Recently elected C40 Co-Chair Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, delivered impactful words at the UN Secretary-General’s event: ‘Implementation of the High-Level Expert Group Report “Integrity Matters”‘, during COP28 in Dubai.

Dear Excellencies,

Mayors are on the frontline of the climate crisis. With cities, integrity matters because we have no choice. We face the realities of what happens, we are facing the challenges of addressing the impacts of loss and damage in our communities caused by climate change. At the same time, we are delivering ambitious action on the ground to reduce fossil fuel demand and increase resilience.

Cities are moving fast – many C40 cities are cutting per capita emissions faster than their respective nation-states, and 80 C40 cities have 1.5°C climate action plans they are delivering on. We have committed to deliver 50 million good, green jobs by 2030 and more than 60 cities have programmes to ensure that these jobs are good and are accessible.

As Co-Chair of C40 Cities, I therefore want to stress the importance and urgency of national governments including city actions in their climate commitments to increase legislative and funding support for cities. This will ensure the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2025 are not only compatible with the Paris Agreement on paper, but also in reality.

On 1 December here at COP, we were really thrilled, and I’d like to personally thank the UN Secretary-General for this, along with the COP28 President and Mike Bloomberg, that the local Climate Action Summit happened here in the Blue Zone for the first time. At that summit, there was an announcement made about CHAMP – the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships – in other words, national governments talking to local governments about NDCs; 63 countries initially committed to CHAMP, and that is now up to 64. It is a huge leap forward, and it means there is more scope now for accountability, favourable policies and financial flows to local governments. And on that note, we can say we are so pleased with current efforts for the reform of the multilateral development banks (MDBs), but we ask that consideration continues to be given, and action taken, for direct access to cities for financing, particularly those in the Global South.

Cities need the right finance and policy environment to scale work on renewable energy, energy efficiency and the just transition. Whilst most mayors don’t control energy supply, we are using our powers to reduce demand for fossil fuels, such as through clean air zones, green building regulations, and nature-based solutions that reduce the need for heating and cooling.

Despite all of this, less than 25% of national governments include city action in their climate commitments.

At COP30 in Brazil, we want to see that figure double. We need a permanent Local Climate Action Summit at COP, and we need CHAMP to deliver concrete action.

As the UN Secretary-General says often, the climate is boiling, and time is running out. Fossil fuels are not just the main cause of the climate crisis – they are also a source of the deep injustices associated with the expansion and extraction of them. It is time to remove the social licence to our economy’s addiction to fossil fuels. Investing in cities is the best way to make the transition to a green economy happen faster. Thank you.

– C40 Co-Chair Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr

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