Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

“The only people with the power to actually change anything are the local elected officials.”
– the Environmental Minister of Ghent, Belgium

No matter what happens in the international climate change negotiations, there is one thing everyone can agree on: the impacts of climate change, and the actions taken to address it, will ultimately happen on a local level.

This was recognized by the United Nations during the first-ever “Cities Day” on Thursday (full title: “COP Presidency Cities and Sub-national Dialogue of the Cities Day”), which would have been a real milestone if not for what Christiana Figueres called “the elephant in the room”: the delegates negotiating the ADP had cut the provisions that many in the room had worked so hard to get in.

“I know you were delighted to see the original text [proposed] by the chairs… and know you must be disappointed by the version this morning,” the Executive Secretary stated.

It’s been a bit of a ride this week for organizations like ICLEI, and C40, groups representing coalitions of cities or mayors working on climate change. They’re more or less in the same role as the rest of the ENGOs hanging around the COP, as cities cannot be Parties to the UNFCCC. Although I do hope that a mayor would have a little bit more luck getting a meeting with a negotiator.  Regardless, they are in the same place as everyone else right now; waiting to see what final product the ADP negotiators’ late-night last-day quarterbacking will produce.

Nantes Declaration of Mayors and Subnational Leaders on Climate Change (Sept. 2013, adopted by 50 cities and over 20 regional or intergovernmental coalitions of local governments), the ADP hosted a workshop on Thursday, November 14.  The ADP workshop on pre-2020 ambition: urbanization and the role of governments in facilitating climate action in cities directly informed the draft text that was on the negotiating table as of Monday this week.

Monday’s draft included a vague “activities to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation actions”, and a sub-national forum to be held in conjunction with the next ADP session in June 2014.

4(f) Welcoming and encouraging activities to identify and implement adaptation and mitigation actions, including through cooperative initiatives, at the national and multilateral levels and by subnational and local governments and non-State actors;

5(b) The organization of a forum to identify key priority areas for collaborative work on mitigation and adaptation at the sub-national level, to be convened in conjunction with the session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action that is held concurrently with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies (June 2014);

In Thursday morning’s draft, that language disappears, replaced by a plan for a new –something- to facilitate sharing of best practices by cities in order to enhance mitigation ambition, under an entirely new number. The ADP negotiators have a funny way of saying “Happy Cities Day”.

7. Resolves to enhance mitigation ambition, as a matter of urgency and guided by the principles of the Convention, by accelerating the full implementation of the decisions constituting the agreed outcome pursuant to decision 1/CP.13 (Bali Action Plan)1 and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol2 and by launching the [X] to ensure the highest possible mitigation efforts under the Convention by:

As of Friday morning, the text looked much better. ICLEI President David Cadman encouraged people in the morning Cities Day events to talk to negotiators to get the original language back in, and seems to have succeeded. Cities and subnational governments are included in plans for technical meetings in conjunction with the next ADP session in June; the sub-national forum to be held in conjunction with the next ADP session in June 2014 returns (4d); and facilitation of exchange of info between cities included.  What it means practically is more meetings and reports and business as usual for the UNFCCC, but it may mean more resources for the people actually doing the work on the ground in the future.

4. The ADP requested the secretariat to conduct the following activities in order to implement decision -/CP.195:

(b) In relation to paragraph 4 of that decision, enhance the visibility on the UNFCCC website of quantified economy-wide emission reduction targets, quantified emission limitation and reduction commitments and nationally appropriate mitigation actions;

                      (i) Organize, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs of the ADP, technical expert meetings at the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential, including those identified in the technical paper “Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition”,6 with the participation of Parties, cities and other subnational authorities, civil society and the private sector;

(d)In relation to paragraph 5(b) of that decision, convene, during the session of the ADP to be held in conjunction with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies, a forum to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation.

5. Decides to accelerate activities under the workplan on enhancing mitigation ambition in accordance with decision 1/CP.17, paragraphs 7 and 8, by

(b) Facilitating the sharing among Parties of experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in identifying and implementing opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, with a view to promoting the exchange of information and voluntary cooperation;

The Final Conclusion
Late on Saturday afternoon, COP19 adopted a final text on ADP.

“Facilitating the sharing among Parties” seems to have hit the cutting room floor, but it appears that cities will in fact have a place at the expert meetings and the forum during the next ADP meeting

4. The ADP requested the secretariat to conduct the following activities in order to implement decision -/CP.19:3

(c) In relation to paragraph 5(a) of that decision:

(i) Organize, under the guidance of the Co-Chairs of the ADP, technical expert meetings at the sessions of the ADP in 2014 to share policies, practices and technologies and address the necessary finance, technology and capacity-building, with a special focus on actions with high mitigation potential, taking note of those identified in the technical paper “Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition”,4 with the participation of Parties, civil society, the private sector and cities and other subnational authorities, where appropriate;

(d) In relation to paragraph 5(b) of that decision, convene, during the session of the ADP to be held in conjunction with the fortieth sessions of the subsidiary bodies, a forum to help share among Parties the experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities in relation to adaptation and mitigation.