On 11 December, a panel discussed the key messages of the Cities & Regions Pavilion – the home of local and subnational activities at COP21. Alex Minshull (Sustainable City Manager, Bristol City Council), Richard Pancost (Professor of Biogeochemistry, University of Bristol, UK), Yunus Arikan (Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, ICLEI), Gino Van Begin (Secretary General, ICLEI), Monika Zimmermann (Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI) and Agnes Biscalia (Agence Francaise de Developpement) assessed the two weeks of the Pavilion in relation to the history of local climate action and the forthcoming climate regime.
Panelists agreed that COP21 constitutes an historic moment for cities and regions, who are set to be recognized in the agreement. This will provide a framework for cities and regions to accelerate and scale up their climate actions. Such actions are particularly important as the current national commitments will not keep global warming below the two-degree Celsius threshold that ensures a climate-safe future for all. Cities and regions must therefore continue to develop innovative and ambitious plans to help bridge the emissions gap.
The panel also highlighted the importance of partnerships as a key lesson of the Pavilion. All stakeholders must be involved in local climate action, from universities and civil society to national governments and international funding bodies. This message had been reiterated in a range of sessions at the Pavilion, on topics from community energy and resilience to integrated pilots and agroforestry initiatives.
Finance was a prominent theme throughout the Pavilion sessions. Biscalia stated that finance is available for cities but mechanisms to deliver finance are lacking. The creditworthiness of cities is a major barrier to this delivery, she explained. Pancost felt that more dialogue was needed with funding bodies, while Minshull highlighted the need for cities to develop bankable projects to attract investment. In response, Van Begin highlighted the Transformative Actions Program (TAP), which has collected over 120 of the most ambitious and innovative climate actions, providing a one-stop-shop for institutions looking to finance sustainability initiatives at the local level.
Minshull concluded by noting that ambitious climate plans were being discussed across the political spectrum and at all level. Our actions now, he added, will lock us into a particular trajectory. It was vital to make sure that this trajectory is the right one. The Cities & Regions Pavilion had been “the place to be” at COP21, and the example of other leading cities had shown Minshull that Bristol must go “faster and further” – as must all cities and regions to ensure a sustainable future.