United Nations gathers cities to determine action on climate change

Written by Brian Kilkelly on 29 October 2014

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held an expert meeting on Cities and Urban Development on June 10th in Bonn. Brian Kilkelly was asked to contribute and chair during these sessions. Valuable experience was shared by cities at the forefront of climate action and key insights were provided by the World Bank, C40, and Ecofys. 

“Time is running out – so let’s do it.”UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres

Cutting edge work at city and regional level was presented in the morning during the ‘Cities Forum’ to show the progress and potential of authorities’ actions in moving towards low carbon living. The morning meeting was chaired by Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director, UN-HABITAT. We heard from cities and authorities that are taking leadership roles by capitalizing on opportunities they face and contributing towards global efforts to address climate change while creating sustainable, liveable, inclusive and competitive cities for their people.

The choice if design and the performance of buildings & infrastructure in our rapidly urbanising world was said to define the success or failure of the global path to low, even zero-emission, climate resilient development. Many cities and local/regional authorities are already taking concrete actions. It was evident that abundant opportunities exist to replicate and further scale up these efforts. Participants were consistent in the message that greater consideration on how these actions can be replicated and scaled up at the city and ‘sub-national’ level to ensure transformational impact on the ground.

 "1,500 actions across C40 cities are at a mature stage of implementation." Mark Watts, C40

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"Climate change and rapid urbanization are the dual challenges of the 21st century” James Close, World Bank

James Close shared the World Bank Group perspective on the importance of supporting the largest cities in the developing world to improve their credit worthiness. This is seen by the bank as a key foundation to enable investment to be raised for building the infrastructure that can mitigate and adapt cities to climate change. 

Contributions were made over the course of the afternoon from numerous cities, national governments, non-government organisations, and experts. Change was being achieved through a wide variety of measures from multi-billion dollar investments to ground up community schemes with little or no funding. Key areas highlighted as having high potential for replications and scaling were Credit worthiness and Cap and Trade.

Conclusions

This was an excellent overview of the state of cities, the initiatives that are being undertaken, and the ambition to address climate change at the city and sub-national authority level. The reaction from the ‘parties’ – the country representatives was very positive. The need for action on the ground was clear. What is less clear is how nations - collectively through the UN and through other bodies, can best encourage this bottom-up approach to tackling climate change. World Cities Network and our partners will certainly continue to engage with the UN and others to support action wherever we can.

To download our report see here

For access to the UN report and copies of the presentations see here

To join our action on climate change, join World Cities Network and Eurbanlab in Paris on November 25th for Accelerate