Cities and regions worldwide are taking over political leadership at COP27 climate talks as national governments are failing to reach any meaningful agreement. As echoed in the latest IPCC report, local and regional governments have a growing role in delivering climate action. However, subnational governments – unified under the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency to the United Nations – still lack a formal role in global climate negotiations and in the implementation of the Paris agreement. Reinforcing multi-level cooperation, direct funds and technical assistance for subnational governments and a global system to collect and monitor cities’ and regions’ carbon emission reductions are amongst the key claims subnational governments are fighting for at COP27.
The president of the European Committee of the Regions, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, said: "The energy crisis and the geopolitical situation must not hinder the much-needed increase of global ambition at COP27. The top-down approach is showing its limitations when it comes to move from commitments to achievements. Cities and regions are willing to help filling the gap, but for this they need a consistent framework for place-based sustainable development strategies, bringing together climate action, nature protection and Sustainable Development Goals. A new UN framework based on local and regional action is needed, and the European Committee of the Regions is ready to work with the Parties, UN agencies and all partner organisations towards this objective."
The president of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines (United States), said: "I am proud of the leadership that the European Union and the United States continue to show for advancing the truth that collaboration across all levels of government is the recipe for success in achieving the Paris Agreement goals. In my country, the U.S. Infrastructure Bill and Inflation Reduction Act are good-practice examples for other nations to follow, precisely because they institute collaboration between cities, regions and the national government. I am further encouraged by the U.S. announcing a Subnational Climate Action Leadership Exchange (SCALE), which can be seen as complementary to the COP27 Presidency SURGe initiative. Together, we are ensuring the ICLEI and LGMA call is clear at COP27: The time for Multilevel Action has not only come—it is delivering."
The Mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski (PL/EPP), chair of the ENVE commission and of the Green Deal Going Local working group and member of the Political Board of the Global Covenant of Mayors, said: "While we are working to secure energy supplies and protect our citizens from high energy prices, we cannot lose sight of the climate crisis. We look into the COP27 as an opportunity to further advance climate ambition and implementation, and are hopeful that the conclusions will reflect the urgent need for multilevel cooperation and will call on national governments and international organisations to involve local and regional authorities in delivering climate action on the ground. We need direct funds and technical assistance for subnational governments and a global system to collect and monitor cities’ and regions’ carbon emission reductions. Together we can bridge the emissions gap."
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, president of C40, said: "The climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing our world and it is clear that we cannot afford further delay. I have put tackling the triple threats of congestion, toxic air pollution and the climate emergency at the heart of my mayoralty. Cities are using every lever at our disposal to take meaningful climate action now by reducing pollution, investing in green public transport and sustainable energy sources – but we simply cannot avert a catastrophe of this magnitude alone. We can achieve net zero carbon by 2030 and keep the goal of 1.5 degrees within reach if city mayors and citizens are empowered to play a central role.”
The Mayor of Montevideo, Carolina Cosse, President of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), made it clear: “The solution to the ecological transformation of our planet and societies will go through our villages, towns, cities, metropolises, provinces and regions. At COP27 we will need to ensure that we continue to push for the inclusion of local and regional governments into the localization of Nationally Determined Contributions, as well as continue to advocate for the localization of climate finance, and capacity-building for all types of cities and particularly intermediary cities, specifically in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.”
The Mayor of Florence and president of Eurocities, Dario Nardella (IT/PES), said: “In the fight against climate change, cities are not only needed, but are the essential link between people and other layers of government. As a mayor, I am in constant dialogue with people in my city, and through initiatives such as the Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal, I bring their voices, and realities to European and international leaders. But we need more coordinated action and global solidarity to keep the 1.5°C target alive. Acknowledging and acting on climate change must serve as the background of just about everything we do – the leaders assembled at COP27 all know this. For those that believe in really making a difference, the action needed in the conclusions is clear: think local.”
Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa and Africa Co-Chair of the Under2 Coalition said: "States and regions have always been at the forefront of climate change action but they, like other non-state players, need to have a seat at the table when decisions are being made. The time for pledges and failure to honour commitments is over. We need national governments and businesses to step up. We must have decisive and united action, bolstered by strong policies and financial resources to make change happen. Importantly, resources need to be directed to where they are needed most through using science and data driven-tools, as well as public-private collaboration, in order to mitigate the impact of climate change in our local communities.”
The Minister for Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment of the Basque Government and president of Regions4 - The Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development, Arantxa Tapia, stressed that: “The voice of the regions must sound loud and clear at this COP27, since regions apply 90% of the adaptation measures to climate change. We are natural leaders of some of the transformations necessary for adaptation due to our direct connection with citizens and our capacity to mobilise territorial commitments connecting all stakeholders. From 'Regions4', we are going to launch in this COP27 the ‘Declaration of regional governments’ that highlights our main recommendations and commitments towards a resilient future. I believe that support to regions for the effective implementation of climate actions at multiple levels is key, especially in the development of capacities, financing and technical support.”
The Mayor of Utrecht and ICLEI-LGMA Special Envoy for COP27 Ministerials, Sharon Dijksma, said “In the past years, important steps have been taken to involve cities more in the UNFCCC agenda. With the adoption of the COP26 Glasgow Climate Pact, multilevel action is recognised as an important pillar in reaching the international climate goals. I welcome the first-ever Ministerial on Urbanisation and Climate during COP27, which puts multilevel collaboration at the heart of the debate. But I reiterate that COP27 should be the last climate conference where cities and regions are only on the informal agenda of the UNFCCC. From next year onwards, multilevel action must be an integral part of the official COP process. I am thrilled to see hundreds of mayors and other local and subnational leaders as well as other non-state actors so enthusiastically joining me in this call. I look forward to engaging these parties during COP27 and the years to come. Together we will work on accelerating climate finance to cities and regions across the world, including loss and damage.”
The Mayor of Chefchaouen (Morocco), Mohamed Sefiani, member of ARLEM and ICLEI COP27 Special Envoy, said: “Cities and regions in Africa, as the world´s fastest-urbanising continent, call for COP27 to deliver concrete outcomes for sustainable urbanisation, multilevel action and localisation of climate finance. I am happy to hear that in the first week of COP27, the new climate finance mechanisms are starting to be delivered, including local development facilities such as LoCAL. COP27 focus is on implementation but it can only succeed if the necessary climate finance for sustainable urbanisation can be secured through multilevel action. It is therefore essential that COP27 kicks off initiatives like SURGe and ensures continuity of Urbanisation and Climate Ministerials at COPs as a legacy of the African COP27.”
Stefano Bonaccini, president of the region of Emilia-Romagna and president of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), said: "The implementation of the Paris Agreement is lagging behind, and it is essential to act now to achieve the goals at all levels of government: mitigation, adaptation, energy transition and safeguarding biodiversity. To do this, we need adequate resources, a supportive regulatory and governance framework, localisation and territorialisation of sustainable development goals, decentralised cooperation and exchange of experience between municipalities and regions around the world. This is a global challenge that can best be met if we all act locally and in an accountable, inclusive, fair, equitable and partnered manner."
There is growing international awareness that the climate battle will be won or lost in cities. By 2050, towns and cities are expected to grow by 2.5 billion people raising the urban share to 68% of the global population. Growing urbanisation and population growth, coupled with economic development and rising prosperity are expected to contribute to rising emissions in cities. New estimates from Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy show that this collective action has the potential to reduce global emissions by at least 1.4 gigatons annually by 2030.
More than 90% of the world’s urban areas are located along coastlines, where rising sea levels and storms threaten inhabitants and infrastructure with flooding and strong winds. More than 10% of the world’s physical assets and population are located in urban centers and clusters in low elevation coastal zones (less than 10 meters above sea level). Sea-level rise is already affecting more than 25 megacities severely. The more than 1 billion people who live in urban slums and informal settlements are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts, as many live along waterfronts and riverbanks that are prone to flooding.
Never before has the IPCC highlighted the role of cities for climate change mitigation and adaptation to the extent done in its two most recent reports: IPCC (2022a): Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability and IPCC (2022b): Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change.
On 17 November 2022, the Egyptian COP27 Presidency convened the first-ever Ministerial Meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change at a UN Climate Change Conference of Parties, focusing on housing, urban development, multilevel action in relation to climate change. The Ministerial Meeting reinforces the commitment of the Paris Agreement for multi-level climate action and will commit to accelerated climate change mitigation, adaptation action and local climate finance. The Ministerial meeting has launched the COP27 Presidential Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe).
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