Clima East at COP19: Cities and Sub-national Dialogue Presidency event. Notes from our Key Expert (6)

‘Let us innovate, scale up and cooperate’ for global transformation, urges Ban Ki-moon. Read more…

A side event aimed at facilitating a dialogue between Parties to the Convention and local government authorities as well as representatives of civil society was organised by the COP Presidency on 21 November. The conference, entitled “Cities and Sub-national Dialogue”, was moderated by Mark Kenber, CEO of the Climate Group and opened by the COP President Mr Marcin Korolec and UNFCCC Secretary Christiana Figueres.

During the first part, entitled “Enhancing adaptation and resilience at the local level”, the invited panellists representing national and local authorities from a number of countries presented their views on the challenges that cities face globally in connection with climate change. Cities, and especially great metropolises of the South, are growing at the rate of 5 million new inhabitants a month, and much of that migration is already linked to the impacts of climate change. Already 1 billion people live in cities, and natural disasters will create a real challenge to mayors and other levels of local government. Adaptation to changing climate, water stress, pollution, and heat waves are increasingly pressing, and this is compounded by the stress connected with rapid development and resulting pressure on local services. Cooperation and exchange of experience offers access to best practice…however, finance is a major obstacle for action.

The representative of the World Bank, Rachel Kyte noted the problem that creditworthiness of cities (or to be more precise, the lack of it) is posing to local governments in addressing the most pressing needs connected with adaptation. Out of the 500 largest cities surveyed by the World Bank, just 4% were creditworthy. To address this, the World Bank is rolling out its creditworthiness programme.

She also mentioned opportunities that the latest technologies offer in the outreach to the local population. Crowd-sourcing is used to map out the earthquake zones in Nepal, for example, and now, after the typhoon Haiyan, to identify the disaster struck areas in the Philippines.

In the second part of the conference “Enhancing global mitigation efforts through action at the local level” the panellists presented efforts of their countries and cities in climate change mitigation. In South Korea, for example, 244 local governments were involved in setting up GHG and energy efficiency targets in public/local government sector, getting involved in local emissions trading, investing in public transport infrastructure and green transport, deploying public transport incentives for private users, and looking to reinforce these actions in many other ways.

In the summing-up discussions the panellists mentioned that the cooperation between cities should lead to building a platform for exchange of experience and information. However, they agreed that cities lacked resources to address the adverse impacts of climate change. It was pointed out that the political lack of support was one of the problems: climate change was not top on the political agenda of global leaders and as long as no or little political cost was associated with the lack of ambition, and no or little political benefit could be derived from having ambition in climate change mitigation, the solution will be long in the making.

Cities and local governments should found their cooperation on solidarity. In the run up to 2015 COP in Paris cities should engage with the international negotiations and support this process, through the Covenant of Mayors and other existing institutions or organisations at the international level, and through cooperation with governments and civil society. 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon encapsulated his desire to see cooperation at and between all scales in his remarks to the event:
“As we look to the Climate Summit and the key years of 2014 and 2015, let us innovate, scale up and cooperate to make the global transformation we need to achieve the goal we share: thriving economies, a healthier planet, sustainable cities and a life of dignity for all.’

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