COP26 has passed but it has created a momentum for local governments to not only enhance their ambitions for better climate action, but to also focus on the human lives behind the facts and numbers being discussed at the global conference.

In fact, on the 11th November, COP26 dedicated a day to highlighting the role of cities and regions for an accelerating climate action, as it will contribute to keeping the 1.5 C degrees within reach according to the Paris Agreement. On the same day, the LGMA constituency organised a Local and Regional Governments’ Day, where it was coupled by UCLG’s Policy Council on Safer, Sustainable, and Resilient Cities.

Representatives of national and local governments convened to discuss how climate issues and health are interlinked, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of our planet – originated in humankind’s way of living.

During COP26’s special day for cities and regions, various discussions are once again emphasizing how collaboration and actions taken by all levels of governments and stakeholders is pivotal to enhance ambition and pass to the next step of the Paris Agreement. In this policy council, local governments’ role was highlighted, being agile and adaptable in leading cities to be hubs of innovation, while at the same time protecting those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Here are some of keys takeaways from the Policy Council, which also discussed how to develop relevant inputs on resilience called Pact for the Future, which involved preparing better responses to the pandemic and other shocks and stresses such as the climate emergency, pollution and biodiversity loss.

Being part of the LGMA constituency, UCLG Secretary General Emilia Saiz pointed out that this constituency is committed to redefine quality, change the way we relate to nation, and that local governments have the knowledge and advantage to promote transformative policies, such as ones related to tackling climate change.

In this spirit, Aisen Nikolaev as Head of the Republic of Shaka reminded attendants that multi-level action will always be the key to addressing undeniable changes in our climate and overall ecosystems. “The threats will rise, the arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. The fight with climate change must involve all interested parties,” he said, which was also echoed by Rob Metz as Mayor of Soest, where cities are at the core of sustainable recovery with “Global issues require direct action on the ground.”

As a result, Marina Otto as Head of Cities Unit at UNEP, proposed to discuss on how to leverage that message and show how actions by local and regional governments contribute to the Stockholm+50 process.

However, climate action plans and development processes in general need to take into account the role and possible contributions to resilience of informal settlements that experience some of the most direct impacts of climate change, for example. This was emphasised by Greg Munro as Director of Cities Alliance as he brought to the debate that informal settlements are more vulnerable due to lack of infrastructure and services. “To create resilient cities, we need to listen to the people living in informal settlements,” he reminded.

Still, in the light of all urgency, the Policy Council also aimed to acknowledge best practices of cities that have been contributing to prioritising sustainable development, such as the first-ever VLR (Voluntary Local Report) implementation carried out by the New Taipei government. Chingyu Yao, DirGen of Secretariat of the New Taipei Government explained how working for the first time on the VLR in her city, localising the SDGs has been made utmost priority. They have even succeeded in raising awareness among the communities.

The second part of the policy council, as facilitated by Firdaous Oussidhoum (UCLG’s Special Adviser to the Secretary General) then provided the chance for open discussion and set the context by declaring that local governments are essential parts of COP26. “The role of local governments in the COP26 negotiations should be advanced because they are the closest to the transformation that citizens are asking for,” she said.

One of the most important pathways for change and contributions to the Paris Agreement was culture, particularly in shaping how everyone thinks about climate change, and the best ways to adapt, as brought forward by Andrew S. Potts as coordinator of Climate Heritage Network. “There is no pathway to keep warming below 1.5C without culture, because it entails how we rethink our societies, including production and consumption patterns,” he said. This statement was met with a positive response, such as one from Simone Giovetti from Cités Unies France, who agreed that strengthening connections with civil society means “directly strengthening people’s living conditions,” he added.

Therefore, UCLG Secretary General, Emilia Saiz also positively concluded the Policy Council by saying that in the context of climate change, emission reductions should be on the top of our agendas, but we must remember that local governments could rejoice in the abilities to reach out to the deepest levels of communities and identify the solutions needed most to achieve a recovery that is inclusive and resilient. “We need to commit to the race to zero, but also ensure that those have not reached a certain level of development have different options and that we sacrifice the most and try to find alternative solutions,” she encouraged.


By KM Team