The ambition of cities to combat climate change

In the second week of the COP25, at the European Pavilion, international, national, and local authorities have gathered during the side-event “Global Covenant of Mayors Day”. What comes out from the conversations are not only successful examples of bottom-up approaches to energy and climate action, but also a call for increased partnerships and innovative instruments for financing.

The Global Covenant of Mayors is the largest global alliance for city climate leadership, a new form of partnership that has been established within a framework of new governance for sustainable development. More than 10,000 cities and local authorities have voluntarily committed to this movement aware of their pivotal role in contributing to NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions – national climate plans highlighting climate actions). In fact, today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and the proportion is expected to increase to almost 70% by 2050. Energy consumption, air pollution, waste management, and mobility are only some of the challenges that come with urban agglomerations. In addition to this, some places are already facing the effects of climate change such as the rise of sea-level or extreme wheatear events (floods, hurricanes, droughts).

Cities are active and ambitious. On the one hand, they are developing and implementing actions to adapt to climate change while, on the other hand, they are committed towards a zero-emission world by 2050. However, they lack resources, capacity, data, technical knowledge, and are experiencing difficulties in accessing to finance. All speakers at the round-table seem to agree that unlocking the potential of urban investment opportunities is possible through vertical integration. To support the actions of cities, there is a need to involve early in the game all type of stakeholders, from political leaders to the private sector, in a context of multi-level governance and co-operation, regardless of political interests.

Financing institutions, such as the International Finance Corporation or the European Investment Bank, are asking cities to transfer their knowledge on the challenges that they are facing in order to tailor their proposals to their needs. At the European level, different funds are already available, and another fund is on its way with the first call for proposal expected by mid-2020. The latter is aimed at fostering the transition of cities, especially on energy efficiency, and will provide technical and tailor-made support from experts with a special focus on pre-feasibility studies and early-stage projects. This goes along and is connected with another global fund which has been launched by the recently-created Leadership of Urban Climate Investments (LUCI) that will target urban projects at an early stage of development.
Those financial opportunities are crucial for local governments to remain on the path of sustainable development and to effectively implement strategies to build sustainable and resilient cities and communities. Climate compatible funds and economic sustainability in the long-term, especially at the local level, are just two of the challenges to be faced in the next future.

Cities have been included in the negotiations at this COP. The optimistic atmosphere and confident conversations at the European pavilion convey the willingness of cities and other stakeholders to embark on the path of collaboration, co-operation, and dialogue. Hopefully, these words of co-operation will not remain empty words spoken at the 25th Conference of the Parties and will be translated into concrete actions in the near future.

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