C40 Voices: Abu Dhabi Ascent “encouraging”, says Gunjan Parik, Director of Transport Initiative

I was recently part of a C40 delegation participating in Abu Dhabi Ascent, a high-level UN meeting, which brought together more than 1,000 participants, including 70 government ministers to prepare for the Climate Summit to be held on 23 September in New York.

The key goal of this meeting was to encourage greater action and ambition by world leaders on climate change. The meeting included speeches, high-level presentations from political and business leaders as well as more detailed sessions that put forward and sought feedback on key commitments being proposed to catalyze climate action. There were also inspirational and sobering presentations from Al Gore, Former Vice President of United States of America and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University about the need to take action now if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change.

In my role at C40, I am consistently impressed and encouraged by the work that our cities are doing on the ground to reduce emissions through the 13 C40 Networks, on areas as diverse as transport, waste management, energy and many more. But I am also aware of the need to further scale up these efforts – according to the recent IPCC Working Group III report on mitigation, the transport sector accounted for 27% of final energy use in 2010, and baseline CO2 emissions from the sector could approximately double by 2050 if unchecked.

Through the C40 Transportation Networks on Bus Rapid Transit and Electric Vehicles, C40 cities have been collaborating with each other to transfer knowledge, jointly develop solutions, mentor fellow cities, and hold each other accountable to action. Over the past year for example, C40's Electric Vehicles Network formally hosted 35 interactions, bringing together 23 cities to discuss topics such as electric charging strategy, clean buses, car sharing and taxi programmes through webinars, in person meetings, phone calls and other network activities. This sharing and collaboration is helping inform the development of better strategies and projects in cities around the world, especially crucial since access to information on electric and low emission vehicle technology is currently at a nascent stage. 

However, technical, financial and capacity challenges remain – as does uncertainty about long-term international climate policy. The commitments discussed at the Abu Dhabi meeting and the upcoming Climate Summit in September can address these challenges – by making available to cities the international climate finance and institutional capacity needed to deliver emission reductions projects and programmes on the ground, and by helping cities get further support from the private sector and national level governments.

The signs at Abu Dhabi were encouraging – there was genuine desire from city and national governments, business leaders and civil society participants to work together to take meaningful initiatives and commitments to the Climate Summit in September. And with nearly 70% of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, climate action at the city-level needs to be a key part of these commitments. The success of climate action in cities will determine, in large part, global success in addressing climate change. In the run-up to September, the 67 C40 cities will continue to lead the way and demonstrate their commitment, through consistent and ambitious climate action as part of the C40 Networks.

Abu Dhabi Ascent was hosted by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon and the Government of the United Arab Emirates. Further details on Initiatives discussed at the Ascent meeting are available here. For more details on the Transport commitments and discussions at the Abu Dhabi Ascent, visit the SLoCaT blog here.