The role of the local: subnational governments at the international climate talks

Despite the global magnitude of climate change, it is locally and regionally that impacts are felt most. It is equally at the local level that adaptation planning – identifying community vulnerability and resilience – and mitigation, such as improved public transit or building design, are most tangible. And municipal governments know it. And regardless of what their respective federal governments are doing, provinces and states are also playing a role in advancing climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Given these interests, expect to see subnational governments at COP. Some will be part of their countries’ official delegation (such as Canadian provinces and territories) and others part of national or international alliances, but at the negotiations these are groups that want local and regional level interests addressed. Particularly, they want their role recognized in the international climate talks, and advocate that all levels of government be included in action and have access to financing around climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Two international groups advocating for subnational governments are United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. UCLG represents and defends the interests of local governments on the world stage, with members ranging from individual cities to national associations of local governments. Over 1000 cities across 95 countries are direct members of UCLG. ICLEI is an international association of local governments, as well as national and regional local government organizations, who have made a commitment to sustainable development.

In Canada, the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program, a partnership between the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ (FCM) and ICLEI, is a network of Canadian municipal governments that have committed to reducing greenhouse gases and acting on climate change. PCP is the Canadian component of ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) network, which involves more than 900 communities worldwide. As of October, 210 Canadian municipal governments were participating in PCP.

These groups have been actively lobbying in the lead up to COP 16 for the recognition of local and subnational governments in the negotiating text and for access to the funds being established for adaptation and mitigation actions. ICLEI has released a special message to the COP 16 UNFCCC meeting stating that local governments are actively fighting climate change and building resilience at the local level. They are calling for their involvement to be supported to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC convention. UCLG, ICLEI and the World Mayors Council on Climate Change are also hosting a World Mayors Summit on Climate during the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders being held in Mexico City prior to COP 16. At the summit, cities and regions committing to measurable, reportable and verifiable reduction targets will sign the Mexico City Pact.

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