On the day that it was announced that COP26 will be postponed a full year because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, mayors, governors and national government representatives from around the world came together virtually to show how they are continuing to fight for climate action, even in the face of the global pandemic.
Twenty-five mayors and other subnational leaders, as well as the heads of three United Nations agencies (UNEP, UN-Habitat and UNDP), and ministers from Italy, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, South Africa and Chile, participated in the multi-level dialogue.
Framed as a “Ministerial Dialogue with Local and Regional Governments”, the event aimed to assess how to integrate climate action into COVID19 response and recovery measures. The event was convened by the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) as part of their Virtual Executive Bureau, with support from ICLEI, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), The Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments, UNDP and UN Environment.
“If we look back to see the influence that cities have had in addressing climate change since the Paris Agreement, you would have to agree that the model has shifted – from one where we believe that this is a national issue to be discussed at an international level to one where we understand that the real implementation of climate change action happens at the local level,” said Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.
Even in the absence of global negotiations and events at this moment, participants were eager to showcase their commitment to a new normal.
“Indonesia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement has been translated through the highest regulatory instruments,” said Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Minister of Environment and Forestry, in Indonesia. She continued, “[These] regulations enable coordination and synergy across sectors and levels, such as addressing climate change as part of national development planning. It is at the same magnitude [of importance] as gender, social safety net, and poverty alleviation. Additionally, [we have] guidance and oversight for subnational governments to mainstream climate action into their development planning.”
Indonesia participates in the Urban-LEDS project, which accelerates urban low emission development and climate resilience across more than 60 cities worldwide, using a multilevel governance approach to urban climate action.
Joseph Seka Seka, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Ivory Coast also referenced their engagement with local and regional governments in the design of their updated NDC.
Nigel Topping, UK High Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, participated in the roundtable. He said, “We want to send a very clear message to national governments that local and regional governments are key partners on the road to COP26.”
Other speakers included Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen, Morocco, who serves on the Regional Committee for ICLEI Africa, and Mayor Peduto, who serves on the Board of Directors for ICLEI USA, as well as Kobie Brand, Regional Director of ICLEI Africa. Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme; Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director; and Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator – also spoke.
“We live in a time where multi-level governance is the only way. It is crucial to provide the services and provide relief from the pandemic. And in climate change, we’ve been saying this since COP1,” said Ms. Brand, in her role as a moderator.
The multilevel discussion supported the collective work of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities Constituency (LGMA) COP26 Roadmap “Towards a Multilevel Action COP” announced at COP25. The roadmap outlines six priority areas to fully empower local governments to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.
One of the outcomes of the Ministerial Roundtable is the convening of an expert group to develop clear recommendations for “Regional or Local Contributions” (RLCs) including definition, use, measurement and accountability.
An RLC working group, organized by GCoM, will incorporate further input from stakeholders at all levels over a series of dialogues through 2020, to enable greater commitments from national governments ahead of next year’s COP26 climate negotiations. The RLC working group will enumerate how national governments can use RLCs to enhance their NDCs, including existing commitments from these cities and new opportunities to strengthen collaboration between national and local governments to achieve net-zero by 2050.
The RLC framework builds on critical work by the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency, which has represented local and regional governments at the processes under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since the first Conference of Parties (COP) in 1995.
This work further builds on the 2018 “Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues,” a series of 60 sessions in 40 countries that bridged sustainable urban development with climate action and engaged all levels of government. It also strengthens the forthcoming guide on “Integrating Human Settlements into NDCs,” being developed by a group of experts convened by UN-Habitat as part of the Urban Low Emission Development Strategies (Urban-LEDS) project.
The full dialogue is available on YouTube here.