Cities launch five-year vision to tackle climate change

By Jessica Cheam

Ahead of national government commitments, cities around the world are taking unprecedented action to cut carbon emissions and build resilient societies.

Cities across the world representing almost a fifth of the global population have launched a five-year vision to scale up actions to tackle climate change.

This five-year vision, led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will include building the resilience of vulnerable cities as well as improving capital flows to finance low-carbon infrastructure projects, among others.

Speaking at the launch of the vision at the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) Focus on Cities event on Tuesday, Al Gore, former vice president of the United States and climate advocate, said that cities and subnational governments “are playing a critical role in bringing a solution to the climate crisis”.

They are “essential for enabling us to move from negotiation to implementation”, in order to achieve a global target of cutting emissions to prevent dangerous climate change, he said.

“Everyone knows the subnational governments have moved out faster than the national governments”, he told a packed room of 200 at Le Bourget, Paris, where the United Nations climate change summit talks are being held this week.

This LPAA vision will enable the world to make even faster progress, he said. “What’s happening here in Paris is a reaching of critical mass among governors and subnational leaders, who are comparing notes and in some cases outdoing each other on ever more ambitious and impressive commitments”, Gore added.

Also speaking at the launch, Segolene Royal, French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, said the vision will be finalised by next year, along with the signatories to the declaration. 

The vision outlines four objectives, namely:

  • Increasing the number of cities and regions deciding to implement an Action Plan and climate objectives;
  • Building resilience in the greatest number of cities and regions, with particular attention to vulnerable populations;
  • Improving project preparation and climate planning to ensure increased financial flows to the territories, but also accelerate the deployment of innovative economic and financial tools;
  • Supporting multi-partnership initiatives between different levels of governance.

The LPAA is a joint initiative by the Peruvian and French presidencies of the UN meetings - known as COP - which aims to mobilise robust actions towards low carbon and resilient societies.

Every great moral cause in the history of humanity has been met with a series of ‘Nos’ with fierce resistance, but after the last ‘No’, when people realise that the fundamental choice is between what is right and wrong, then comes a ‘Yes’. 

Al Gore, former vice president of the United States

In a statement, the UN said subnational authorities now make up the largest group contributing climate commitments into the UN’s Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) database, an online portal that functions as a central clearinghouse on climate-related commitments by all entities other than national governments.

As urban areas are responsible for half of all global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they are crucial in meeting the internationally agreed goal to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

“This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to lock new urban expansion into a new development model towards climate-resilient and low-carbon societies at large scale, leap frogging the old patterns of urban life for a growing population,” said the UNFCCC.

Government negotiators from around the world are racing against the clock to finalise a universal agreement to tackle climate change by the end of the UN meeting on Friday.

While there are still key differences to be ironed out, the atmosphere has generally been optimistic.

Gore told the audience: “Every great moral cause in the history of humanity has been met with a series of ‘Nos’ with fierce resistance, but after the last ‘No’, when people realize that the fundamental choice is between what is right and wrong, then comes a ‘Yes’.”

“We’re at that point in Paris, and one of the reasons we’re at this point is because of the subnational leaders who are taking much bolder, faster, meaningful action which is changing the course of human civilization.”