Even though they are not formally recognised by the UN as participants in the on-going climate talks, cities can still make an impact.
In early April, the ICLEI World Summit, a network of local governments for sustainability, was held in Seoul, and mayors stressed out the need to give more consideration to cities on an international level, given that they are responsible for most of the world’s people, money and greenhouse gas emissions, and could therefore play a significant role in tackling climate change and helping to reach a global deal in Paris at the end of the year.
The most relevant statement if intent released hitherto is the Compact of Mayors, an agreement initially signed by 228 member cities that pledged to complete a climate action plan within three years and report their progress. The Compact of Mayors has been announced at UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit in New York in September 2014, and 35 new cities joined it in Seoul. However, it is often hard for cities to get official acknowledgement of their role as sub-national governments, and even within the agreement’s Climate Registry, which has been set up for Members to report their progress, commitments are measured against different baselines, making it difficult to compare the results.
Regarding the importance of cities’ participation in climate talks, the UN adopts an ambivalent approach: Ahmed Djoghlaf, who will co-chair the Paris talks, stated that cities would be brought “from the side events to the core”, but also reaffirmed that only national climate plans will “form the backbone of the agreement”, and the UN climate chief Christiana Figueres urged mayors to demand strong climate action from their country, but didn’t promise cities any greater influence.
However, cities could acquire a more significant role in the enforcement of climate policies only with a different finance management; in fact, they are currently highly dependent on funds from national governments and ad hoc grants to fund climate-friendly infrastructure, and are facing a major cash shortfall.
The gLAWcal Team
Monday, 20 April 2015