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Three stories for local governments to watch in 2020

As we kick off a new decade, environment takes center stage. For the first time, the top five global threats in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report are all environmental. Climate action failure and biodiversity loss make the top five both in terms of likelihood and level of impact. 

Critical action is needed to ensure an environmentally stable future, making it a central theme not only for the year but for the decade. These environmental threats encompass diverse sectors and issues from biodiversity to climate and demand integrated action at all levels of government.

As world leaders are coming together in Davos, climate and environment are at the top of the agenda. But these leaders are actually being outshone in ambition and action by their local counterparts. 

What will 2020 hold for local governments? We took a page from our most popular blog posts from 2019 to make some predictions for what lies ahead this year.

1. Nature and climate come together in global debate and local action 

With the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties coming up in October 2020, where negotiators will face the failure to achieve the Aichi Targets set a decade ago, leaders are calling for the ‘Paris moment for biodiversity’. 

As the scientific community continues to lay bare the critical importance of natural ecosystems in combating climate change through flagship reports such as Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) global assessment and the IPCC special report on climate change and land, nature will take the world stage this year viewed not only through the lens of conservation but with an emphasis on the life-sustaining services that are at risk.

As this debate takes place at the global level, local and regional governments are stepping up their planning and action on nature and biodiversity. From efforts to map natural assets to significant political commitments to protect and develop green spaces, local governments are committing to substantive action.

TOP STORY IN 2019: Biodiversity in cities: How natural asset mapping helps cities protect livelihoods and address climate change impacts

“2020 is the super year for nature”  says Kobie Brand, Director of ICLEI Africa and the ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center. “The world will decide on a new deal for how we are going to engage with nature, and try and live more within the boundaries that planet earth sets us. We need to make this ‘super year’ count, advocating strongly for nature, through platforms such as CitiesWithNature. As we move toward CBD COP15, we look forward to working with our cities and regions, alongside our partners, to raise ambitions and mainstream nature-based solutions.”

2. Streamlined local climate data reporting will show its value to national governments as the next round of NDCs are submitted

A growing number of cities and regions are compiling and reporting their climate data to facilitate more efficient planning and impactful action for their communities. In 2019, 850 cities and regions reported their climate data through the CDP-ICLEI unified reporting system and in 2020 that number is expected to grow. 

2020 is the year when national governments may submit a new round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) as part of the Paris Agreement era of international climate negotiations. National governments have a particular opportunity to include sub-national contributions, especially for those countries who are looking to enhance the ambition of these goals.

With the deadline to submit revised NDCs aligned with the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties to be held in Glasgow in November, and many key decisions pushed until those negotiations, all levels of government must work together as we go into this critical decade for climate action.

“Every national government could bring a more ambitious NDC to Glasgow this year if they were to take into consideration contributions from sub-national actors,” said Maryke van Staden, Manager of ICLEI’s Low Emission Development Program and Director of ICLEI’s carbonn Center. “As subnational data becomes more robust and comprehensive, national governments should take notice as they prepare for COP26.”

TOP STORY IN 2019: CDP and ICLEI: Introducing streamlined climate reporting

ICLEI is working with the NDC Partnership to offer a Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP, pronounced “cap”) designed to deliver targeted, fast-track support to countries to increase NDC ambition, quality and implementation. 

As one of 31 implementing partners and the only local and regional government network, ICLEI will work with the Dominican Republic, Peru, Uganda and Zimbabwe to ensure that they are able to integrate local and regional government contributions into their enhanced NDCs, and assist in critical activities such as improving regional capacities for preparing regional GHG inventories.

3. We will see much more integrated action at the local level as communities experience increased climate change impacts and citizen mobilize 

COP25 was a bummer, there’s no doubt about it. But looking ahead to 2020, there are still reasons to be hopeful. The number of local governments who are declaring climate emergencies grows day by day.  “Local and regional governments will have to inspire their national counterparts and show that responding to the climate emergency is an opportunity to transform societies and deliver the Paris Agreement,” said Yunus Arikan, ICLEI’s Director of Global Advocacy. 

From declaring a climate emergency to adopting carbon neutrality targets, divesting from fossil fuels and transitioning to 100% renewable energy, over 400 ICLEI cities and regions from around the world are pioneering ambitious climate action.

TOP STORY IN 2019: After COP25, frustration over decisions but even more hope on local climate action

As of 11 December, 398 cities and 14 regional governments were part of the newly announced Climate Ambition Alliance, an alliance of countries, non-state, sub-national and local actors who are determined to follow the Paris Agreement and are working to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

Declaring a climate emergency is one political tool that helps local governments reflect and respond to the demands of their residents.

Those residents are experiencing the impacts of climate change first hand – from flooding in Jakarta to the devastating, record-breaking fires across Australia – and they are demanding action. Citizens are mobilizing themselves, and our cities, towns and regions are responding to their calls for immediate, large-scale action.

TOP STORY IN 2019: Top 5 takeaways for cities and regions from the UN Climate Action Summit

“In 2020, ICLEI will be forcing all the limits to break the glass-ceiling for multilevel and collaborative action on climate change and sustainability,” said Arikan. “As we kick off this critical decade, we will accelerate our collaboration with science and people to support our leaders transform their anger and fears into hope and action.” 

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