COP23 is on track to set the scene for multilevel, multistakeholder climate action. This is how success could look

Every year, there is a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP). The next one (COP23) will be in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. In between COPs, the UNFCCC organizes mid-year climate negotiation sessions – the so-called intersessionals – which are usually held in Bonn. The May 2017 edition of the intersessionals recently concluded with the adoption of new mechanisms designed to enhance stakeholder engagement in the global climate process, including local and regional governments. This will be instrumental in laying the groundwork for accelerating implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In fact, meeting the goals set in Paris will require strong efforts not only by national governments, but by all other actors as well. And that is not going to fully ensure that we stay on the pathway to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In the lead-up to COP21 in Paris, countries submitted intended national climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which were later confirmed. Such NDCs, in their current form, do not sufficiently reflect the enormous shift towards low carbon, climate resilient development in all sectors of society that is need to achieve the 1.5-degree Celsius target. Local and regional governments can help with that. In fact, they are in a unique position to help countries shape and implement national climate policies and raise their current levels of ambition.

At the UNFCCC intersessionals, ICLEI acted in our capacity as focal point of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) constituency to the UNFCCC and on behalf of the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments. We coordinated the two-week agenda of the local and regional governments networks, organized and participated in side events, presented keynote statements in panels, workshops and press conferences, including those by Manuel Aruajo, Mayor of Quelimane Mozambique, and Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, Mayor of Bonn, Germany and ICLEI First Vice President.

We followed the two-week proceedings, finding the following key outcomes to be particularly relevant to local and regional governments:

  1. Enhanced stakeholder engagement in the UNFCCC processes: As we head towards COP23, it is foreseen that non-Party stakeholders will enjoy strong engagement in official UNFCCC climate processes. This includes access to information on national climate plans, increased engagement via workshops, technical meetings and sessions and overall more flexible modes of participation. Parties will also have better access to non-Party stakeholder submissions, designed to inform their negotiations.
  1. Strong stakeholder engagement in stocktaking dialogues on national climate action plans: The COP22 and COP23 Presidencies (Morocco and Fiji) who lead the official proceedings, are eager to engage non-Party Stakeholders in the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue on Enhancing Ambition and Support on Nationally Determined Contributions. This dialogue will be the first stocktaking exercise on national climate action plans, in which nations will review and raise their ambitions through climate finance and capacity-building. We believe that this dialogue should be designed so to allow Parties to be informed by other ministries – for instance, housing and urban development – as well as local and regional governments, in order to tap their potential in accelerating implementation and further raising ambition.
  1. Progress on the Marrakech Partnership on Global Climate Action: The Marrakech Partnership, launched at COP22 provides a 2017-2020 roadmap for catalyzing action among Parties and all other climate stakeholders. The May session provided an opportunity for fine tuning of the agenda throughout the year and at COP23 in Bonn.
  1. Progress on implementing Paris Agreement: This May Session saw particular progress in capacity building, adaptation planning as well as further guidance rules and procedures for the transparency of the implementation of Paris Agreement and define how stakeholders will play a role in the process.
  1. Strategic priorities for the upcoming COP Presidency: The Government of Fiji is going to lead the climate negotiation process in 2017-2018, and at the intersessionals they announced their strategic priorities for their COP Presidency. His Excellency Mr. Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and COP23 President-Designate, announced the launch of a global coalition actively engaging local and regional governments, among other initiatives.

The final outcomes of the UNFCCC May intersessionals proved that the innovative spirit of the Paris Agreement is now starting to take life in governance and implementation mechanisms. This is paving the way for climate action among a diversity of stakeholders and across all levels of government. Given the inclusive and ambitious approach taken by both Morocco and Fiji as COP Presidencies, there are positive signals that a new type of climate action leadership is in the making. We expect it will show itself this November at COP23.

The premier event for local and regional government engagement is the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, hosted by the City of Bonn and the State of Nordrhein-Westfalia, on 12 November. The Summit will focus on four main themes: multilevel governance, holistic approaches, engaging community and business and partnerships including Small Island States, Africa and Climate Vulnerable Countries. The Leaders’ Summit aims to further demonstrate that local and regional actors are fully committed to accelerate efforts on climate change, supporting and even opening the way for national actions, but also building a parallel implementation architecture with partners in all sectors, to ensure that climate action moves forward.

Visit our COP23 webpage for more information on local and regional government engagement this November.

Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth

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