Local governments star at Paris talks

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City Press, Paris


Several local government leaders attended the COP21 negotiations to show what their cities, states and provinces are doing to combat climate change.

All over the world, local government leaders believe they should not wait for their national governments to take the initiative. Some reports suggest local government actions might even surpass the pledges made by national governments.

Durban mayor James Nxumalo, who is vice-president of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), said cities tackle climate change most effectively.

“It is vital that local leaders are recognised as key actors in reducing emissions and implementing climate adaptation measures,” he said. “Local leaders are taking local level initiatives to help set the terms of climate action, and are forging their own path to a more sustainable future.”

Nxumalo said Durban would reduce its emissions by 28% by 2020.

California governor Jerry Brown said there was no need for the federal government "to say jump. We’re already moving.”

California was working with local governments in China, Germany and Mexico, he said. “We’re a global force.”

Several policy experts at the Paris talks said cities, states and other subnational governments had a crucial role to play. Cities alone account for more than 70% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, and this is expected to grow as urbanisation continues across the globe.

Dr Vincent Kitio, chief of urban energy at UN-Habitat, said almost 75% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, and most of the urbanisation will happen in developing countries in Africa.

Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York who is now the UN secretary general's special envoy for cities and climate change, released a report at the talks that showed cities could be the key to closing the gap between what countries have promised to do and what is needed to avert dangerous temperature rises.

And the Compact of States and Regions, a consortium of sub-national governments from six continents, announced this week that they would cut greenhouse gas emissions by a cumulative 12,4 gigatons by 2030 when compared to business as usual projections.

Pioneering efforts

Cities are already stepping up to the plate to battle climate change, according to a new report from the C40 Cities — which include Johannesburg, Lagos, London, Hong Kong and New York, among 78 others.

Since the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, cities in the C40 network have committed to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by at least three gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) in the next 15 years. This is equal to India’s annual emissions, or half those of the US.

Mark Watts, executive director of C40, said: "There is a massive buzz about cities. Irrespective of a global agreement, action at the local level is unstoppable."

Hastings Chikoko, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) regional director for Africa, said cities are innovative and are in a unique position to catalyse wider climate action.

The Climate Action in Megacities 3.0 report, launched at COP21 this week, showed that local governments across the world are working together to becoming the greener cities of the future.

African cities reported the greatest increase in the proportion of adaption actions being taken, the report revealed.

Chikoko said cities across the world, and particularly in Africa, are scaling up action and are increasingly collaborating. In fact, one in three of the actions cities took were achieved through collaboration.

“They are not working alone,” he said.

Examples saw Johannesburg collaborating with Washington DC to help facilitate new financing structures for neighbourhood improvement, and Johannesburg passing on its lessons in waste management to Rio de Janeiro.

Cities are also putting their money where their mouth is: the report showed 64% of cities’ actions to combat climate change were delivered through their own budgets.