Group photo at Cities and Human Settlements Day

Emmanuelle Cosse, Minister of Housing and Sustainable Habitat, France

Pam O´Connor, Councilor, Santa Monica, USA and Joe Leitmann, Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank

Gino Van Begin, ICLEI Secretary General and Jacqueline McGlade, Director, Division of Early Warning and Assessment, UNEP

Local and subnational governments bring urban resilience into focus at the United Nations Climate Conference

Day on Cities and Human Settlements at COP22

Marrakech, Morocco, 17 November 2016 – Cities, towns and regions are moving forward on climate action, taking center stage in the implementation phase.

At the Global Climate Action day on Cities and Human Settlements, local leaders and experts showcased the potential of local action for implementation, with a focus on resilience and building efficiency.

Speakers at the event, co-organized by UNEP and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, also outlined the main actions that national governments can now take to help them achieve these local goals as part of national climate action plans – the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

ICLEI organized the Resilience Workstream, focusing on multilevel partnerships, finance and synergies among global resilience policies.

“The Paris Agreement entering into force is very good news. It means that we can finally get down to the business of rapidly implementing the commitments it contains” said Gino Van Begin, ICLEI Secretary General. “Nations gathered at COP22 now need to show leadership by providing a strong framework to support action and a powerful roadmap to scale up climate action and bridge the emissions gap before it is too late. Climate action in and by cities, towns and regions will be instrumental in ensuring that we stay on a 2°C pathway, aiming for 1.5°C,” he said.

COP22 in Marrakech has been dubbed the “implementation COP” and Cities and Human Settlements Day showcased the potential of local action for implementation, with a focus on resilience and building efficiency.

Highlights from Cities and Human Settlements Day

  1. A wide coalition of partners – local government networks, academia and international organizations – will organize the 2018 Cities and Climate Change Science Conference co-sponsored by IPCC. IPCC opened the call for a host city to the event at the Thematic Day.
  2. A new assessment tool, which was presented during the Resilience showcase of the morning, will allow standardized qualitative reporting of adaptation commitments to the Global Covenant of Mayors.
  3. The Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (CCFLA) delivered the main results of the Scoping report of the Alliance member’s initiatives on subnational and local finance. The report highlights financial engineering approaches supporting the development of urban climate strategies into concrete urban investment projects, including climate co-benefits and risk management perspectives. 

Why are cities important to implementing the Paris Agreement?

Cities represent an estimated 70% of energy-related global emissions. The buildings and construction sector alone accounts for over 20% of global GHG emissions. Achieving this sectors potential 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, as forecast by the International Energy Agency, will be critical to the success of the Paris Agreement.

However, whatever the pace at which we will address the issue, climate change is already happening. This means local and subnational governments must already prepare for its effects. According to the World Bank, adapting to the changing climate could cost between USD 80-100 billion every year, 80% of which will need to be invested in urban areas.

A Special Dialogue on Financing Urban Resilience, organized by FMDV and the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (CCFLA), addressed the issue of how to secure funds for resilience projects with a longer-term investment horizon. 

Moreover, in order to build resilience and adaptation in cities, we need to recognize the buildings and construction as a major economic and GHG emitting sector that is concerned by climate change. Changes can come from the thorough renovation of existing buildings, as well as from the construction of new low-energy and energy-efficient ones. The Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction is launching a roadmap for buildings, with a specific focus on low energy buildings in hot and tropical climate areas, and improving access to finance, particularly for developing countries.

“We need to take into account the buildings and construction sector as it has the largest potential for a cost-effective mitigation of greenhouse gases. This requires an integrated vision, looking not only at the direct and indirect emissions in buildings, but also the materials that go into them, in order to ensure that the Paris Agreement will have a long-lasting impact on our cities, and on the world” according to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction.

Lastly, cities and towns are at the center of converging global frameworks, not only the Paris Agreement, but also the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda. Cross-sector and multi-level action at the local level holds the secret to a multiplier effect that can potentially change the face of our urban environments, while providing a key contribution to the fulfillment of ambitious climate goals.

Outcomes from the Resilience Workstream

The Resilience Workstream concluded with concrete proposals to nations for short and medium term action:

Policy options: We are encouraging nations to link their urban development plans and climate agenda as a key part of rolling out the NDCs. We highlighted the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy as a means through which to establish this linkage, as it already fosters an integrated approach combining mitigation, adaptation and access to energy at the urban scale.

By 2017: We are calling for structured dialogues between local and subnational governments, the urban resilience community and national and international partners through global processes. These official international processes can be enriched and informed by the ICLEI Resilient Cities Congress in Bonn, Germany.

By 2020: We want to see increased flows of global climate finance and other investments in urban resilience. We emphasized the Global Action Framework for Localizing Climate Finance as a key mechanism to mobilize actors and catalyze new financial standards, channels and coordination to the benefit of local and subnational governments.

What we expect from national governments

The aggregate ambition captured in current NDCs does not get the world on track to the goal of keeping global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Scaling up and speeding up climate action now is of paramount importance, if we want to avoid much more difficult choices further down the road.

National governments also need to support local and subnational governments by providing enabling frameworks for local climate action and funding consistent with the global challenges we are facing. This level of government can also ensure establish effective vertical integration of all levels of government to scale up climate action in the developed and the developing world.

Climate finance and climate justice go hand in hand. The $100 billion promised at COP21 needs to find its way to developing countries. A sizable proportion of this sum should be earmarked every year for adaptation actions. Yet, financing is also needed for our cities, towns and regions in the Global North, where the potential for action is huge.

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