Cities and subnationals take multilevel climate action from momentum to reality

Cities and regions step up multilevel climate action momentum at SB60

At the midpoint between COP28 and COP29, the Bonn Climate Talks (SB60), held in Bonn, Germany during these past two weeks, built upon last year’s outcomes from Dubai, aiming to drive progress and prepare decisions for adoption in Baku in November 2024. Running alongside the SB60 sessions on 3-5 June, Daring Cities 2024 Bonn Dialogues embodied multilevel action by positioning cities and regions at the center of global climate discussions. This fifth edition featured significant milestones, including a CHAMP endorsers roundtable, the first joint public dialogue between UN High-Level Climate Champions and fostered synergies across diverse topics, including climate-land-nature, loss and damage and urban systems.

The Daring Cities 2024 Bonn Dialogues, which have just wrapped up, alongside the SB60 climate talks in Bonn, Germany are positioned at a critical moment in 2024. Held just six months after COP28 in Dubai, where multilevel action was strongly urged upon parties with the CHAMP initiative embodying its multilevel action spirit, Daring Cities offered a platform for national partners, local and subnational leaders, constituencies, and UNFCCC negotiators to bridge efforts toward COP29 in Baku and COP30 in Belém.

Mayors and other subnational leaders, along with national representatives and strategic partners, engaged in dialogues to elevate multilevel climate action and propose concrete solutions. On 5 June, coinciding with World Environment Day, ICLEI announced its new global leadership for the 2024-2027 term, electing Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, Mayor of Malmö, Sweden, as ICLEI President.

A steady drumbeat of advocacy for multilevel action

The “Bonn Dialogues: Insights for Multilevel Action” featured perspectives from COP29 UN High-Level Climate Champion, Nigar Arpadarai, who shared the stage together with Katja Dörner, Mayor of Bonn, Germany, and Chair of the ICLEI Climate Action Governance Portfolio. Mayor Dörner emphasized four key elements for achieving ambitious climate targets: political will and decision-making, community participation, outreach and incentives, and collaborative commitment. She stressed the need for climate action to be a mandatory municipal task supported by federal and state governments, flexible funding mechanisms, and new collaboration structures.

Further high-level dialogues, featured mayors and subnational leaders, alongside climate representatives from BMZ, GIZ, Under2 Secretariat hosted by Climate Group, GCoM and NDC Partnership.

Georges Youssef, Mayor of Menjez, Lebanon, highlighted the importance of close collaboration and partnerships in planning, financing, implementing, and monitoring projects. He noted that city-level initiatives often exceed the ambitions of national climate commitments. Speakers concurred on the value of joining global climate networks like ICLEI, which facilitate the sharing of best practices, innovative solutions, and access to resources while amplifying the collective voice of cities in national and international decision-making.

Discussions also focused on the gap between local climate actions and national/global commitments, particularly in climate finance. “The private sector is a major source of climate finance, but it requires government alignment to support local infrastructure investments. These investments need to happen as soon as possible,” urged Gregor Robertson, GCoM Global Ambassador and newly announced Special Envoy for Cities in CHAMP.

UN High-Level Climate Champions elevated cities and regions as partners in climate action

On 5 June, representatives brought their messages directly to the UNFCCC. UN High-Level Champions, Razan Al Mubarak and Nigar Arpadarai headlined a second dialogue on multilevel partnerships for NDCs under the UNFCCC Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, which is co-lead by ICLEI as the focal point of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency. Both Champions reaffirmed their commitment to supporting all levels of government and implementing enhanced NDCs ahead of COP30: “What happens in cities is a microcosm of the systemic transformation that we all seek globally,” said Ms. Al Murabak.

Three key recommendations for effective climate action were presented: co-designing, co-implementing, and co-financing NDCs with subnational engagement, clear roadmaps, and access to international finance. The Champions highlighted the pivotal role of global networks like ICLEI and the LGMA Constituency in achieving ambitious climate goals.

Ms. Arpadarai introduced the COP29 Presidency’s Action Agenda “Five Pillars of Harmony:”

  1. Harmony between climate finance, mitigation, and adaptation;
  2. Balance between climate ambitions and actions;
  3. Integration of economic, environmental, and social dimensions of the SDGs;
  4. Coordination of global and regional initiatives;
  5. Synergy between human capital, gender, youth, children, and nature, and aligning climate action with sustainable development through NDCs and SDGs to create a comprehensive approach to tackling the climate crisis.

Ms. Arpadarai concluded, “As the COP29 team, we are here because we care, and as the High-Level Champion, my role is to be a bridge between regional and local leaders and the decision-makers, ensuring that your message is heard and taken into account,” she said.

Bringing CHAMP to life

With the conclusion of the first-ever Global Stocktake at COP28, discussions highlighted that the world is falling short of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. As the second round to submit updated NDCs is set to conclude by COP30 in 2025, the fast-approaching deadline urges collective action to pursue efforts on NDCs’ planning, financing and implementation. COP28’s Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP) for Climate Action addresses this need, with 72 countries already committed to working with subnational governments.

On 4 June, the CHAMP Endorsers Roundtable served as a platform to strategize on fulfilling CHAMP commitments ahead of COP30. The meeting included participation from 20 countries, including Canada, Colombia, Panama, and Rwanda. It also featured active contributions from representatives of the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM), NDC Partnership, UN-Habitat, the COP28 UAE Presidency and the COP29 Azeri Presidencies, as well as the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Representing the LGMA Constituency, Axel Grael, Mayor of Niterói, Brazil; Chair of the ICLEI Climate Action Support Portfolio; and Vice President of Frente Nacional de Prefeitas e Prefeitos (FNP), highlighted Brazil’s two national NDC commitments, which focus on controlling emissions by halting deforestation in the Amazon and Savannah regions, as well as restoring 12 million hectares of degraded land. “Achieving these targets requires the involvement and cooperation of states, local governments, the private sector, and other stakeholders. If we don’t find a way to act in cooperation and organize ourselves at different levels, it will not work,” he stated.

Inspired by these discussions, Mayor Katja Dörner, adopted a resolution in her capacity as Vice President of the Association of German Cities (DST). She expressed DST’s readiness to collaborate with German government agencies to implement CHAMP in the country. This move marks the first-ever national position of local governments for implementing CHAMP. “It’s time to bring CHAMP to life,” stated Mayor Dörner.

Fostering new pathways for addressing the climate emergency

Aiming to advance a holistic and integrated approach to the climate emergency, on June 4, interactive roundtable discussions focused on multilevel action and urbanization toward the next round of NDCs, just transition, the upcoming IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Cities, and making connections between climate-land-nature.

Outcomes underscored the urgent need for multilevel collaboration and inclusive, sustainable climate action strategies, emphasizing early engagement with financial institutions, capacity-building initiatives, and fostering cross-sectoral synergies through partnerships as critical enablers for impactful climate solutions.

On 5 June, further dialogues convened with the engagement of around 15 partners of the LGMA Constituency focused on cities, buildings, and urban systems together with Lola Vallejo and Dr. Amr Abdel-Aziz, Co-Chairs of the UNFCCC Sharm El Sheikh Mitigation Ambition and Implementation Work Programme. The discussions focused on the outcomes of the meeting held a week ago and exploring opportunities for LGMA partners feeding into the next sessions in Fall 2024.

During the Loss and Damage (L&D) dialogue, panelists underscored its growing relevance, especially in regions with low adaptive capacities, calling for inclusive decision-making involving local and regional governments to ensure equitable policies. Douwe van Schie from UNU highlighted L&D as a justice issue due to the heightened vulnerability of informal settlements. Discussions emphasized the need for effective, transparent, and accountable governance strategies that integrate scientific and traditional knowledge to address L&D challenges and promote climate justice.

The footprint of cities and regions at SB60 moves toward COP29 and beyond

With the SB60 sessions serving as a preparatory ground for crafting and negotiating intermediary solutions, they lay the groundwork for the final decisions to be agreed upon at COP29, playing a crucial role in shaping the decision-making process. The involvement of cities and regions in this process is essential because if they fail to engage in the discussions, present their ideas, and exchange perspectives, their concerns and priorities risk being overlooked in the final decisions. That’s why ICLEI, through the LGMA Constituency, representing cities and regions, remained highly active during these past two weeks in Bonn.

These engagements aimed to promote progress on initiatives like CHAMP and ambitious local action for inclusion in the next round of NDCs and to make connections with the COP29 Presidency. The LGMA Constituency also connected local leaders, Mayors Axel Grael and Georges Youssef in these global discussions.

At the Opening Plenary of SB60, Karishma Asarpota delivered a statement on behalf of the LGMA Constituency, celebrating COP28 outcomes that urge Parties to engage in inclusive, multilevel climate action. However, she raised concerns about the potential risks from UN agencies’ budget constraints, stating: “The shrinking budgets, especially of the UNFCCC Secretariat, pose a great risk for the success of this momentum. Therefore, we urge all nations to elevate their domestic and international financial contributions for multilevel climate action so that we can collectively respond to the climate emergency.”

C40 and ICLEI participated in the First Dialogue under the United Arab Emirates Just Transition Work Programme 2024. The Sharm el-Sheikh Mitigation Ambition and Implementation Work Programme, focusing on “Cities: Buildings and Urban Systems” involved key LGMA partners such as ICLEI, Climate Heritage Network, and GlobalABC. Further discussions on non-market approaches and financing mechanisms for developing countries included ICLEI participation and the UN Capital Development Fund.

At the Annual Global Stocktake dialogue, the Under2 Coalition and ICLEI underlined the opportunities through CHAMP and the idea to push forward the Town Hall COPs initiative as a crucial mechanism for including local climate action in NDCs. This topic holds significant importance in the face of the staggering reality revealed by the latest UN-Habitat’s report launched at the SB60: Only 27% of 194 countries’ NDCs have strong urban content. At the same time, the remaining include moderate to no urban mentions.

The launch of the NDC3.0 Navigator by the NDC Partnership and the UNFCCC Secretariat was one of the most important features of the SB60. The NDC 3.0 Navigator seeks to support and inspire country NDC teams, their experts, and partners, bringing together knowledge and support through Seven Routes to Ambitious and Implementable NDCs, including Whole-of-Government, Whole-of-Society Mobilization, which guides engaging local and regional governments as well.

Expanding on this fact, a side event co-convened by ICLEI, UN-Habitat, and the Southern University of Denmark delved into raising climate ambition and empowering local action for enhanced NDCs.

The discussions in Bonn were enriched by the impulses from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, particularly through his 5 June World Environment Day “moment of truth” speech. He urged every country to ban advertising from fossil fuel companies and called on media and tech companies to stop taking fossil fuel advertisements. Additionally, the appointment of Anacláudia Rossbach as the new Executive Director of UN-Habitat brought a fresh perspective to the dialogues.

Yunus Arikan, ICLEI Director of Global Advocacy and the LGMA Constituency’s focal point, is optimistic about the promoting efforts conducted throughout these two weeks of negotiations, especially on CHAMP’s progress. “Now is the time to build back at home and bring our results to Baku and Belém.”

Looking ahead to COP29, Mr. Arikan expressed his expectations: “In Sharm el-Sheikh, we had the SURGe initiative, a holistic approach to feed urbanization into climate action; in Dubai, the CHAMP initiative – a political commitment for multilevel NDCs by 2025. At Baku, especially with it being announced as the ‘finance highway,’ we hope we will bridge these efforts and introduce financial resources and mechanisms to implement these technical and political commitments.”

*This blog was written by Matteo Bizotto and Barbara Riedemann

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