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Green Urban


Cities will be key to a low carbon, resilient global economy able to address and adapt to climate change. Many are emerging as leaders cutting emissions and greening infrastructure. Photo ©Pline

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Cities say they are central to success in tackling climate change and are lookiong for a direct role in the international negotiations crafting an international response to this critical global challenge.  

Organizations representing thousands of cities and municipalities around the world delivered the same message at different side events a few hours apart on 3 June at the latest UN climate change negotiations in Bonn. 

Cities are some of the very biggest emitters of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change and are home to concentrations of vulnerable populations. That is why their success in cutting emissions fast enough to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and their progress in adapting to the inevitable effects of existing climate change requires an essential and willing political collaboration from city leaderships.

ICLEI Stresses Climate Action Now

ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability is working to mobilize cities and regions, “those other levels of government that really can do something,” said Gino Van Begin, the networking organization’s Secretary General, who said he feared national government ambitions so far were not high enough.


From left, Carlos Castillo, Basque Country, Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development member;
Jürgen Nimptsch, Mayor of Bonn; and Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI

The organization, which champions the Mayors Compact launched at the UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014, requires cities to state clearly what they can contribute to climate action, in the form of “transformative action plans” as countries work toward a new universal climate change agreement in Paris in December. 

“Come to Paris to say what you will be doing and what exactly you would need [. . .] to help us, not to implement the agreement that is going to come in Paris or not, but to help to keep us under 2 degrees Celsius,” said Mr. Van Begin, highlighting the organizations Transformative Actions Program.

Local and subnational governments represented by ICLEI are asking negotiators to incorporate specific text in the Paris agreement speaking to the need for enhanced action and the incentivizing of climate action by subnational authorities, including local governments.

Climate Alliance Concurs with ICLEI Position

The Climate Alliance likewise promotes climate action and lobbies on behalf of municipalities. The group supports the work of the Covenant of Mayors, a network of cities and municipalities that pledge emission reductions and monitor and report their progress. Most of the cities are in Europe, but the organizers are working to expand their pledging programme worldwide. 

When it comes to action on climate change, “there is no implementation without the cities and regions,” said Katharina Rietig, a researcher and lecturer at De Montfort University, United Kingdom, a co-organizer with Climate Alliance of the second side-event. 

Our lobbying is “focused on ambition” and on encouraging “state actors talking with non-state actors, and especially local authorities,” said Pirita Lindholm of Climate Alliance, which this week called for “local action to take centre stage.”

She said her group, in addition to working to raise the Covenant of Mayors to the global level, wants cities’ actions to be made more prominent, for example on the UN Nazca portal, part of the Lima to Paris Action Agenda, the holding of dialogues between state and non-state actors, and having cities and municipalities mentioned explicitly in the Paris agreement. 

Nick Nuttall, representing the UNFCCC secretariat at the event as head of communications, stressed the importance of climate action by non-state actors and the importance of showcasing that action.


Nick Nuttall, Coordinator, Communications and Outreach, UNFCCC secretariat, makes remarks on panel with (from left) Katharina Rietig, De Montfort University, United Kingdom;
Ana Rita Neves, Climate Alliance and Covenant of Mayors Office; Mercè Rius Serra, Catalonian Energy Institute; Verena Schwarte, City of Bonn; and Pirita Lindholm, Climate Alliance, far right

Some Key Background

Urban areas account for more than half of global primary energy use and energy-related CO2 emissions. Taking account of direct and indirect emissions urban areas account for 67–76% of global energy use (central estimate) and 71–76% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.
As of 2011, more than 52% of the world’s population — roughly 3.6 billion — lives in urban areas. By 2050, the urban population is expected to increase to 5.6–7.1 billion, or 64–69% of the world population.

Action in urban centers is essential to successful global climate change adaptation. Urban areas hold more than half the world’s population and most of its built assets and economic activities. They also house a high proportion of the population and economic activities most at risk from climate change, and a high proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by urban-based activities and residents

Tile and top-of-page pic by Torbakhopper


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