In 2015, cities played a central role at COP21 in Paris, pushing national leaders to reach the ambitious Paris Climate Agreement. The New Urban Agenda, to be adopted at the Habitat III Conference in Quito next week, will join the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and other recent international agreements as part of a global framework for sustainability. After many rounds of negotiations, urban governance and the role of local governments have been recognized in its final draft. This is a success for the collective advocacy of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments – a platform of city networks of which C40 is a member. It is also a sign of the tremendous commitment from mayors to create equitable, prosperous, low-carbon and resilient cities.
At the end of this long journey, the leadership of mayors in shaping our sustainable future is stronger, more essential and more visible than ever. Demonstrating how mayors are implementing the New Urban Agenda, and beyond, and calling the international community to support them, will be a major focus of C40 activity in Quito. Follow along with us on the C40 blog and on social media with the hashtags #NewUrbanAgenda and #Habitat3!
C40’s Participation in the Habitat III Process
Habitat III has been a highly inclusive political process: in the last twelve months, many preparatory meetings have convened all types of stakeholders to discuss all aspects of the urban agenda. The policy papers and the successive drafts of the NUA have been made publicly available, giving all stakeholders the opportunity to contribute.
As a member of the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments, C40 has proudly and actively supported the collective advocacy of cities throughout the Habitat III process. This is now acknowledged in the final draft of the New Urban Agenda, which explicitly references “local governments,” recognises the role of the World Assembly of Local Leaders in its definition and follow-up, and proposes a renewed urban governance structure. To know more about the World Assembly of Local Leaders on October 16, click here.
Climate Change and Equity in Cities
Efforts to address climate change – from green jobs to building efficiency to low-carbon transportation – touch nearly every sector of urban operations. Therefore, the pursuit of low-carbon development across sectors presents a substantial opportunity for cities to tackle the dual challenges of inequality and climate change together, while ensuring sustainable economic growth.
Habitat III could have been a compelling moment to deliver an implementation plan for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement at the urban level. This, unfortunately, has not happened. Although the 2015 frameworks on Disaster Risk Reduction, Finance, Development and Climate Change are referenced in it, the NUA does not outline concrete plans to reinforce them and further their aims, missing the opportunity to integrate the urban, climate and development agendas.
Including a much stronger statement on the necessity to build low-carbon and resilient cities in the New Urban Agenda would have been hugely useful in helping the world fully achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Aspirational urban climate change goals must better articulate climate action, equity and prosperity in cities. Some examples include:
– The economic benefits of climate action are well established: research from the New Climate Economy indicates that investments in public transit, building efficiency and waste management in cities could unlock $17 trillion by 2050 from energy savings alone. Although the social benefits of climate action are less known, cities are demonstrating every day the linkages between climate action, public health and social inclusion.
– Expanding bus rapid transit (BRT) lines to the disenfranchised periphery, for example, helps save the planet by cutting carbon emissions – and has the added benefit of mitigating the public health crisis of air pollution in the city. New BRT lines also provide underserviced populations access to economic opportunity, while the influx of workers in turn reinvigorates the local economy.
– Urban food systems are another great example of how an urban policy can reduce both hunger and carbon emissions in cities, delivering on SDGs #2, #11 and #13, and contributing to the Paris Agreement’s goals at the same time. Please join the C40 networking event on Urban Food systems in Quito on October 18.
Innovative local policies around the globe demonstrate that the three pillars of sustainable development have a huge potential to reinforce each other. Through new programmes on co-benefits and inclusive climate action, C40 will work intensively on these issues in the next years, and invites other climate and development stakeholders to join and support this work. Please join the C40 Climate & Equity talk on October 17.
The New Urban Agenda Isn’t ‘New’ For Mayors
There is little in the New Urban Agenda that mayors have not either already undertaken or have committed to tackling, from social inclusion to urban prosperity to environmental sustainability, from local climate action to adaptation and urban resilience, from energy efficiency to sustainable transport.
While mayors are taking actions to build sustainable cities and are committed to sustainable urbanisation, adequate financing remains a challenge for most of them. The New Urban Agenda contains some key commitments on finance and capacity building, which can potentially empower local governments to act, depending on our collective capacity to turn them into action. For example, paragraph 143 makes a great commitment on the access of cities to international climate funds, but fails to answer the question: how do we actually get there?
Cities need to build a strong roadmap with nations to make this commitment, and others, a reality. They have identified the drivers of change, including creating an enabling environment at regional, national and global levels, and supporting transformational projects. Mayors are already delivering on the New Urban Agenda. With extra help, they could do even more. Please join the C40 side-event “Meeting the Financing Needs of Cities: A Call For Action” on October 19.
For more on how C40 views the opportunity of Habitat III, click here.
For more on how C40 is addressing equity and social inclusion, click here.