number of ISOs, including one on urban resilience. It is helping cities to prioritize just 75 indicators that would allow cities like Johannesburg and Beijing to directly compare their progress and requirements. As McCarney noted in her conclusion, “Comparative data allow cities to exchange knowledge.”

Pex Langenberg of the City of Rotterdam  described Rotterdam’s sustainability strategy, which is based on three pillars: a green, healthy and resilient city; clean energy at lower costs; and a strong  and innovative economy

Josep Roig of UCLG commented on the difficulties of institutional frameworks, quoting Noam Chomsky: “It´s’s a kind of stupidity that’s entirely rational within the framework within which it operates: but the framework itself ranges from grotesque to virtual insanity.” He also reiterated the need for vertical integration.

ICLEI Secretary General Gino Van Begin closed the session by emphasizing the need for local governments to find entry points into international negotiations.