What did we learn from COP23?

14th November 2017 Jonathan Andrews

US cities and states pledge, ‘we’re still in’

Despite the unofficial US Climate Action pavilion being built by private funds, cities and states arrived in Bonn led by Jerry Brown, Governor of California, and Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.

A total of 20 US states, 110 cities, and over 1,400 businesses with US operations representing nearly 1.0 gigatons of GHG emissions per year have adopted quantified emissions reduction targets.

“The group of American cities, states, and businesses who remain committed to the Paris Agreement represents a bigger economy than any nation outside the US and China,” Bloomberg told COP23 delegates. “In Paris, the US pledged to measure and report our progress reducing emissions alongside every other nation. We’re going to continue to uphold our end of the deal, with or without Washington.”

Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change

Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia, a state that held elections in early November, is buoyed by the results which “clearly showed a rejection of Trumpism”. He said neither he nor his colleagues have had any reaction from the federal government regarding cities’ and states’ actions and commitments on climate change.

“I think they are somewhat angry and embarrassed that we are still going to get to the same place with the Paris Agreement but it is going to get done by the states and the cities,” he told Cities Today.

New York’s Chief Resilience Officer, Dan Zarrilli, said that cities have taken up the void of leadership on climate change from the national level.

“We were the first city in the country or the world, to release a plan that is line with the Paris Agreement, and we did that in partnership with C40,” he told a press briefing. “What you are seeing here is how US climate leadership is thriving despite what’s happening at the White House.”

Global action

Now, 25 cities from across the world, with the assistance of C40, have pledged to develop and begin implementing ambitious climate action plans before the end of 2020 to deliver emissions neutral and climate resilient cities by 2050. The organisation released a report with the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment to assist other cities to identify ways they can reduce their emissions.

It highlights 12 opportunities across four action areas that have the greatest potential in most global cities to curb emissions. The four areas include decarbonising the grid, optimising energy efficiency in buildings, enabling next-generation mobility, and improving waste management. As no single solution can be applied to all cities, the report also includes sample road maps for six illustrative city types.

He’s back

Towards the close of the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders on 12 November, Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California and Founder of R20 – Regions of Climate Action, delivered a blistering speech aimed at climate deniers.

“A government’s number one responsibility is to protect people’s lives,” he said. “That’s why each and everyone of you from local and other subnational level governments, you have a responsibility to act now. If anyone tells you to wait, you tell them, ‘F***  you!’”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California and Founder of R20

He announced that the Schwarzenegger Institute will launch an environmental digital legislative handbook, available to all local and regional governments, to share and learn policies from solar incentives to recycling programmes to tailpipe emission reduction, among others.

Schwarzenegger recognised that many cities lack the finance to get green projects up and running. While his R20 Foundation won’t fund projects directly, he said it will help share and connect information from green projects with investors.

Inter-regional partnerships

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities participated in conversations with municipal experts from Barcelona and Paris, hosted by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). Jenny Gerbasi, President of the Federation, and Deputy Mayor of Winnipeg, said there is a need for climate science to be co-developed and shared directly with local governments and announced that the dialogue will continue in March 2018, when Canada hosts the first-ever IPCC Cities and Climate Science conference in Edmonton.

“After meeting with European and American Mayors on a panel hosted by the [CoR], I’m energised by new opportunities for cities and communities to borrow best practices from each other through initiatives like the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy,” she said. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that local governments working together–at home and across borders–are the key to tackling our global climate challenge.”

Jenny Gerbasi, President of FCM

Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of CoR, added it’s important that European and local authorities can find a big partnership with American states and cities which continue to respect the objectives of Paris.

“It is perhaps one of the most important things of this conference,” he told a press briefing. “We can be stronger together this way. Networks certainly coordinate but they need to coordinate between each other, that’s our job.”


At the closing of the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, delegates from around the world issued the Bonn-Fiji Commitment of Local and Regional Leaders to Deliver the Paris Agreement at All Levels, a pledge that signals their commitment to bring forward a critical shift in implementing it.

The declaration has already energised leaders and networks, the European Committee of the Regions in particular. It wants the EU to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030, instead of 40 percent, and serious thought given to carbon tax.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR)

Lambertz, CoR President, was particularly delighted that the declaration supports two ideas that the CoR has argued for: that regions’ and cities’ contributions to cutting emissions be taken into account, not just those of countries; and, secondly, there should be an end to subsidies to fossil fuel industries.

“Paris will be remembered for uniting the world’s national governments against climate change,” he said. “This declaration will ensure Bonn is remembered for uniting the world’s regions and cities to deliver on those promises.”

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