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When science meets policy and practice: Top 3 ways to achieve Paris goals

We need to dig in and build stronger links between climate science, urban policy and practice. The interconnection between the three perspectives is critical to creating coherent policy frameworks driven by hard data and scientific evidence, and informed by practitioner expertise.

Urban areas account for about 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, and rapid urbanization could very well drive up this figure without effective management of transport, energy, infrastructure and resource flows through urban areas.

Cities and towns also face significant climate risks, brought about by extreme events, from heat waves to droughts and coastal flooding. Global economic costs from urban flooding due to climate change are estimated to be 1 trillion USD per year – and studies suggest that by the end of this century, 2 billion people could become climate refugees due to rising sea levels.

To effectively address these issues, we need stronger scientific evidence and data.

ICLEI has long been a pioneer of data and science-driven sustainability and climate policy that guides targeted local action. With our multidisciplinary teams guiding climate policy and practice, we are at the intersection between critical actors in this space, creating linkages across local data, science, national frameworks and the international climate action architecture.

Here is our take on three key ways to bring evidence-based policy to the fore – and what ICLEI brings to the process:

Data to inform climate policy at all levels: We need up-to-date data from cities, towns and regions on their targets, actions and impacts, which interconnects to build a holistic picture of climate change mitigation and adaptation within a region or country – and across the world.

ICLEI manages the carbonn Climate Registry (cCR), an integrated global reporting platform for cities, towns and regions that enables a better understanding of trends. The cCR is also a key element of how ICLEI supports integrated Measuring, Reporting and Verifying (MRV) systems and provides a wealth of information that can help all levels of government develop integrated, evidence-based climate policy and approaches.

The integration that is possible through the cCR represents a substantial evolution across recent decades.

When ICLEI started its first Urban CO2 Reduction Project in 1991, there was no global consensus even on the definition of greenhouse gases. When the global climate community later met in Copenhagen in 2009 to agree on targets, ICLEI released a catalogue of 3,000 local climate commitments worldwide, which has since evolved into the carbonn Climate Registry.

Networking across science, policy and practice: We need to carve out space that invites three-way dialogue between local policymakers, practitioners and the scientific community to ensure they work and plan in close collaboration.

At the ICLEI World Congress 2009 hosted by Edmonton – now host city of the CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Conference – the first Urban Researcher Symposium became an official element of the triennial ICLEI World Congress series and will continue at the upcoming ICLEI World Congress 2018 in Montréal. Today, Edmonton is building on this legacy by hosting this landmark CitiesIPCC Conference designed to set the course for the global climate research agenda and advance scientific evidence connecting cities and climate science.

Since 2010, through the annual Resilient Cities congress, ICLEI has also convened the global community of researchers, practitioners and policymakers on urban resilience and climate adaptation. Held in Bonn, back-to-back to the mid-year United Nations climate conferences, the Resilient Cities congress is a recognized launch point for many global initiatives like the first Assessment Report on Cities and Climate Change by UCCRN, the Urban Climate Change Research Network at Columbia University, and the Making Cities Resilient Campaign from UNISDR, which laid the foundation for the Durban Adaptation Charter.

Evidence-based advocacy for multilevel and holistic climate action: It is important that national climate policy and the global climate action architecture is informed by reliable, up-to-date data from the ground. ICLEI makes sure these linkages happen. ICLEI acts as the focal point for the LGMA, the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities constituency, at the UNFCCC, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as part of the international climate negotiations. We make use of data reported by over 1,000 cities, towns and regions globally to the carbonn Climate Registry, giving nations and the international community a clear picture of local trends and gaps in climate action. They can then use this information to shape national and global policy. Right now, the data show that cities are mobilizing municipal financial resources for local implementation and facing a huge need for additional financing to scale up local climate action.

ICLEI has long believed that achievements in global processes is important for local action worldwide – and vice versa. Regular monitoring and reporting of the success of Local Agenda 21 in more than 10,000 communities worldwide paved the way for the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, including specific goal on sustainable cities.

Additionally, initiatives and outputs such as the first stakeholder supplement of the 5th Global Environment Outlook for Local Governments or the translation of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report for cities, have helped such customized analysis to become part of official global practices.

Now, ICLEI aims to make the annual Resilience Cities congress in Bonn a key platform to track progress on the outcomes of the CitiesIPCC Conference and link it to the international climate debate.

Next up for science, policy and practice: The IPCC Special Report on Cities

After thirty years of addressing the most current and pressing research on climate change, the IPCC – the international body for assessing climate change science – has turned its attention also towards cities. The CitiesIPCC Conference and the newly set global research agenda will contribute to the upcoming Special Report on Cities and Climate Change. The ICLEI network will support with relevant data and by offering a practitioner perspective.

Next up for science, policy, practice and ICLEI

In the coming years, ICLEI aims to advance on these key areas:

Local and regional governments guiding and investing in multidimensional research: The urban world brings together unique challenges and opportunities which need fresh and innovative approaches and policy-guided solutions. It is not possible, nor appropriate, to expect a transformative response from traditional academic training nor the established national research processes to such challenges. Instead, local and regional governments, in collaboration with the community of CitiesIPCC, should support and empower their staff to better collaborate  with the scientific community, increase their own funding for urban research and craft more targeted research agendas. Our partnership with UCCRN and others will play a critical role here.

Multilevel collaboration in the research agenda: The work through municipally owned and guided research would contribute to disaggregation, customization and synthesis of data through national and global research and statistics. National governments and global institutions should be open to accept, support and encourage such practices so that their work is also connected to the real world data and policies. Our work on tools like HEAT+, Clearpath, the carbonn Climate Registry, Talanoa Dialogues, among others will play a critical role.

Accelerated sharing of information among the urban community: It is critical to track progress and encourage additional policy actions through regular processes and ICLEI events like the World Congress and Resilient Cities can play a strategic role. We expect the Resilient Cities congress in Bonn to link the outcomes of CitiesIPCC to the international climate debate.

ICLEI will continue to advance these three strategic areas – while providing digital reporting platforms and opportunities to connect the urban and scientific community. We are doing our part to ensure policy and action at all levels is grounded in real, up-to-date information and analysis.

More information

The latest

CitiesIPCC to set the course for the global climate research agenda

From 2016 – The lead-up to the CitiesIPCC Conference

IPCC to give cities special focus: The IPCC responds to calls from city networks and urban stakeholders and will pay special attention to the impacts of climate change on cities.

Updates on the #CitiesIPCC Campaign reported from the 43rd IPCC session in Nairobi: The debate about the Special Report on Cities and Climate Change unfolds in Nairobi.

ICLEI joins campaign for IPCC Special Report on Cities and Climate Change: ICLEI supports the proposed preparation of a Special Report on Cities and Climate Change.

Boosting subnational climate action through new climate governance

How ICLEI supports integrated Monitoring, Reporting and Verifying (MRV)

Get ICLEI’s latest urban sustainability news

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