Cities and Subnationals Advance Agenda at COP21 Focus Event

The Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) focus event on Cities and Subnationals on 8 December at COP21 touched on all aspects of local climate action, offering the perspective of experts, UN agencies and local leaders.

Al Gore, former Vice-President of the United States and climate leader, opened the event on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saying that what makes COP21 different from previous conferences is that the outcome is defined not only by the final deal but also by the actions on the ground that local and subnational governments are taking. “Everyone knows that they have moved faster than most national governments” said Mr. Gore.

Jerry Brown, Governor of California, delivered a passionate speech about the need to shift from a life based on oil and individualism to a new kind of existence. Technological fixes are only a minor part of the solution. “We need a change in how the world is structured. We need a transformation in individual habits,” he said.

Cities and regions also have a responsibility to push their respective national authorities, stated Governor Brown – an argument that was taken up by the first panel of the day, in which representatives of cities and regions highlighted the importance of action that stems from the local level. Patrick Klugman, Vice-Mayor of Paris, said: “There was the road to Paris, now there’s the road from Paris. There’s no going back”.

The issue of resilience received great prominence, with representatives stressing the need to scale up their efforts. Mohammad Sayeed Khokon, Mayor of Dhaka, explained how his city with a population of 20 million people is very vulnerable to disasters: 228 natural disasters occurred in the past few years in Bangladesh. To tackle this issue, money, technical assistance and, above all, attention are needed.

William Corbett, Director of Cities Alliance, encouraged policy makers to think of cities as a whole, not only addressing the issues of the informal city but imagining the city of the future. “Good policy-making at the local level is crucial” he said, a sentiment echoed by Joan Clos, Director of UN-Habitat, who said that we need to improve the design of our cities to protect them from climate change risks.

In order to make the changes required on the local level, though, it’s necessary to develop financial tools that allow cities and regions to see their projects through.

Anne Paugam, Director General of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) made clear that we need not only to develop new climate finance instruments but to make existing tools sensitive to the issue of climate change. The finance industry as a whole needs to mainstream climate action in its activities.

Maroš Šefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission, acknowledged that mayors and governors did better than the Member States in the EU in tackling GHG emissions reduction, and promised the support of the EU to local leaders.

Mpho Parks Tau, Mayor of Johannesburg, established the link between green bonds on the one hand and other financial instruments for local governments, and on the other the transformative actions (such as those in the TAP project) that need to be funded.

The Prime ministers of three Canadian provinces – Ontario, Manitoba and Québec – illustrated their joint cap and trade carbon market system, already the biggest in North America.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California and R20 Founding Chair, delivered a keynote speech, stressing how local policies can make change happen, even against the wishes of national governments – as happened in California, which was sued by the government over its clean air policies.

“If the USA took on California’s regulations, they will exceed GHG emissions reduction target by 50% and allow the closing of 75% of coal-fired power plants,” said Schwarzenegger.

The event concluded with a panel of five heads of United Nations agencies, inspired by the LPAA to commit to further strengthen their connections to tackle the issues of sustainable development and climate change in a comprehensive way.

The focus event also coincided with a key announcement about a Five-Year Vision, which aims to increase the number of cities and regions that implement climate objectives, build resilience across a greater number of cities, ensure financial flows and support multi-partnership initiatives.

Download the Five-Year Vision Press Release


Featured image of Los Angeles courtesy of Todd Jones via Wikimedia.

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