World's cities and regions unite in the battle on climate change  
World's cities and regions unite in the battle on climate change

The world's cities and regions should have both more rights and responsibilities in the fight against climate change, leaders of two large networks of cities and regions – the European Committee of the Regions and Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) – have said, as they welcomed a Declaration that calls for local and regional authorities to be formally part of the global governance system to combat climate change.

The Declaration, adopted at a Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders on the seventh day of the international climate talks in Bonn (COP 23), combines unilateral commitments with a set of calls to action by the nations of the United Nations and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The pledges include promises by cities and regions to be more ambitious, pro-active, comprehensive, consistent, collaborative and transparent in their climate actions. At the same time, local and regional leaders urged the United Nations and world's governments to collaborate with all levels of government and support the introduction of carbon emissions-reduction targets for regions and cities. In Paris in 2015, the world's governments agreed to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels though recent figures suggest the world is on course for a 2.7°C rise.

 

Karl-Heinz Lambertz , President of the European Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly for local and regional politicians, said: "Paris will be remembered for uniting the world's national governments against climate change. This Declaration will ensure Bonn is remembered for uniting the world's regions and cities to deliver on those promises. The Declaration shows a huge number of mayors and governors are more united now and showing more ambition on climate action than ever before. The European Committee of the Regions wants the EU to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, instead of 40%, and we want serious thought given to carbon tax. I am particularly glad that this Declaration supports two ideas that the Committee has argued for: for regions and cities contributions to cutting emissions to be taken into account, not just for countries, and, secondly, an end to subsidies to fossil-fuel industries."

 

Park Won Soon , mayor of Seoul and president of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, a network of more than 1,500 cities and regions committed to sustainable development, said: "Real changes come from the citizens. When the citizens recognize that energy sovereignty belongs to them, and they get involved in the policymaking process, they can bring about real change. The future of our children and grandchildren depends on what we do now. We know what we should do. All we need is the efforts of the citizens. I am certain that cities will be able to open up a better future if they set more challenging goals and then strive to achieve those goals together with the citizens."

The declaration was also welcomed by leading figures in the UN and EU systems.

 

Maroš Šefčovič , Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Energy Union, said: "Cities and regions are leading the battle to curb climate change. I am convinced that we all have come to understand that by empowering them, we can be sure to see local players beating all the expectations. That's why the Covenant of Mayors was created, as a European initiative encouraging voluntary climate action. That's also why we established the Global Covenant of Mayors, a global powerful force of almost 7,500 cities. To multiply their impact on the climate front, including on a shift to clean mobility, local, regional and national governments should work together, in many sectors. Let’s join forces for a climate-friendly future."

 

Patricia Espinosa , the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, said: "The commitments made by so many cities and regions shows that the vision forged in Paris 2015 – of a low-emission, climate-resilient future, and a climate-neutral world in the second half of the century – has been embraced and is being implemented across the globe. UN Climate Change welcomes efforts by cities and regions to reduce their contribution to climate change and to prepare for the future. This declaration gives hope that cities and regions will serve as an inspiration in the years ahead."

 

Notes for editors:

  • The European Committee of the Regions is a champion of climate action in the European Union and is a founding partner of the Covenant of Mayors, a European initiative set up in 2008 in which local and regional authorities receive additional technical support from the European Commission when they pledge to exceed EU emissions-reduction targets. The initiative is now global and is called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. Among recommendations sent to the EU's decision-making bodies in October about ways to finance implementation of the Paris Agreement , the European Committee of the Regions calls for a "total end" to subsidies for economic activities with a high environmental impact by 2035 "at the latest", the reallocation of "a minimum percentage" of revenues from auctions in the EU's emissions-trading system to be managed directly by local and regional authorities "to invest in improving local resilience", and studies into the possibility of a carbon tax or a minimum carbon price.

  • ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability is a network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions committed to building a sustainable future. ICLEI envisions a world of sustainable cities that confront the realities of urbanization, adapt to economic and demographic trends and prepare for the impacts of climate change and other urban challenges.

  • The UNDP estimates that regional and local authorities are responsible for more than 70% of climate change reduction measures and up to 90% of climate-change adaptation measures.

  • In a report published in October and presented in the European Committee of the Regions, the European Environment Agency suggests that droughts are likely to become more frequent, longer and more severe. Fire will become a bigger risk to more regions, with floods more common in most parts of Europe, while the number of severe storms in northern Europe will increase in the autumn and winter and storm surges are expected to cause "significant ecological damage, economic loss and other societal problems along low-lying coastal areas across Europe, unless additional adaptation measures are implemented". The report found that economic losses caused by weather- and climate-related extremes reported by its 33 member countries amounted to over €433 billion between 1980 and 2015.

 

Contacts:

David Crous, European Committee of the Regions, david.crous@cor.europa.eu , +32 476 879 929

Andrew Gardner, European Committee of the Regions, andrew.gardner@cor.europa.eu , +32 473 843 981

Claudio Magliulo, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, claudio.magliulo@iclei.org , +49 (0) 228 976299 15