Cities and local governments have achieved a tremendous success at the UN climate talks in Cancun in December 2010. A major goal of the Local Government Climate Roadmap that started in Bali, was the recognition that local governments shall have a more active role in global climate governance since they are elected representatives with political and economic power.
For the first time in UNFCCC history, the tireless work of local governments at the negotiations has resulted in a reference to local governments as ‘governmental stakeholders’ in one of the official documents. Before Cancun there simply had been no acknowledgment of the crucial role that local governments play in implementing policies and measures against climate change.
How Cancún has moved things forward
The mistrust that had been left after the failed negotiations in Copenhagen was very much alive when everyone arrived in Cancun. Arriving with low expectations and in a rather relaxed state of mind, this seemed to prepare the ground for many taking part in the talks, to consider what really needed to be done to get the negotiations moving again. Faith was restored to the international negotiations process and, thus, a new window for achieving a strong, global and comprehensive post-2012 climate deal in Durban, South Africa, later this year has been opened. In the documents of the UNFCCC negotiations agreed in Cancun, there are some key aspects strengthening the role of cities and local governments as actors in
the fight against climate change:
• Paragraph 7 of the text agreed by the Ad-hoc Working Group on long-term CooperativeAction (AWG-LCA) now refers to local and subnationational governments as governmental stakeholders. This reference gives local governments a strong and operationally useful recognition of the role they are playing in the global fight against climate change. This reference in the Cancun agreements now enable cities and local governments to replicate the global success of the Local Agenda 21, this time in the fight against climate change.
• The concept of governmental stakeholders is further strengthened, as it is mentioned in the decision of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) adopted in Cancun.
• There are also numerous references to local governments in chapters dealing with adaptation, REDD and in capacity building.
In terms of decisions related to the Kyoto Protocol, progress has been achieved particularly in the implementation of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); the preamble of the decision on CDM specifically states that standardized baselines have to take into account sub-national circumstances. Additionally, in Copenhagen, Parties had decided to work in close collaboration with local authorities to improve the potential of CDM. Inspired by this idea, paragraph 4.b of the same CDM decision invites consideration of city-wide programmesin the simplification of projects under the Programme of Activities. This is the first time that a UNFCCC decision refers to the concept of “city” directly.
COP17 in Durban
Moving on to Durban, the future of the Kyoto Protocol as a globally binding agreement for emissions reductions after 2012 will of course be the big topic. The distribution of responsibilities between developed and developing countries in reducing emissions will be the most contentious element of the negotiations. Developed countries need to take on leadership in moving away from unsustainable production and consumption patterns, whereas developing countries should focus on leapfrogging to low-carbon, sustainable development pathways.
The Mexico City Pact
Prior to Cancun, cities and local governments had gathered at the World Mayors Summit on Climate in Mexico City, which resulted in the Mexico City Pact being adopted by more than 140 cities representing more than 170 millions people. The carbonn Cities Climate Registry has been established as the crucial reporting mechanism, recording commitments, actions and achievements of cities and local governments implementing climate change policies. This shows that local governments are already doing there bit. ICLEI and other local government partners and networks, will continue to advocate for the inclusion, recognition and impowerment of localities in the next global climate deal as we move towards COP17.
For instance, it will be advocated that:
• Local efforts should be recognized and fully integrated into the global architecture of climate governance, so that local action can meet the funds it requires to keep delivering effective actions; and
• The Mexico City Pact and the carbon Cities Climate Registry should be considered as the response of local governments to measurable, reportable and verifiable climate action on a global scale.
Local governments are ready to play their role
Negotiations and dialogues will forge ahead over the coming months in preparation for COP17 in Durban. We all know we need a global, legally binding follow up agreement to the Kyoto protocol. Local governments are more than ever ready to play their role as governmental stakeholders alongside nations and to implement global climate agreements on a local level. In Cancun, we saved the negotiation process. Now we need to make sure we have the framework to save the climate.