From left to right: Emani Kumar and Monika Zimmermann, ICLEI Deputy Secretary Generals; Jewon Lee, Vice Mayor of Seoul; Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary; Ashok Sridharan, Lord Mayor of Bonn; Gino Van Begin; ICLEI Secretary General

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Espinosa: “Climate action in cities is the key that unlocks a low-emission, highly resilient future”

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was co-patron of the latest Resilient Cities congress, organized by ICLEI and hosted by the City of Bonn. In her opening remarks, Executive Secretary Espinosa expressed her support to what local governments are doing on mitigating climate change and adapting to it.

“Cities should welcome a transformation towards climate-safe, sustainable development because cities are uniquely vulnerable”, said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), at Resilient Cities 2017.

“The risk to cities from climate impacts carries great social and economic costs. The ability of communities to meet their most basic needs – food, water, energy and sanitation – is threatened by climate change.

It is also a threat that the world has come together to confront. In 2015, national governments adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. These agreements outline a vision of development transformed and a roadmap to arrive at that vision. We have a direction and destination for development.

As each country looks to meet their emission reduction or energy efficiency or renewable energy goals, they will look to cities as places where transformational change can make the most difference.

In fact, climate action in cities is the key that unlocks a low-emission, highly resilient future. It is therefore encouraging to see so many cities taking steps to deliver sustainable development and a climate-safe future. This path ensures needs are met and people can thrive in vibrant cities, on a planet that is protected for future generations.”

Since the Paris Climate Change Agreement was approved in 2015, it has become increasingly clear that local governments are going to be instrumental in achieving the emissions reduction targets set by countries.

But they can be more than that: cities and regions can be true partners for national governments as they start implementing and reviewing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The time is now ripe for a greater involvement of local governments and non-State actors in building an efficient and well-integrated implementation architecture for global climate and sustainability plans.

ICLEI’s 8th annual forum on urban resilience and adaptation, Resilient Cities 2017, concluded with a strong call to build coalitions in order to overcome the challenges posed by climate as well as unchecked urbanization. During the closing plenary Mayor Navin Ramsoondur of Vacoas-Phoenix, Mauritius, said very clearly that vulnerable communities, and in particular those in Small Islands Developing States “cannot do this alone”.

The incoming Fiji Presidency, the first time in the history of UNFCCC that a Small Island Developing State takes such leadership role, will be a great opportunity to put the most vulnerable at the center and to give recognition to the growing, powerful coalition of local governments, businesses, academia and civil society.

The Lord Mayor of Bonn Ashok Sridharan, also ICLEI First Vice President and co-host of COP23, confirmed that “Bonn is very much looking forward to welcoming COP23 here: this will be a tremendous opportunity to showcase and advance partnerships for our climate at all levels”.

In her final words to mayors and city representatives at Resilient Cities, Executive Secretary Espinosa encouraged cities to keep pursuing cooperation as a way to deliver on the great challenges ahead, turning them into opportunities.

“I ask you to work together,” she said.

“Work with each other here and through the many cooperative initiatives available to cities. Work with the local business community and the finance industry and academia. Work with your national governments – not just the environment ministry, but also energy, land use, transportation and finance ministries. Cities are engines of growth. Your cooperation on climate change and sustainable development steers the world towards a better and brighter future for your citizens –billions of people – and for all people and the planet we share.”

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