In a historic move, nature takes center stage at COP27

“The outcome of COP27 will be crucial, not just in terms of tackling the climate crisis, but also to safeguard the future for nature”, said Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD). COP27 is critical for nature as it precedes the delivery of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) at COP15 in Montreal, Canada, in early December.

It is now without doubt that climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked and need to be addressed in an integrated manner, together with land degradation. That integration cannot wait. The loss of biodiversity reduces the resilience of both the planet and people, and narrows our response options for defeating climate change. This is why cities and subnational governments are so important – they are hubs of innovation and solutions, they are drivers of change, they are where implementation happens.

For the first time at a Climate COP, there was a full day dedicated to nature and biodiversity, a clear acknowledgment that we need a nature positive approach when finding solutions to the climate emergency. We also need a whole-of-government and whole-of society approach. We also need direct financing for local and subnational governments to implement local, context-specific solutions, and scale up and accelerate actions.

Nature took center stage at the LGMA Pavilion and elsewhere on a number of occasions, throughout the two-week period of COP27. Sessions included a wide range of nature-related issues, including a focus on the Post-2020 GBF and the climate-biodiversity nexus – what it means for cities and subnational governments; taking charge of Africa’s oceans and blue resources to mitigate the effects of climate change; harnessing nature-based solutions to build urban resilience; building African urban resilience during a climate emergency – with a focus on finance, food and nature; and learning from the Edinburgh Declaration for biodiversity.

David Cooper, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, together with Basile van Havre and Francis Ogwal, Co-Chairs of the CBD Open-Ended Working Group, demonstrated their commitment to bridge the gap between the Climate COP and Biodiversity COP, all actively participating in sessions at the LGMA Pavilion, despite their critical preparations for COP15. They acknowledged the essential role of cities and regions in achieving the global biodiversity targets.

Kobie Brand, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI and Global Director of the ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center, speaking in many high-level sessions at COP15, reiterated that we need brave, bold leaders as we are entering a new era of accelerated multilevel action, implementation and delivery on the ground. We have to take action with and for nature to address climate change.

She also drew attention to the global CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature initiatives and how they are actively supporting cities and regions to work together to increase ambition and take bold action in addressing the triple planetary crisis – climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. And notably, the United Nations SCBD recognizes the CitiesWithNature Action Platform as the platform where subnational governments, cities and other local authorities report on their actions and voluntary commitments to the Global Biodiversity Framework.

In an action packed session as part of the Urban Africa in Action at COP27 series, convened by ICLEI Africa and UCLG Africa, Dr Charles Konyango, National Director of Urban Development in the Kenyan State Department for Housing and Urban Development, reinforced the need to mainstream nature into city planning to address climate change. He added, “When we think of smart technologies within our cities, we need to also start considering nature-based solutions as smart technologies. We need nature-based solutions integrated in our urban policies.”

In a pivotal session, the World Resource Institute, ICLEI Africa and other partners launched the African Cities Water Adaptation (ACWA) Platform and Fund to support access to water solutions. The ACWA Fund is expected to provide $5 billion toward urban water resilience in 100 African Cities by 2032. The fund will allow city leaders to directly access funding and technical support to implement water solutions, which include but are not limited to integrated governance, watershed management, improved stormwater management, more sanitation services, etc.

Perhaps the fact that COP27 and COP15 ended up taking place just weeks apart, although not initially planned, is fortuitous. The two cannot be viewed in isolation. ICLEI, together with its partners, is pleased to invite subnational and local governments to Montréal, Québec, Canada for the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities and its associated Pavilion. The Summit, an official parallel event to the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the CBD, will be co-hosted with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and Regions4, along with the host Government of Québec and the City of Montréal and with the support and engagement of the Province of Yunnan and the City of Kunming. Both the Summit and the Pavilion are financially supported by the Government of Québec as main sponsor.

The Summit and Pavilion constitute an unprecedented global milestone to welcome significantly strengthened contributions from subnational governments and cities to the new post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF). The Summit, focused on taking action for biodiversity, will be held on 11th and 12th December 2022 at the Palais des Congrès (Blue Zone) and will center around three elements: Engage, Influence and Act.  For the first time at a CBD COP, there will be a dedicated Pavilion focusing entirely on subnational and local government actions and opportunities, a clear acknowledgement by the global biodiversity community of the critical role of cities and regions. The Pavilion program will include multiple events, from 8th to 18th December, during COP15.

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