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A Cities and Regions Guide to COP26

Everything your city or region needs to know about this year’s global climate event and driving multilevel climate action during and beyond the summit.

Want to be a part of the action in Glasgow? The Multilevel Action Pavilion is in-person and online! Register today!

The 26th climate COP is a critical summit for global climate action. To have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, global emissions must halve by 2030 and reach ‘net-zero’ by 2050. The 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report underscores it is still possible to achieve the 1.5-degree-target but only if unprecedented action is taken now.

COP26 is hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy and will take place from 31 October to 12 November 2021 in Glasgow with opportunities to participate online.

The NDCs submitted in 2015 were collectively not ambitious enough to achieve this. Under the Paris Agreement, the Parties are committing to submitting updated plans every five years, not only to meet the 1.5-degree-target and reach climate neutrality, but also to take multilevel, multi-stakeholder action .

COP26 is the moment when these updated plans are expected. According to the UNFCCC’s NDC Synthesis Report that was released in mid-September, 120 countries have since submitted new NDCs. Additional countries including Japan and Korea have submitted their NDCs after the report’s release. More countries are expected to follow suit ahead of the summit.

Only 80 countries mentioned in the report submitted NDCs deemed more ambitious than the first round. These countries represent both the global north and the global south, the developed and the developing world. They all have something in common: Countries with more ambitious goals directly mention multilevel climate action. There is a strong correlation between countries that have registered increases in their national climate ambitions and those that have collaborated among all levels of government.

Limiting emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change rely on collaboration between nations, regions, cities and towns. Not only to bring raised ambitions to COP26 but to see their plans through to create a resilient, thriving planet well beyond the summit.


Raising emission reduction ambitions is one goal of COP26. A few other goals to note this year:

  • Convincing developed countries to honour a promise made in 2009 of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries.
  • Strengthening the ability to adapt to climate change impacts since the Paris Agreement’s adaptation goal is vague.
  • Finalizing the Paris Rulebook – the agreement’s implementation guide, including agreeing on what rules should govern international carbon markets. These negotiations – the ‘Article 6 negotiations’ – are expected to be particularly difficult.


Raising climate ambitions by working with all tiers of government 

The Paris Agreement specifically calls on subnational governments to address the climate emergency, making local-level climate action everyone’s duty, not just a voluntary commitment. The targets outlined in an NDC often rely on the work done at the city and regional level, making cities key in lowering emissions and increasing resilience. At the same time, according to a recent CDP-ICLEI report, Working together to beat the climate crisis, one out of three cities reported that their ability to adapt to climate change is dependent on factors influenced by different levels of government.

It is crucial for subnational governments to be included in creating NDCs and NDCs tend to be more ambitious when they are created through collaboration between national, regional, and local governments. Implementation ultimately happens at the subnational level and making these entities part of the process will ensure that change happens as fast, efficiently and impactful as possible.

“Because we collaborated with local governments, we were able to enhance our NDC to not only increase our emission reduction targets, but to also include adaptation, gender, and youth.” Lawrence Mashungu. Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality, Zimbabwe


What is the LGMA?

At the Earth Summit in 1992, nine stakeholder groups, including local authorities, were designated as essential partners in society for the implementation of the global sustainability agenda. The Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency has represented local and regional governments at the processes under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since the first Conference of Parties (COP) in 1995.

The LGMA Constituency has represented networks of local and regional governments at the UNFCCC process since 1995. ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability acts as the LGMA Focal Point and on behalf of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, a joint global policy advocacy initiative of the major international networks of local governments.  The LGMA brings the voices of cities, regions, towns, and counties to the negotiations and has strengthened these voices over two and a half decades.

Looking at the inclusion of local governments in the updated NDCs and at the representation of mayors at the summit show that the voices of cities are being heard at what is historically deemed national-level negotiations. Indeed, this year will see the strongest showing of US mayors since the signing of the Paris Agreement with more than 20 cities and regions represented. This year’s LGMA pavilion will be no different.

The Multilevel Action Pavilion at COP26 is an in-person pavilion in the Blue Zone and – for the first time ever – also an online pavilion to ensure everyone can attend regardless of travel restrictions, funding, and summit accreditation requirements. The Multilevel Action Pavilion is hosted by the Scottish Government, and co-hosted by the Welsh Government, the Glasgow City Council, Daring Cities, and Urban-LEDS.

The LGMA pavilion as the home of cities, towns, and regions at COP26 has a deep history of engagement within the COP space. Some of the past LGMA engagement at UNFCCC COP Pavilion spaces, in addition to specific Summits parallel to COP agenda includes:

  • At COP15 in 2009 in Copenhagen, the 1st LGMA Blue Zone Pavilion “Local Government Climate Lounge” in collaboration with the City of Copenhagen
  • At COP21 in 2015 in Paris, the 1st LGMA Green Zone Pavilion “Cities and Regions Pavilion”, in collaboration with the Government of France, City of Paris, and the City of Bristol as 2015 European Green Capital
  • At COP22 in 2016 in Marrakesh, 2nd LGMA Green Zone Pavilion, “Cities and Regions Pavilion”, in collaboration with Government of Morocco)
  • At COP23 in 2017 in Bonn, 3rd LGMA Green Zone Pavilion, “Cities and Regions Pavilion”, in collaboration with the City of Bonn, State of North Rhein Westphalia, and German Ministries of Environment (BMU) and Development (BMZ)

Throughout these efforts, ICLEI made sure that the agenda is open and inclusive or active engagement of all members and partners of LGMA Community globally.


Time4Multilevel Action in the Age of Climate Emergency

COP26 marks the moment when multilevel action is undeniably linked to the Paris Agreement’s success. For the first time nations are explicitly directed to collaborate with local governments to meet our universal climate commitments, as failure is not an option.

The LGMA announced its COP26 Roadmap “Towards Multilevel Action COP” at COP25 in Madrid in 2019 and based on the achievement since then, it is elevated to the title of “Time4Multilevel Action in the Age of Climate Emergency.”

This roadmap calls all nations, cities, and regions to ensure the success of humanity’s greatest challenge, as failure is not an option.

  • Multilevel action is the new normal for the new phase of the Paris Agreement: At a historic first, the Paris Agreement recognized the importance of engaging all levels of government in its preamble. To build on this understanding—that cities, towns, and regions are essential actors for meeting national climate goals—the next phase of global efforts must center around multi-level collaboration. Multilevel collaboration is also essential to help cities and regions deliver their Race-To-Zero and Race-To-Resilience committments.
  • Climate finance has an immense urban opportunity: We live in a continuously urbanizing world, yet climate finance has yet to realize this opportunity. Sustainable urbanization needs to be top of the agenda for climate action and finance, especially for the Global South where most urbanization will boom, through investments that lower emissions while safeguarding our cities from climate-related disasters.
  • Just climate action for all: A new era of climate action views cities and regions holistically to address not only reducing emissions, but also social justice, gender, food, nature, and health.  Integrated approaches provide ample opportunities for multilevel collaboration and can accelerate Sustainable Development Goal progress by leveraging the 2030 Agenda’s core tenets to foster whole-of-government approaches that leave no one behind.
  • COP26 is the moment local governments step up our engagement in global processes: Local government networks should step up their participation in the UNFCCC processes going forward—not only during the annual COP, but throughout the year. As the Multilevel Action COP, COP26 calls on the LGMA to step up our role as an essential implementation partner, able to: 1) bring clarity around local-level needs and replicable successes to negotiations and 2) translate national-level commitments into action on the ground.

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