Towards the localization of SDGs: 10 recommendations to tackle the climate crisis and inequality in cities

By Alfredo Redondo, Senior Manager, Adaptation Diplomacy

C40 was at the 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2019) in New York City to launch the third edition of  the “Towards the localization of SDGs” report, an annual review of progress made towards the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). C40 contributed to the report by providing insights on how cities can tackle climate change and reduce inequalities at the same time and by formulating 10 specific recommendations drawing examples from Cape Town, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Los Angeles. 

The Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments – a platform for city networks led by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) – launched the third edition of “Towards the localization of SDGs” at the HLPF forum. This year’s forum, and consequently the Global Taskforce’s report, focused on reviewing progress toward SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reducing inequality), SDG 13 (urgent climate action), SDG 16 (peace justice and strong institutions) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals). As a member of the Global Taskforce, C40 took the lead on the report’s chapter on SDG 13, with contributions from external partners such as Regions4, ICLEI and UCLG.

The chapter shows how cities and regions are driving the implementation of SDG 13 with urgency and ambition, drawing on numerous examples of how local and regional climate policies are building resilience and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Specifically, the report focuses on the linkages between climate change, equity, and climate justice, explaining how taking climate action (to achieve SDG 13) and reducing inequalities (to achieve SDG 10) are parallel and mutually beneficial processes.

Climate change impacts marginalized communities first and hardest, and the people least responsible for the climate crisis bear a disproportionate amount of the burden. Rising inequalities in cities tend to exacerbate this injustice, and the benefits of climate action are not always evenly distributed between residents. Avoiding trade-offs and ensuring that climate action benefits everyone should be a fundamental principle when implementing both the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is why cities like Cape Town, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Los Angeles have developed Inclusive Climate Action Plans.

Finally, the chapter concludes with 10 recommendations for bold policy measures that would ensure that systems are transformed by 2030, in line with IPCC SR 1.5

1. Set ambitious targets and clear pathways for GHG emissions to peak no later than by 2020, halve by 2030 and to reach net-zero level by 2050 

2. Divest, invest, offset

3. Transition to 100% renewable energy and net-zero emission buildings

4. Create green and healthy streets

5. Promote a resource-efficient, circular and waste-free society

6. Increase resilience and adaptive capacity in cities and regions 

7. Strengthen the urban-climate nexus

8. Promote inclusive climate action

9. Build accountable and effective multi-level climate governance

10. Improve finance for local climate action

At the opening of the Local and Regional Governments Day at HLPF 2019, Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40, stressed how this discussion on the SDGs is an integral part of climate action, looking ahead to 2020 and 2030. He emphasised the urgent need to dramatically increase ambition at the global level in line with these 10 recommendations.   

The report shows that reducing emissions and increasing resilience in their cities is not only good for the climate, but good for our communities –– something C40 mayors have seen first hand. Climate action cleans the air we breathe, improves quality of life, creates jobs, and if done properly, can help make our cities more equal, just places.