Local authorities: A positive move towards international climate agreement

Monica Sirbu, Climate Alliance

There is only one year to go before a new international climate change agreement should be agreed upon in COP21 in Paris, in December 2015. But the challenges ahead are big, time is short and expectations are high. Still, the COP20 Lima Conference has showed that lessons can be learnt by echoing local voices in their fight against climate change.

Local action on energy savings, energy efficiency and renewable energy contributes to the achievement of the climate and energy targets set in Europe for 2020. The members of Climate Alliance are taking action towards their objective of halving per capita CO₂ emissions by 2030, which serves as a motivating and driving force for ambitious local action. In its resolution adopted earlier this year, Climate Alliance advocates – at the European level – the importance of three binding targets: 50 per cent less CO₂, 40 per cent more energy efficiency and a 40 per cent share of renewable energy. As seen by local authorities, climate action is a trigger for economic development.

The Covenant of Mayors initiative, officially launched by the European Commission in 2008, has today exceeded all the initial expectations and has expanded far beyond the EU borders. This initiative includes today more than 6,000 local authorities spread across 52 countries. Covenant signatories have formally committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20 per cent by 2020. The respect for territorial diversity in opposition to standardisation has allowed signatory cities to use their own methods, in line with their local context. In Europe, the Covenant of Mayors, is a mainstream movement led by local and regional authorities themselves and based on a set of principles such as long-term commitment, citizens’ involvement, and ambitious and integrated climate action. Covenant of Mayors could serve as a model for other continents and countries, and be a start of a global movement.

In October this year, the European leaders agreed on a 2030 framework on climate and energy with a binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 40 per cent. Even if this target has resulted in reactions from United States and China, the overall framework is less ambitious than before, and thus influencing Europe's leading role in the international negotiations. Therefore ambitious climate action by local authorities will be crucial for international climate process and can convey a positive message – even if the national governments struggle to agree on a global climate change agreement. The commitment and enthusiasm of local authorities should be used as an example triggered from COP20 in Peru and for setting the global deal next year in Paris, during COP21.

Climate Alliance is proud to have co-organised an event together with the Committee of the Regions on “The importance of local action and multi-level governance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. Only by joining forces can the voices of local authorities be stronger and heard in the international context. It is time to recognise local authorities as important actors in climate mitigation and adaptation and as crucial partners offering solutions for coherent climate action, as well as in pioneering social, political and economic changes towards a real transformation of our society. “The moment for action is building” the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon stressed in his speech at COP20. He urged all Parties to stimulate and facilitate cooperation with all actors – cities and other sub-national actors included.

"Climate Alliance of European Cities with the Indigenous Rainforest Peoples" is the largest city network committed to climate protection and preservation of the tropical rainforests. Since 1990, Climate Alliance has supported a total of now over 1,700 members from 24 European countries in attainment of their voluntary commitments to reduce CO2 emissions by ten per cent every five years and to halve per capita emissions by 2030 at the latest (base year 1990). To preserve the tropical rainforests, Climate Alliance cooperates with indigenous rainforest peoples.