Local and Subnational Governments on the Road to Paris

On 23 October 2015 in Bonn, Germany, national governments concluded their final drafting session (ADP2.11). This resulted in a text that will be the basis of negotiations for a Paris Climate Package, expected to be the outcome of the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP21) on 30 November – 11 December 2015 in Paris, France.

ICLEI understands the current state of negotiations and their relevance to local and subnational governments as follows.

The global level of ambition is still not high enough

The success of the Paris Climate Package in addressing global climate change will largely depend on the level of climate ambition captured in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by more than 150 national governments as of October 2015.

Initial assessments of these national pledges demonstrate that they will curb the rate of greenhouse emissions compared to the previous trajectories. However, these assessments also suggest that national ambitions will not keep the global warming below 2 degrees Celsius before end of the 21st Century, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The world must therefore raise the level of ambition now and in the post-2020 period by: 

  • Accelerating transformative actions by all stakeholders, 
  • Establishing long term goals such as carbon/climate neutrality or 100% renewables by 2050 and adopting a goal on adaptation, and
  • Creating a robust framework that addresses of loss and damage from climate change.

The draft Paris Climate Package finally recognizes local and subnational governments

The draft Paris Climate Package is expected to consist of two parts: an Agreement and Decision(s). The Agreement will have a broader vision of the post-2020 climate regime and will need to be ratified by national parliaments after COP21. The Decision(s) will clarify implementation details of this broad agreement and define immediate actions that come into effect upon their adoption by Ministers in Paris.

The most important positive news from Bonn last week is that national governments finally recognized the role of local and subnational governments, as well as non-state actors, in global efforts.

The preamble of the draft Agreement to be adopted in Paris includes an important paragraph that will cement and advance achievements of previous COP decisions from 2010 and 2013 related to local and subnational governments. No national government Party has objected to this paragraph.

A number of paragraphs in the draft Decision(s) on Workstream-2 (pre2020 ambition), which are subject to further negotiations in Paris, also aim for more active engagement of local and subnational governments in both mitigation and adaptation through technical examination meetings, annual high level dialogues and the UNFCCC Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) platform. Experiences through the ADP Workstream-2 (pre2020 ambition) and Technical Examination Process on Urban Environment since 2013 played a key role in this development.

There is a need to accelerate engagement of local and subnational governments before COP21

The second piece of positive news is that around 50% of all INDCs envisage climate action advancements in cities and regions. Local and subnational governments should explore opportunities to actively engage with national governments in the successful design and delivery of these actions.

Local and subnational governments should also look for opportunities through innovative financing approaches such as the recently launched the Global Environmental Facility Sustainable Cities Integrated Program, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) including Goal 11 on sustainable cities, Addis Ababa Financing for Development Conference, Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction Framework or current practices in Convention on Biodiversity and Sustainable Public Procurement under 10 Year Framework on Sustainable Consumption and Production.

COP21 will be important opportunity to tap the potential of local and subnational governments

As nations move ahead with their climate commitments, local and subnational governments are becoming increasingly important in raising national and global ambitions.

Local and subnational governments will arrive at COP21 with tremendous potential to display. Cities have already committed to 1 gigaton of greenhouse gas reductions by 2020 through the carbonn® Climate Registry, while the Climate Summit for Local Leaders on 4 December at Paris City Hall will play a pivotal role in the consolidation of all current efforts. 

Twenty mayors and city leaders from the Nordic countries have published an open letter to convince national governments to take into account the views of cities, business, civil society and academia.

Tangible evidence of local climate action will be on display through the Cities & Regions Pavilion – TAP2015 at COP21, with more than 120 ambitious, cross-cutting and inclusive actions from 89 cities in 42 countries submitted to the Transformative Actions Program (TAP). With adequate resources and financing, these actions can be immediately tapped to advance the global climate regime.

Finally, the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), developed by the governments of Peru, France, the UN Secretary General´s Office and the UN Climate Change Secretariat, is expected to convey announcements and initiatives to strengthen the voluntary partnerships, such as the Compact of Mayors, Compact of States and Regions, City Climate Finance Leadership Finance and other new national, regional or global initiatives. During COP21 in Paris, there will also be a number of high level events with different thematic foci, including 8 December which focuses on cities and subnationals.

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, together with its members and staff, will continue to play an active role in at COP21, as:

Agenda of Local Subnational Governments at COP21 in Paris as of October2015.

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