Building the architecture for inclusive and ambitious climate action

A focus on action at the United Nations Climate Change Conference

COP22, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, was the first Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change following the adoption and swift ratification of the Paris Agreement. It was a COP of action and solutions, a place where nations and other climate stakeholders would focus on building the architecture needed to achieve Paris climate goals.

For nations, this meant looking at governance models, financing instruments and capacity building frameworks that pave the way towards low-carbon development and a more climate-resilient world. They began exploring ways to meet and surpass goals established in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – national climate action plans submitted under the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile at COP22, non-Party actors took important action-oriented steps of their own.

Highlights of what nations and the international community accomplished

At the COP, nations made progress in operationalizing the Paris Agreement and defining its rules, even if their focus was on post-2020 action. They showed progress on funding-related commitments and long term planning efforts.

The challenge at this COP was to show that the architecture built in Paris was strong enough to withstand unanticipated political stresses. Marrakech was a success in this regard. It is now clear that nations and climate stakeholders will move ahead and lay out their plans for advancing the climate agenda.

COP22 also demonstrated that nations are strongly in favor of leveraging partnerships as a core part of the global climate architecture. They welcomed the launch of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, which provides a a 2017-2020 roadmap for catalyzing action among Parties and all other climate stakeholders, strengthening the original Global Climate Action Agenda, which began in 2014 as a way to showcase Party and non-Party actions. The Marrakech Partnership was a success delivered by Climate Champions Ms Hakima El Haité and Ms Laurence Tubiana, whose role is to connect nations and the voluntary actions of non-Party actors.

Meanwhile, more than USD 81 million was pledged to the Adaptation Fund, surpassing its target for the year, and a number of nations began looking well into the future through their NDCs. The United States, Mexico, Canada and Germany unveiled climate action roadmaps that look ahead to 2050, and the 48-member Climate Vulnerable Forum pledged to be 100 percent renewable by 2050. Other nations signed onto the 2050 Pathways Platform, a tool that enables nations and other climate stakeholders to share long term climate action strategies. Local and subnational governments were brought onto this new platform by C40, ICLEI and the Under2 Coalition.

It is clear that the political will that brought the Paris Agreement into force is helping to quickly build the architecture for implementation. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of work to be done. For instance, we would like to see an increasing number of nations commit to supporting local and subnational climate action.

The other climate action architecture

Nations must forge ahead to implement the Paris Agreement, but it is well known that they are not the only actors looking at ways to accelerate climate action.

In Marrakech, it was quite clear that there is a strong and supportive group of climate stakeholders, ranging from businesses and academic institutions to local and subnational governments. They are building a voluntary climate action architecture that supports progress towards global goals. To do so, they are committing to their own targets, sharing innovative ideas, charting new pathways and forging partnerships across sectors.

At this climate conference, local and subnational governments further positioned themselves as vital partners in shaping and implementing the international architecture and the coordinated efforts of committed non-Party actors.

Here is a recap of what the ICLEI Network helped bring to the table at this COP:

1) Local and subnational governments are stepping up with hard data on their collective immediate and long-term commitments. This can help nations meet and exceed their climate goals and should inform the design of national implementation infrastructure.

A total of 726 cities, towns and regions in our network have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020. The ICLEI Network is also increasingly committed to long term action. Eighty-seven cities and regions in 15 countries have reported energy and climate targets for 2050 to the carbonn Climate Registry.

These figures from the ICLEI-managed carbonn Climate Registry also feed into estimations that Compact of Mayors cities are poised to reduce their emissions by nearly one billion tons annually – or 11.6 billion tons cumulatively between 2010 and 2030.  This could be a substantial contribution, given that the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat projects that in 2030, global emissions will be 22 billion tons of CO2 equivalent higher than the level needed to stay on track towards the 1.5-degree Paris Agreement target.

2) Local and subnational governments are forging strategic partnerships with other key non-Party climate stakeholders. This is an essential part of building an implementation architecture that fosters innovation and science-driven policymaking at the local and subnational level.

As part of the Marrakech Partnership, ICLEI was invited to facilitate the Resilience Workstream of Global Climate Action on Cities and Human Settlements. It was an opportunity to engage in focused discussions on multilevel partnerships, finance and synergies among global resilience policies.

The meeting was led by Climate Champion Laurence Tubiana, who was joined by Mohammed Nabil Benabdallah, Minister for Housing and Urban Policy, Morocco, and Emmanuelle Cosse, Minister of Housing and Sustainable Habitat, France. This was the first time that housing ministers were engaged in a climate COP, providing an important linkage between climate and the new urban development agenda.

The event concluded with concrete proposals to nations:

Policy options: We are encouraging nations to link their urban development plans and climate agenda as a key part of rolling out the NDCs. We highlighted the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy as a means through which to establish this linkage, as it already fosters an integrated approach combining mitigation, adaptation and access to energy at the urban scale.

By 2017: We are calling for structured dialogues between local and subnational governments, the urban resilience community and national and international partners through global processes. These official international processes can be enriched and informed by the ICLEI Resilient Cities Congress in Bonn, Germany.

By 2020: We want to see increased flows of global climate finance and other investments in urban resilience. We emphasized the Global Action Framework for Localizing Climate Finance as a key mechanism to mobilize actors and catalyze new financial standards, channels and coordination to the benefit of local and subnational governments.

ICLEI also joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Government of Morocco in organizing the three-day, solutions-focused Low-Emissions Solutions Conference, also an official Global Climate Action Agenda event.

The event convened government, businesses, researchers and academia to discuss a pathway towards decarbonization, as all actors play their part to build global partnerships that facilitate structural transformation and technological innovation, seek continuous improvement of climate policy and establish strong economic mechanisms, such as carbon pricing, that will build a low-carbon economy.

3) Local and subnational governments have outlined specific steps that both nations and non-Party stakeholders can take to ensure global systems strengthen their climate actions. These recommendations offer vital information on where the current climate architecture is lacking.

ICLEI co-organized the second Climate Summit for Local and Regional Leaders, which culminated in the Marrakech Roadmap for Action, presented to Climate Champions Hakima El Haité and Laurence Tubiana.

The Marrakech Roadmap for Action will launch the two following initiatives:

Global Campaign for Localizing Climate Finance: With leadership from the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (CCFLA), the Global Campaign for Localizing Climate Finance will push for climate finance to reach local and subnational governments and look for ways to connect local action to the NDC Funding and Initiatives Navigator, a searchable database of financial and technical assistance programs that support implementation of national plans.

Global Action Framework towards Localizing Climate Finance: This framework aims to create a systematic way to define and finance local and subnational climate strategies. It was suggested as a flagship program of the Paris Agreement and the Global Climate Action Agenda and will be designed to inspire national strategies for implementation.

4) Local and subnational governments showed that the implementation architecture must support innovative thinking and ambitious goals in order to meet the 1.5-degree Paris Agreement target.

100 percent renewable energy targets are gaining momentum as an important pathway for achieving the 1.5-degree target, but further supporting mechanisms and innovative policies must be put in place to effectively mainstream this goal. Local and subnational government representatives in the ICLEI Network engaged in the 100% Renewable Energy for 1.5°C event, helping make the case for 100 percent renewable energy as an ethical, feasible and financially sound approach for achieving global climate targets.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), represented by Shane Rattenbury, the Minister for Climate and Sustainability, showed how government action can meet 100 percent renewable energy targets by locking in long term, fixed-price renewable contracts. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, Vice Mayor for Environment and Transport of Oslo, Norway, explained how transport-related incentives can deliver on 100 percent renewable targets: the city is raising tolls on fossil fuel cars and putting money raised into public transport.

Overall, it is clear that the 100 percent renewable energy movement is picking up speed among local and subnational governments. Of the 237 energy targets in the carbonn Climate Registry, over 15 percent aim for 100 percent renewable energy. This momentum can stimulate similarly ambitious action among nations and other climate actors, but it vital that the implementation architecture support this type of ambitious target-setting.

Our next steps

The world has entered a new era in which climate action and sustainable development are the undoubted pillars for our low-carbon, resilient future. Local and subnational governments are clearly recognized as important climate actors, and now ICLEI is focused on ensuring they are well-positioned with adequate resources and as implementation partners supporting nations with rolling out the architecture needed to fulfill their NDCs.

More about ICLEI at COP22

For more information on all ICLEI engagements at COP22, visit our COP22 webpage.

Feature photo credit: IISD Reporting Services