COP27: Walk the talk! Global solidarity and a multilevel approach in climate action

29 November 2022
COP27: Walk the talk! Global solidarity and a multilevel approach in climate action

Things are heating up. The latest United Nations report on climate change warns that the current climate plans are largely insufficient; the current trend of implementation by national governments will lead to a world that is 2.5°C warmer by the end of the century. Consequently, if we want to achieve the 1.5°C ambition, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must fall by 45% by 2030.

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), which took place from 6-18 November in Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt), aimed to raise global commitments and accelerate climate action around the globe. Our progressive COP27 delegate from the European Committee of the Regions, Alison Gilliland, was one of the local politicians representing the voice of Europe's regional and local authorities on site.

Mayors, regional presidents and local councillors have strong climate ambitions, often greater than the national ones, and are the ones implementing climate action on the ground. They are instrumental to achieve the Paris Agreement objectives and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The two weeks of negotiations and discussions among more than 45 000 people led this COP27 to reach impressive global agreements to enhance climate action. The most historic result is the creation of a “loss and damage” fund for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.

The remarkable results have also been possible thanks to the strong cooperation between the EU institutions, including the Committee of the Regions, during and before this international event.

Looking at the local perspective, the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan finally recognises cities and regions as key actors in the fight against climate change.

What's in store for EU cities and regions

In particular, the following crucial points mentioned by the COP27 parties will impact the future work of regional and local leaders:

  • Enhancing ambition and implementation – in order to implement an ambitious, just, equitable and inclusive transition to low-emission and climate-resilient development, social dialogue and engagement of non-party stakeholders is needed. This includes cities, regions, local communities, youth, indigenous people and civil society.An emphasis on the importance of improving equal participation of women and youth when designing and implementing climate policy and action is also included in the plan.
  • Accelerate greater mitigation and adaptation actions – adaptation and mitigation measures are below the minimum needed to respond to climate change. Cities and regions need to see unlocked climate finance, technology transfer, capacity building and better dissemination of science-based knowledge to be able to speed up the implementation of policies without compromising vulnerable groups or the economic future of their city or region. To deliver a Global Goal on Adaptation, a framework will be developed and adopted at COP28 and will also include cities' voice and perspective.

What's missing

The path we're on is the right one but it is still very long.

The general acknowledgement of the urgent need for multi-level and cooperative action and of the role of local communities and cities didn't find pragmatic development in the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan.

Sub-national governments need to be trusted with a more formal role such as having a formal advisory forum or a formal dialogue facility.

In this respect, the Local Government and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency and the Committee's delegation are asking for formal inclusion of the role of local and regional authorities in developing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and drafting the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). This can be done through requirements for locally and regionally determined contributions and would be very beneficial from a climate planning, climate transparency and climate accountability perspective.

In addition, COP27 reached impressive milestones but the EU was also worried about the level of ambition of the other parties at the table, especially on mitigation, as the progressive European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans warned.

Fossil fuels need to be phased out in this critical decade and finance, technologies and capacity-building for cities put in place to allow all countries to scale up clean, green energy supplies. This is the only way we can manage to meet the Paris target of 1.5 degrees.

Furthermore, global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced urgently, transforming our energy systems to accelerate the renewable energy transition. Will the lack of mitigation ambition be translated into a lack of actions and support to reach the targets?

In the meantime, cities and regions are already delivering mitigation through various initiatives, such as the Covenant of Mayors. They will continue to do their part, even if the tools are missing.

Lessons learned to put on the COP15 table

Now we have to move forward: after several postponements, the COP15, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), will start soon in Montreal

Regions and cities will take part in it as well, including our member Roby Biwer, to call for more ambitious action on biodiversity and regions and cities are the ideal partners to implement actions in a strategic and inclusive way.

Let's, once again, push for pragmatic outcomes!