Marrakech climate conference focuses on cities, towns implementing Paris Agreement


A United Nations policer offier patrols an alley during the COP22 international climate conference on November 9, 2016, in Marrakesh.

A United Nations policer offier patrols an alley during the COP22 international climate conference on November 9, 2016, in Marrakesh.

JOHANNESBURG - The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 22) in Marrakech, Morocco has put its spotlight on cities, towns and regions around the world that are making efforts to reduce their carbon emissions.

These cities and towns are striving to play a key role in implementing the Paris Agreement, which entered into force on 4 November.

“Climate action in and by cities, towns and regions will be instrumental in ensuring that we stay on a 2 degrees Celsius pathway, aiming for 1.5 degree Celsius,” said Gino Van Begin, the secretary-general of ICLEI – the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives at a press briefing on Thursday.

ICLEI is the global network of over 1,500 cities, towns and regions committed to building a sustainable future.

The Paris Agreement, named after the French capital where it was approved in December 2015 at the previous Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.

It aims to do so by keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As an example of cities active on climate issues, Van Begin pointed out the establishment of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy from a merger between the European Covenant of Mayors and the Global Compact of Mayors.

“Cities can help reduce emissions,” said the chief scientist at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Jacqueline McGlade, at the same press briefing. “The leverage is enormous.”

The Global Climate Action Day on Cities and Human Settlements at COP 22 showcased the potential of local action, focusing on resilience and building efficiency.

A new tool was launched to help cities assess their adaptation commitments.

Urban areas are at the centre of converging global frameworks, not only the Paris Agreement on climate change, but the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015, and the New Urban Agenda, adopted last month in Quito, Ecuador, at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – or Habitat III.

Urban areas represent an estimated 70 percent of energy-related global emissions. Many actions to adapt urban areas to climate change also have positive mitigation impacts, including renovation of old and construction of new low-energy and energy-efficient buildings.

“It is important to see development in cities in a totally different manner,” said ‘Climate Champion’ Laurence Tubiana, at the press conference.

“We have to cut the building energy consumption by 50 percent by 2050. It’s a big challenge.

“Cities can help government implement their NDC (nationally determined contribution) much better and really aim much higher,” she added.

Tubiana, the French ambassador on climate change, and Hakima El Hait, the Moroccan Minister in charge of Environment, were appointed Climate Champions by COP 21.