On 12 December 2015, nations at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) adopted a landmark “Paris Agreement” that strives to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, with the intent to pursue a 1.5-degree target. Through the agreement, local and subnational governments are recognised as essential actors in fast tracking transformative action in the urban world.
The Paris Agreement fulfills the majority of expectations contained in the ICLEI Declaration to Ministers at COP21, adopted unanimously at the joint meeting of ICLEI Council and Global Executive Committee at Paris City Hall on 6 December 2015. Following the adoption, ICLEI received an invitation on behalf of the UNFCCC Secretariat and the COP21 Presidency to join a global awareness and publicity campaign that announces support for the Paris Agreement, titled the Paris Pledge for Action.
ICLEI endorses the Paris Pledge for Action and is encouraging its members around the globe to sign the Pledge. “ICLEI welcomes the Paris Agreement as it opens the door for all Non-Party stakeholders through the engagement of all levels of governments and non-state actors, provides a basis for transformation and paves the way for greater ambitions. This is why ICLEI also endorses the Paris Pledge for Action. The success of this regime relies heavily on the rapid mobilisation of each and every individual and organisation for ambitious climate action,” said Gino Van Begin, ICLEI Secretary General.
For more information, visit iclei.org.
By Mark Hidson, Deputy Regional Director of ICLEI Europe and Global Director of ICLEI’s Sustainable Procurement Centre.
It’s hard to describe the unique combination of hope and doubt that hangs around the UNFCCC negotiations. The stakes are big, the details and discussions complex, and the external pressure from all sides is intense. I spent nearly a week at the COP21 in Paris this December and found my initial cynicism giving way to a tentative optimism as the 195 countries present signed up to a deal that signals a real desire to act.
What made this conference stand apart from previous summits was the attitude of those present. Earlier meetings have ended in disappointment as negotiators dug in their heels, producing last-minute agreements which lacked ambition and pleased nobody. Paris was different. Everybody arrived ready to negotiate, with a genuine recognition on all sides that something had to be done and urgently. The failure of previous COPs fed a desire to succeed here: nothing short of a global agreement could achieve the level of change needed.
The wording of the agreed text is important on three key points. Firstly, countries bound themselves to ensure any global temperature increase remains "well below" 2.0C. The fact that a further promise to "endeavour to limit" this increase even more, to 1.5C, remained in the text is a testimony to the determination of the so-called “high ambition coalition”. It was great to see the cities and local communities recognised as well. They are specifically referenced in the text, showing the importance of their role in finding and implementing low-carbon alternatives. Sustainable patterns of consumption and production were also mentioned, described in the annex to the Agreement as playing “an important role in addressing climate change”.
Of course, a good deal of work remains to be done. The Paris Agreement itself recognises this, with national targets expected to be revised every 5 years. Nonetheless, I believe that this could be a turning point which will enable us to meet head-on the challenges society faces and achieve a resource efficient, low-carbon society if national governments take implementing the agreement seriously. The text has sent a signal to the public and private sector that we need to start implementing the low-carbon solutions we already have and develop new, sustainable technologies.
The task of achieving the goals laid out by national governments will also fall to cities and towns around the world. The goods and services we procure, from renewable electricity to electric municipal waste trucks, will be vital in ensuring a sustainable future. The Global Lead City Network on Sustainable Procurement, which was launched in ICLEI’s TAP Pavilion as the negotiations began in the Blue Zone nearby, is a clear sign that cities are prepared to step up to this challenge. By the end of 2016, the Network’s ten participant cities will have made clear and concrete commitments to use sustainable public procurement to make their societies resource efficient, low carbon and socially responsible. This will send the message that cities are prepared to do their bit in ensuring that the Paris Agreement lives up to its promise.
At the culmination of its year as European Green Capital, ICLEI member Bristol (UK) gathered a pioneering group of businesses at the Business Summit and innovative civic leaders at the City Leadership Summit to explore how creative civic governance and forward-thinking businesses can build healthy and happy communities.
The two summits showcased how cities and regions are at the forefront of sustainable development, and how they must play a leadership role in reducing dependence on fossil fuels and driving forward the low-carbon economy. Throughout the sessions, local authorities demonstrated that they are ideally positioned to facilitate the roll-out of policies and actions while fostering community participation and inclusiveness.
Within the Transformative Actions Program (TAP) session, co-organised by ICLEI, city leaders explained their ambitious, cross-cutting and inclusive actions, focusing on mitigation and adaptation to climate change. George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, presented Bristol’s TAP proposal to retrofit around 50,000 homes to make them more energy efficient. The potential of innovation to bring social and economic change was also emphasised. A series of interviews capture the outlook of local authorities participating at the Bristol Summits.
For more information, visit the Bristol Summits website.
As world leaders meet during the opening week of COP21 negotiations, French President François Hollande’s opening speech called for developed countries “to shoulder their historic responsibility” and for emerging countries “to speed up their energy transition”. President Hollande further defined “the biggest challenge in Africa” as providing universal “access to electricity thanks to sustainable energy”. Community energy can provide energy security and equal access to energy across all global regions. Decentralised energy can furthermore be a crucial driving force behind low carbon development in emerging economies.
On Thursday 10 December, ICLEI, the CO-POWER project, the Committee of the Regions, and the European Economic and Social Committee will host, “Harnessing community power: how can local authorities support decentralised energy projects?” in the Cities and Regions Pavilion – TAP2015 focusing on the role of local and regional authorities in supporting local renewables and especially community-led decentralised energy projects. The event will deal with challenges and obstacles and will share success stories in the ongoing transition to renewably sourced energy at the local level.
A panel discussion with speakers including Toni Vidan, European Economic and Social Committee and Lasse Puertas Navarro Olsen, Alderman, City of Aalborg, will explore and highlight the potential benefits of community energy in relation to energy security, social equity and energy democratisation. The event will discuss how to speed up the development of renewable energy projects by creating a favourable legislative environment and policy frameworks at local, national and European level.
For more information, visit the ICLEI Europe website.