Local and regional governments take action to address 50% of the global emissions of CO2 linked to the daily running of their communities. As the level of government closest to citizens, local and regional governments have the ability to play a role on issues as diverse as urban planning, consumption, transport and housing quality.
Welcomed by the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and the Executive Director of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres, Mayors and Regional Leaders met with their ministerial counterparts on Thursday 21 November in Warsaw, on the occasion of the first “Cities Day” organized in the framework of the Conference of Parties (COP) and aiming at facilitating debate on possible local solutions to climate change.
Praised for their positive role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in adapting their territories to climate change, local and regional governments still struggle to obtain the position they deserve in international climate negotiations. Ronan Dantec, UCLG spokesperson on climate and City Councilor for Nantes, underlined that, “the credibility of the 2015 climate agreement will build on the degree of recognition that local and regional governments obtain in the outcome document, taking into account that they are at the forefront of this issue.”
While he presented the Nantes Declaration, endorsed by the main local and regional authorities’ networks, among which ICLEI, UCLG and its Regional Sections, Ronan Dantec stressed the capacity of local and regional governments to engage in the process with one united voice. Furthermore, he advocated for bridges to be sought between the climate and the development agendas that both include the same challenges and require joint solutions. He also recalled the initiative set up by UCLG through the “Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Authorities”, which coordinates interventions in the current international negotiations.
Referring to the difficulties for States to reach an agreement, Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogota and host of the next UCLG World Congress in 2016, called for cities to take the lead in the fight against climate change.
As the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris draws nearer, local and regional leaders will have to focus on three tasks. Firstly, they will have to find a way to better illustrate and explain the interlinked benefits (economic, social, cultural, etc.) of combatting climate change and contribute to overcoming the current pessimistic trend. Secondly, they must pursue their dialogues with national governments, in particular with those involved in the “Friends of Cities” Group, which support them and their proposals in international negotiations. Finally, local and regional leaders must continue to cooperate and to exchange good practices among themselves, while preserving their capacity to speak with one unified voice.
As the Conference comes to an end, local and regional governments call for an ambitious global climate agreement and bold decisions from all actors. The references made to local authorities need to be strengthened. More than a symbol, Cities Day must result in outcomes!