Building the architecture for global sustainability action: Time for strong coalitions

2016 marked the end of an important period in which nations sought political consensus around the global development agenda.

They came to agree that sustainable development should, in fact, be the global agenda for change, consequently adopting major international agreements, like the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. The New Urban Agenda and the entry into force of the Paris Agreement in 2016 confirmed these commitments and the appointment of new leaders in United Nations institutions defined who will lead the implementation processes for these commitments.

Now, in 2017, it is crucial to begin implementing these frameworks. This process must be swift and durable, in order to protect against the rising tide of inward-looking national politics, which has created uncertainty around the political will to foster sustainability.

Now, perhaps more than ever, we need coalitions willing to take bold, concerted actions that strengthen the global architecture for action on sustainability. This means lasting cooperation between all levels of government and partnerships that connect all sectors and realms of society.

ICLEI has long emphasized that a successful global sustainability agenda requires the input and coordinated efforts of a multitude of actors. Since 1990, ICLEI has worked closely with its Members to demonstrate the power of local action, and with international institutions to establish an inclusive, multistakeholder approach to the global development agenda.

That is why, in the next two years, ICLEI will focus on advancing partnerships on climate and sustainability and will call attention to their vital role.

The central step this year is to convene the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders on 12 November, in Bonn, Germany, during COP23, the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference. It will be an important kick-off point for invigorating key partnerships over the years to come.

At the Climate Summit, local and subnational governments will call for more effective vertical integration – meaning that different levels of government regularly exchange, plan and coordinate when advancing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the national climate action plans submitted under the Paris Agreement. We expect key initiatives such as the Compact of Mayors and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to play a central role in connecting local action to the NDCs.

Local and subnational governments will also call for stronger synergy across all global sustainability agendas to ensure they create a cohesive framework for coordinated global action. This means connecting pure climate action with broader, non-climate initiatives on procurement, ecomobility, biodiversity as well as efforts to localize the Sustainable Development Goals and operationalize the New Urban Agenda – such as the Local2030 Action Hub led by the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary General.

The summit will also be a space in which local and subnational governments look for ways to engage actively with civil society and business on community-level action and demonstrate their solidarity with towns, cities and regions in Small Island States and climate-vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa and Least Developed Countries.

At the COP, we will aim to unlock the potential of such partnerships and plant the seed for lasting coalitions driven by a clear vision and serious commitment to tangible progress.

ICLEI will take the outcomes from the Climate Summit and COP23 to the 3rd Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi in December 2017, CitiesIPCC Conference in March 2018 and to the High Level Political Forum in 2018, which will include a review process of Sustainable Development Goal 11 on cities.  This will be an important opportunity for local and subnational governments to define their priorities to ministers and political leaders as they shape global action processes.

The new vision for sustainability aims to leave no one behind and to guide equitable human development. But to achieve this, nations cannot be left alone to implement global goals. We must take ownership of these global goals and build the coalitions that will develop synergies across sectors, issues and all levels of governments. With these strong coalitions, we will help ensure that the journey towards sustainability and a climate-safe future is irreversible.