Tracking progress en route from Madrid to Glasgow

In a parallel universe, we would be gathered this week in Glasgow for COP26, but instead we are facing a global pandemic that has disrupted life as we know it around the world. In the face of this challenge, we are forced to reimagine and redesign a new and healthier future for communities around the world.

Alongside the tragedy the global pandemic has brought, it affords us an opportunity to ensure a green recovery and build climate action and policy into the COVID-19 response. This moment of opportunity is what is on the table this year at the Race-To-Zero Dialogues and the UN Climate Change Climate Dialogues as the climate community comes together virtually at this pit stop between Madrid and Glasgow.

At COP25, Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency (the coalition of local and regional following the UNFCCC Negotiations) announced its 6-pillar COP26 Roadmap towards Glasgow, to make it recognized as the “Multilevel Action COP.”

Over the past 11 months, highlights of this roadmap can be captured as follows:

Climate action supports COVID-19 response, recovery and redesign

In the first six months of 2020, local governments were in immediate response mode, trying to figure out how to manage the pandemic. Even at an early stage, well-connected, experienced, capacitated, progressive local governments were able to connect response and recovery efforts to their ongoing focus on tackling climate and promoting sustainable living. Local governments employed climate friendly policies focusing on transport, circular economy, decentralized energy and consumption, amongst others, to strengthen their COVID-19 response.

Chile demonstrated remarkable leadership by connecting response and recovery investments to its 2nd Nationally Determined Contribution. As a part of their Chile´s green recovery plan, 30 percent of recovery investments will be put towards climate action defined in the 2nd Chilean NDC, with a strong focus on sustainable urban development. 

On 3 September, Japan launched the Redesign Platform in collaboration with the UN Climate Change Secretariat and the Institute for Global and Environmental Strategies (IGES) as a transformative vision for leapfrogging to a new type of civilization. ICLEI offered its support by localizing the vision through its project pipeline facility, Transformative Actions Programme.

The Race to Zero is raising ambition

Throughout the year, a break in global meetings and conferences was turned into an opportunity to consolidate plans and visions. On 5 June 2020, High Level Climate Action Champions launched Race-To-Zero Campaign to accelerate climate neutrality commitments. On 29 July, ICLEI convened leaders from Japan, Korea, Australia and Europe to support high level political leadership for a climate neutral future. During the Daring Cities Virtual Forum in October, ICLEI announced its Climate Neutrality Framework, while celebrating Pioneers of Climate Ambition which comprises nearly 1000 cities and regions have adopted climate emergency declarations, committing to climate neutrality, are transitioning to 100% renewable energy or are divesting from fossil fuels.

Under the leadership of the Minister of Environment of Japan, 150+ net zero Japanese cities and prefectures paved the way for the new Japanese Prime Minister to announce national climate neutrality goal by 2050, as a clear demonstration of how action and commitment at the local and subnational level can help raise national ambition.

Regional leadership towards global action

The 2nd Local Environmental Authorities Forum on 18 August concluded with the Santiago Declaration as the regional COP26 Roadmap for Latin America. The Edinburgh Declaration introduced a new momentum on biodiversity advocacy ahead of the first UN Biodiversity Summit on 30 September. Released on 1 October at 9th European Sustainable Cities and Towns Conference, Mannheim Message captured the response of European cities and towns to localize European Green New Deal. On 12 November, LOCS4Africa concluded with the announcement of Climate Finance Roadmap for African cities and regions.

November 2020 will be the moment to capture these achievements

At Race-To-Zero Dialogues on 9-19 November, High Level Champions and their partners will release their Climate Action Pathways, where ICLEI co-leads a new section on Waste and Consumption under the Human Settlements Pathway. At the Cities and Regions Day on  18 November, numerous announcements will be released including a new guide for cities on setting Science-Based-Targets, Multilevel Action and States and Regions in Race-To-Zero.

At Climate Dialogues on 23 November – 4 December, the UNFCCC negotiations will resemble in a typical COP format virtually but without any decisions to be adopted. On 1 December, LGMA Special Event will highlight good practices on multilevel climate action and progress on the LGMA COP26 Roadmap “Towards Multilevel Action COP”.

On 12 December, at the Climate Ambition Summit, under the leadership of COP25 and COP26 Presidencies, the UN Secretary General and the French  Government, the global community will celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Paris Agreement. The celebrations will include a cities and regions event hosted at the Paris City Hall on 11 December. 

For many of us, 2020 will be remembered as one of the hardest periods of our lifetime. But our global solidarity in responding to COVID-19 could trigger more collaborative and ambitious action in response to the climate and biodiversity emergencies. ICLEI is committed to play its role as a global network and LGMA Focal Point to turn this vision into a reality in 2021 and onwards.