The next decade will decide the future for humanity. Delivering a green and just recovery to the COVID-19 crisis; creating strong, fair economies that serve everyone; and drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions quickly enough to limit global warming to the 1.5° degrees Celsius target of the Paris Agreement, are all one and the same thing. None is possible without the others, and success in all is the only way to prevent a catastrophic crisis.
The upcoming UN COP26 in Glasgow will be meaningful and successful only if each nation presents new and more ambitious national climate action plans, also known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This result is only possible if national governments engage their local and regional counterparts, which are often more ambitious than countries themselves and already aiming at climate neutrality.
Climate neutrality in the context of local and regional governments means reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and avoiding GHG in their own operations and across the community in all sectors to an absolute net-zero emission level at the latest by 2050.
Yet, creating a roadmap towards climate neutrality requires the establishment of an organizational framework and the identification of priority sectors for action. In turn, these need to consider key elements of sustainable development, such as climate justice, green economy, and local jobs.
That is where the Cities Race to Zero comes into play. This initiative aims to mobilize an unprecedented coalition of cities committed to science-based targets and to the implementation of inclusive and resilient climate action ahead of and beyond the COP26.
With the goal to recruit 1,000 cities for the UNFCCC Race to Zero, the initiative is backed by a multitude of global partners such as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), C40 Cities, CDP, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI).
ICLEI is gathering pledges for the Cities Race to Zero through the GreenClimateCities™ Program, a tested and proven process methodology and associated Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) framework for walking step-by-step toward climate neutrality. The GCC methodology is a 9-step process in 3 phases: Analyze, Act and Accelerate – each unfolding into three sub-steps – outlining how climate risks and vulnerabilities can be assessed and sustainable options can be identified and integrated into urban development policies, plans, and processes.
Notably, the GreenClimateCities Program also includes a Climate Neutrality Framework designed to support local and regional governments willing to achieve city-wide climate neutrality latest by 2050. The Framework is based on three pillars: the drastic reduction and sequestration of GHG emissions; the divestment, repurpose and reinvestment from fossil fuels; and the offsetting of emissions that cannot be avoided. It explores how each of the ICLEI’s five pathways can contribute to climate action, in order to follow a holistic and integrated approach that also informs sustainable development.