Townhall COPs energizing Global Stocktake towards and beyond COP28

In the lead-up to COP28, 26 cities and regions hosted their local events that officially contributed to the first Global Stocktake by turning their town halls into COP venues. Explore the process, the outcomes, and practical examples of this inventory exercise that brings cities and regions’ voices into global climate discussions. 

As COP28 unfolds in Dubai, accompanied by its first-ever Local Climate Action Summit, the international community officially recognizes a fundamental truth: cities and regions have a pivotal role in the fight against climate change.

In 2022, at the beginning of the Global Stocktake process, thanks to the efforts of LGMA, a call was made at the Bonn Climate Conference (SB56), urging non-party stakeholders to support the Global Stocktake through “local, national, regional, and international levels.”

The Local Government and Municipal Authority Constituency (LGMA Constituency) to the UNFCCC, with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability serving as the focal point, has been leading the charge to include local inputs into the Global Stocktake. A notable element of this initiative is the substantial involvement of youth in the climate dialogue, realized through a partnership with YOUNGO, the youth and children’s constituency of the UNFCCC.

Yunus Arikan, ICLEI Global Advocacy Director and LGMA Constituency focal point, rightly says, “When something happens at the UNFCCC, we at the LGMA give it life.” This commitment translated into the #Stocktake4ClimateEmergency, a global initiative with 26 cities and regions across 18 countries and six continents organizing their local stocktakes as official contributions to the Global Stocktake, which is set to conclude at COP28. These local events brought the essence of COP to town halls worldwide, amplifying the impact of climate action.

At each local stocktake, officials and constituents explored their local climate ambition and alignment with Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to be put forward by 2025 during the second Global Stocktake report at COP30 in Belém, Brazil. The local events also focused on domestic and global climate justice. These discussions inform multilevel action, adding a crucial “on the ground” perspective to the Global Stocktake. 

Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, over 2,200 cities and regions have boldly declared climate emergencies, with more than 1,000 firmly committed to ambitious 2030 climate targets. Despite this surge, in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), cities and regions are still underrepresented – only a mere 24% of NDCs carry strong urban components. 

How can local stocktakes be utilized at all levels to advance climate action? The results from the first local stocktakes point to three key outcomes


1.  Accelerating community engagement 

Local stocktakes are a catalyst for community involvement in implementing climate emergency declarations at the municipal or regional level. They also inspire engagement in other multilateral agendas, aligning with broader agendas like SDGs, biodiversity, and food initiatives.

In Hoboken, USA, the local stocktake took a positive angle, envisioning future actions to involve the community actively. 

Mayor Ravi Bhalla of Hoboken acknowledged the challenge of overcoming ingrained resistance to change, noting, “People have become used to their old habits, resisting concepts like managing food waste, composting, plastic pollution, and emission reduction, which require a shift in human nature.”

The event underscored the universal impact of climate change, transcending political affiliations and garnering widespread community engagement. Multilevel coordination emerged as a key theme, emphasizing the need to involve all government layers. Residents voiced concerns, urging increased government intervention to phase out fossil fuels. The discussions also emphasized the importance of climate change awareness, education and behavior. 

In Turku, Finland, the discussion also raised citizens’ behavior regarding people not considering where products are made, under what working conditions, and what kind of emissions production processes cause. 

Mayor Minna Arve and ICLEI Vice President, emphasizes, “Changing behavior is a difficult challenge.” To summarize the city’s work, she quotes Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not in fighting the old, but in building the new.” In that direction, the local stocktake discussed Turku’s involvement in the Kulma project, calculating residents’ consumption emissions. The event also covered themes like transportation, local nature, and equality.


2. Supporting multilevel cooperation, such as initiatives like The Coalition for High Ambition Multi-level Partnerships (CHAMP)

These local stocktakes play a crucial role in operationalizing the CHAMP initiative- launched at COP28 and endorsed by 63 countries, as of 2 December 2023, fostering multilevel consultations in NDC preparation and implementation leading up to COP30 in 2025.

In Lusaka, Zambia, climate action is at the forefront with a bottom-up approach involving NDC committees as key intermediaries between the people and the government. Multilevel collaboration is strengthening the efforts to combat climate change. 

Post-local stocktake, Mayor Chilando Chitangala says, “Local leaders are key to mobilizing stakeholders. This event assessed the seriousness of climate change and how our community can contribute to necessary changes. Collaboration is essential; we can’t do it alone.”

Current initiatives include a tree planting program targeting 14,000 trees in the next six months, with a larger goal of 300,000 trees. By introducing clean cooking solutions to combat deforestation, the city addresses the impact on sellers and users. Future plans center around clean energy for cooking, local climate adaptation, pollution-free environments through youth green clubs and education, and aligning district plans with national strategies, accompanied by advocacy on climate change. 


3. Creating an opportunity to include local perspectives in the global stocktake

The LGMA is advocating for the UNFCCC Global Stocktake outcomes to recognize local stocktakes, and conversely, for cities and regions to convene town hall COPs on an annual basis. By connecting local and global processes, we can collectively accelerate climate solutions. Mayor Sharon Dijksma (Utrecht, Netherlands), a UN Advisory Group Member for the 2024 Summit of the Future, sees this event as an opportunity for rapid change, stating that  “Cities and regions cannot be on the side events.” 


Youth voices are amplified through local stocktakes

In the spotlight of #Stocktake4ClimateEmergency, three pivotal local events in Accra, Ghana; Kampala, Uganda; and Nairobi, Kenya, featured a collaboration with YOUNGO.

What did the youth convey? Zihan Xuan, Youngo’s focal point, stresses three main takeaways. Recognizing that COP is a privileged space to which not everyone has access, these local events bridged an opportunity to include youth voices from the grassroots. “We ensured youth engagement, that youth had a say in discussing how local governments are going to shape and implement NDCs in their local communities.” In addition, he emphasizes the need for inclusive climate decision-making, considering the importance of taking into account the diverse experiences and backgrounds of the youth population. “People tend to see us as a homogeneous community, but we are not.”

Capacity building and access to finance are crucial outcomes, with less than 0.76% of global climate finance currently supporting youth projects. “We urged local leaders to allocate funds to empower youth initiatives,” stated Zihan Xuan.


This blog was written based on the COP28 session “#Stocktake4ClimateEmergency”  organized by ICLEI as the focal point of the LGMA Constituency. Watch the webcast here

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