City leaders at the Cities & Regions Pavilion in the Climate Generations Areas at COP21.

ICLEI: Harnessing the Energy of Mayors to Power Global Action

ICLEI hosted a session entitled “Local Action, Global Results: From Recognition to Raising Ambitions” at the Cities & Regions Pavilion on 5 December. Attended by city leaders from around the world, the session allowed participants to share achievements on local climate action and to look to the future.  

Wonsoon Park, Mayor of Seoul and ICLEI President, opened by reminding the audience that nations have been submitting their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). However, according to the International Energy Agency, the INDCs will exceed our global carbon budget. The COP21 is therefore aiming to deliver a new climate regime. This regime will require the active participation of cities and regions around the world. Rather than the top-down approach of Kyoto, this regime will adopt a bottom-up approach. ICLEI has been at forefront of efforts to lead cities and local governments in acting, Park stated, helping to create initiatives like the Compact of Mayors and the Transformative Actions Program (TAP).  

At the ICLEI World Congress 2015, Seoul adopted the Promise of Seoul, committing the city to reducing emissions. Its major initiative is the One Less Nuclear Power Plant program, which successfully reduced energy use and demand by the capacity of one nuclear power plant. The second phase will reduce demand by the capacity of two nuclear power plants. “Just as Seoul was inspired by other cities, other cities can be inspired by Seoul,” Park said. “If we dream together, the dream will come true”, he concluded.

Yunus Arikan (Head of Global Policy and Advocacy, ICLEI) gave an overview of local climate advocacy, noting that we should look back, build on our successes and learn from our mistakes. Arikan highlighted how local governments had been pioneers, from the 1993 Municipal Leaders Summit to the 2009 Copenhagen Local Government Lounge. “In 2010, when the world was losing hope, Mayors did not give up,” he explained. Arikan also highlighted the importance of demonstrating transparency and accountability as well as committing to action. To Mayors, Arikan said: “Your political support will show world that they can trust you”.

Libby Schaaf (Mayor of Oakland, USA) commented that “if we could only power the grid with the energy from mayors, we would not have a problem”. She presented the ClearPath tool, which Oakland has been using. The tool allows the city to see the breakdown of its emissions reductions, helping them to plan further action in a comprehensive way. It is now available for cities around the world to use. Schaaf closed by highlighting the achievement of US cities in exceeding President Barack Obama’s target of having 100 cities committed to the Compact of Mayors by COP21.  

Ashok-Alexander Sridharan (Mayor of Bonn, Germany) explained that, as the host city for the UNFCCC and the ICLEI World Secretariat, Bonn is a sustainability hub. Sridharan presented the carbonn Climate Registry,the world’s leading reporting platform to enhance transparency, accountability and credibility of climate action of local and subnational governments. Over 553 million people are represented by the 608 (November 2015) local and subnational governments reporting in the cCR. This represents 8% of the global population across 62 different countries.

Finally, Troy Pickard (Mayor of Joondalup, Australia and Member of the ICLEI Global Executive Committee) spoke on the importance of local action on biodiversity. A key tool for this is ICLEI’s Local Action on Biodiversity (LAB) program, which helps local governments to develop biodiversity sustainability action plans, capturing the status of biodiversity and the tools they have to preserve it. Pickard also noted that since the ICLEI World Congress 2009, biodiversity has been enshrined in ICLEI’s agenda, with the creation of the Cities Biodiversity Center. Several new initiatives on biodiversity are underway, including Cities4Nature – a new program to engage cities in becoming greener.