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C40 showcases bold city commitments at COP23

An update from C40's City Diplomacy Team

COP23 came to a successful conclusion on November 18th in Bonn. While nations were there to negotiate under the inspiring Fijian Presidency, C40 was present with a strong delegation to showcase the ambition of our cities, inspire ambitious commitments, build fruitful partnerships and announce the great strides that C40 cities are making to deliver the objectives of the Paris Agreement. 

The decision reached by COP23 (available in full here) is important in many ways. First it stresses the “utmost” importance of reviewing and enhancing pre-2020 climate action if we want to stay on track with the Paris Agreement objective of 1.5C and acknowledges contributions from cities and regions in this process. Second, it delivered a basic structure for the Paris Agreement Work Program (the how to implement the Paris Agreement) and commits to completing it by COP24 next year.

Most importantly, the Fijian Presidency successfully delivered one of their COP priorities: the design of the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, inspired by the Fijian tradition – and therefore renamed – Talanoa Dialogue. In the spirit of inclusiveness, transparency and participation of Talanoa, the Dialogue will be a yearlong process that concludes at COP24. It will review how the global community is progressing towards the objectives set in the Paris Agreement, including inputs from regions, states, cities, businesses and civil society (organized under the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action). The Talanoa Dialogue will ask the following questions to all stakeholders: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

This is a major achievement that continues to recognize how cities and regions are taking important measures in their territories, and together with nations, are part of the global equation to solve the climate change problem. At C40 we welcome these outcomes and commend the Fijian Presidency, and through our engagement at COP23 C40 has begun answering the Talanoa Dialogue questions:

Where are we?

  • The mayors of 25 pioneering cities, representing 150 million citizens, have pledged to develop and begin implementing more ambitious climate action plans before the end of 2020 to deliver emissions neutral and climate resilient cities by 2050.
  • The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy is driving ambitious commitments by cities all around the world (7,494 in the last report) and has now developed a global standard for reporting city and local governments’ greenhouse gas emissions inventories, compatible with national government reporting requirements.

Where do we want to go?

  • By 2020, all C40 cities will have adopted ambitious climate action plans, which will ensure that cities deliver their share of emissions reductions required to realise the ambition of the Paris Agreement, and particularly, carbon neutrality by 2050.

How do we get there?

  • By implementing actions in cities that can unlock the most emission reductions. A C40 and McKinsey report called Focused Acceleration was launched at COP23 and outlines exactly what the biggest emission reduction opportunities are in different types of cities.
  • Through effective partnerships, like the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, which officially released its Yearbook of Global Climate Action 2017 at COP23. The Yearbook is a formal input from nonParty Stakeholders and the Urban Leadership Council, which held its first meeting with global policymakers committed to raising awareness and knowledge on city climate action and enabling policy frameworks.
  • Through technical assistance support, which will be available to C40 cities in Asia, South America and Africa thanks to the financial support of the United Kingdom and German governments.

In the year ahead leading up to COP24 in Katowice, Poland, we look forward to providing more evidence that C40 cities are on track to deliver bold and ambitious climate action. Make sure to check out our daily COP23 blogs, photos and videos here, all provided thanks to the support of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

November 14th: Cities, regions, businesses, investors and citizens are the new climate leaders

Blogs, videos and photos provided with support from the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy

According the Deadline 2020 report, half of the carbon savings that the Mayors need to deliver to keep the world on a 1.5 degree trajectory depend on action by others. If Non-State actors (cities, regions, businesses and investors) are the new climate leaders, strong collaboration between them is key to implement the Paris Agreement. In the last days of COP23, several of those partnerships and coalitions took the stage: The Urban Leadership Council, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy and the Global Climate Action Summit.

Welcome to the Urban Leadership Council

The Urban Leadership Council was officially launched during the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders at COP23 and held its very first meeting on November 14th.

The council bases its message on research by the Coalition for Urban Transitions showing that investing in compact, connected, and efficient cities could substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 Gt CO² per year by 2030 and generate savings of as much as US$ 17 trillion by 2050. With that message, it has reached out to 100 countries, 300 eminent senior leaders, 1000 companies, 1000 non-governmental organisations and 7000 cities and local governments.

The Urban Leadership Council is comprised of 16 members, representing 2050 Pathways Platform, ICLEI, Climate Group, Cities Alliance, Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, Mission 2020, Climate Action Network International (CAN), New Climate Economy, Business & Sustainable Development Commission / Energy Transitions Commission, Slum Dwellers International (SDI), United Cities and Local Government (UCLG), UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), We Mean Business, and World Economic Forum. C40 and WRI are co-chairs of this effort.

Sheela Patel, Chair of Slum/Shack Dwellers International

At the council’s first meeting on 14 November 2017, its current work programme and direction were discussed by the members. For example, it has started an ambitious research programme on the “play-book” of national policies to empower cities climate action - from general policies that affect urban development, like tax codes, to policies that are targeting urban issues more directly, like regulation on planning zones and processes, or national interventions designed to deliberately promote local climate actions.

First meeting of the Urban Leadership Council at COP23

As next steps, the council will expand its research on national policies and their impact - and deepen the local dialogues that have started in China, Mexico, Tanzania and other countries. Also, participants agreed on a continued exchange and update on projects that seek to influence national urban policies as well as on a database on demonstration projects to realise synergies and timely learning processes.

More from the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy made two major announcements at COP23 and hosted a full day of panel discussions with local authorities and stakeholders focused on climate action. The first announcement was that the Global Covenant’s nearly 7,500 signatories have the potential to reduce 46 Gt CO2e by 2050 - which is a global average of 2.19 tons per capita. There is potential for even greater impact, as the Global Covenant increases membership and if cities and local governments increase their ambition in the near term. The announcement was made by Maroš Šefčovič (Vice President, European Commission), who said that "[w]hen mayors share a vision of a low carbon future, things get done."

The Global Covenant also announced a new global GHG emissions inventory reporting standard for cities. This new standard will allow cities and local governments to measure their emissions in a transparent way that is comparable across the world. The standard was announced by Christiana Figueres (VP of the Global Covenant), who described it as "IPCC-based, congruent with what national governments are reporting but for cities.” Quito Mayor Mauricio Rodas (Global Covenant Board Member) also discussed the new standard, noting that a "standardized methodology to measure GHGs in cities is important in terms of transparency, effectiveness, and having a tool for local governments to have access to finance."

The standard will undergo review by city stakeholders from around the world and be ready for implementation by Q2 of 2018. A working group made up of representatives from regional and global climate organizations including C40, World Resources Institute, ICLEI, WWF, the European Commission, and Climate Alliance, developed the proposed standard.

Christina Figueres, VP of the Global Covenant, announced the new GHG emissions inventory standard

Finally, during the Global Covenant’s day of events, local leaders discussed four main themes: transatlantic climate dialogues; partnerships between the city, regional and national levels; climate finance; and political leadership and planning for climate action. Mayors, local leaders, international finance professionals, and public officials came together to discuss solutions to some of the most pressing climate issues.

Accra Mayor M. Adjei Sowah spoke on the finance panel about the importance of developing climate-smart infrastructure and the challenges of raising capital in a developing-city context. “We need to be able to make clear what climate change and energy efficiency issues cost the city,” said Mayor Sowah. “We seem to forget that we can subsidize renewable energy because of the initial high cost but we need to put our policy efforts behind renewable energy because of the long-term effects.”

Road to the California Summit

Finally, the last days at COP23 provided several opportunities to promote the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, on September 12-14, 2018. Co-chaired by Governor Jerry Brown of California, Michael Bloomberg, Patricia Espinosa and Anand Mahindra, the Summit aims to showcase and galvanize the climate action potential of non-state actors and send a strong message to national governments to “raise their ambitions” with regards to national contributions towards the Paris Agreement.

Jerry Brown, Governor of California, USA

The Paris Agreement’s goal - to limit the increase in global temperature to under 2 degrees Celsius - can only be achieved if subnational state and local leaders, businesses, scientists, students, nonprofits, and others step up. The Summit, bringing together people from all walks of life, will showcase the surge of climate action around the world - and make the case that even more must be done.

The Summit will also help strengthen the push for greater emissions reduction targets at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24) in December 2018. At COP 24, leaders will begin to set goals for the 5-year period that starts in 2020. A groundswell of climate action from the Summit will show that national leaders can, and must, further decarbonize the economy. As Wael Hmaidan, Executive Director of the Climate Action Network, explains:

“We want to finally make governments catch up to the real economy. There is a huge gap between what non-state actors already do and how governments feel they can raise their ambition”.

Different initiatives are gearing up towards implementing their own activities around the Climate Action Summit. and the People’s Climate March are looking into organising a big march in San Francisco, potentially expanding to other cities in the US as well as mobilizing internationally. A particular focus will be on cross-sector commitments involving businesses, investors or regions - e.g. on private sector supporting cities that switch towards electric mobility or mayors taking joint commitments on renewable energy and energy efficiency. C40 is a key partner of the GCA Summit, and a member of its advisory committee, on behalf of the city constituency and in partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.


November 13th: Inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities: collecting the benefits of climate action

Blogs, videos and photos provided with support from the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy

Today at COP23, during the High-Level Segment of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, leaders from civil society, the private sector, local and national governments discussed how inclusive climate action helps achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. Joining efforts at all levels is the key to building inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities. 

From housing prices to traffic jams, from social exclusion to energy poverty, from inequality to job creation and dealing with incoming refugees and aging societies: cities already deal with many of today’s challenges. Participants at the various city events at COP23 thus explored the different ways in which climate action strategies, when they are inclusive, can create “co-benefits” in other areas, and notably help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 11 on Cities and Human Settlements. 

Liveable cities. Cities around the world have shown how converting public spaces from carbon-intense highways and parking to emission-free walking and biking zones can improve liveability and liveliness. Open, friendly and green spaces where people walk, cycle and get onto mass transit can improve the daily life of all citizens. 

Poverty and exclusion. While sceptics fear climate action will lead to rising energy bills, the reverse is actually true. Increasing energy efficiency, in particular in low-income housing, can reduce the energy bills of the most vulnerable, whether in the outskirts of New York or Cape Town. Smart meters can help people to manage their energy use and expenditures. Decentralized energy solution might even convert people from energy consumers to energy producers. Similar relations exist in the transport sector. Making biking and walking more attractive can improve transport, make mobility more affordable and contribute to improving air quality and public health.

Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon, USA.

Job creation. Climate action can create local and decent jobs - in implementing and maintaining renewable energies, for example, or in housing insulation. Many of these jobs might be more appealing than the “old-economy” jobs - i.e. when driving a clean, quiet electric bus compared to a Diesel one. Focusing on climate action and job creation might also bring otherwise or formerly sceptic stakeholders. “There are no jobs on other planets. We are very focused on jobs, but we really need to protect the climate”, explained Montserrat Mir Roca, Confederal Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation. While unions may traditionally think about old jobs being lost, she highlighted the constructive role they can play in helping people transition to new jobs. Fighting climate change will also protect jobs for the most vulnerable - when natural disasters threaten infrastructure and industries, for example. 

Health. While most greenhouse gases are not damaging to human health as such, reducing them most often also reduces other emissions such as particulate matters or NOX, in both the energy and transport sector. Promoting cycling and walking also improves health directly, by preventing obesity and even increasing cognitive function and well-being. Again, the health aspects have an inclusive component - as it is the more vulnerable parts of the population that are most affected by climate change today.  

Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, first female Mayor of Malmö, Sweden.

Shared leadership. To develop action plans that consider co-benefits, cities need to balance both proactive leadership and participation. While climate leadership by urban decision makers is crucial, it should open spaces for participation and for listening to the voices of the vulnerable regularly excluded, participants at the SGD roundtable agreed. Similarly, cities have to balance learning from others and finding fitting solutions for their unique situation. Both challenges feed into each other and require a new style of leadership. Hilda Heine, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, explained at the session on climate action and the SDG11: 

H.E. Hilda Heine, first female President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Partnerships. Developing action plans, using both top-down impulses and participatory learning, is a challenging task that needs appropriate resources. To allow C40 Cities and others to move forward on this agenda, the UK government announced today its support for the development of such plans with £27.5m. This support will be delivered in partnership with C40, the German technical cooperation agency GIZ, and the Coalition for Urban Transitions. The support will benefit fifteen cities in Latin America and Asia to create ambitious climate action plans aimed at creating healthy, green, zero emission cities by 2050. 

Women leadership. Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, former climate ambassador for France, COP21 Climate Champion and in many ways, mother of the Paris Agreement, chaired the Opening Plenary “Women leaders on making human settlements inclusive, sustainable and resilient” during SDG11 High-Level Event at COP23. A huge thanks to her and the fantastic women leaders who shared with their vision, leadership and experience during this very special moment at COP23.  

Opening Plenary of the Global Climate Action High-Level Event on SDG11 at COP23, Nov. 13, 2017


November 12th: At COP23, cities are moving fast to deliver on the Paris Agreement 

Blogs, videos and photos realised with the support of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy

At COP23, cities keep raising ambition for climate action by showing how fast they are moving to deliver the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In line with C40's Deadline 2020 research, cities are taking decisions and implementing transformative actions to meet the urgency of climate action. At COP23 today, 25 megacities pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and C40 presented groundbreaking research on “focused acceleration” as a strategic approach to setting priorities for urban climate action.

While the role of cities, as well as that of regional governments, has been growing steadily in the climate arena, COP23 has seen an unprecedented level of activity. Today, the Climate Summit of Local and National Leaders brought together hundreds of city officials and decision makers to discuss how cities can speed up their climate actions. Three major announcements were made today to answer this question.  

25 C40 Cities Commit to become Emissions Neutral by 2050

The Deadline 2020 report by C40 Cities has already provided a roadmap for global cities to deliver on the Paris Agreement and shown the ambitious action required. Emissions across C40 Cities would need to drop from over 5 tCO²e per capita today to around 2.9 tCO²e per capita by 2030, to finally reach net-zero in 2050.   

C40 member cities at COP23 pledging carbon-neutrality in 2050.

Today, 12th November 2017, the mayors of 25 pioneering cities, representing 150 million citizens, have pledged to develop and begin implementing more ambitious climate action plans before the end of 2020 in order to deliver emissions neutral and climate resilient cities by 2050.

Through climate action plans, developed with the support of C40, those pioneering cities will cut their emissions steeply over the next decade and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

C40 member cities pledging carbon-neutrality in 2050: Austin, Accra, Barcelona, Boston, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Caracas, Copenhagen, Durban, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Mexico City, Milan, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Santiago, Stockholm & Vancouver.

New global standard and platform for reporting city climate data

Committing is a first step that needs to be backed by solid measuring and reporting. While reporting carbon emissions on the national level has long been standardized through the IPCC, for cities, over the years different standards have proliferated. Today, at COP23, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy also announced a new global standard for reporting city and local governments’ greenhouse gas emissions inventories. This reporting framework is a harmonized protocol for local-scale GHG reporting, and allows for tracking the contributions and impacts of cities and local governments in a transparent, quantifiable and meaningful way. Making key data available to the public is an important step forward for assessing collective progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and increases the potential for financing opportunities at the local, regional and global level.

Having such a reporting standard is a huge step to catalyze progress: "A standardized methodology to measure GHG emissions in cities is important in terms of transparency, effectiveness, and having a tool for local governments to have access to finance." explained Mauricio Rodas, Mayor of Quito.

The joint reporting standard allows for the comparison of emission levels and progress across cities in a reliable way for the first time.

Christiana Figueres, Vice Chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors

In addition, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and ICLEI also announced the creation of a single reporting platform that will provide a single point for cities to submit their climate data.

Roadmap for focused acceleration of city climate action

From 2016 to 2050, over $1 trillion of investment is required across all C40 Cities to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement through new climate action. New research conducted by C40 Cities and McKinsey has now provided a detailed roadmap with 12 actions and sample action plans for six group of cities.

Starting from the Deadline 2020, the analysis has identified twelve action areas where cities could deliver 90 to 100 % of the emission reduction targeted by 2030. The action areas have been grouped in four areas of

  • decarbonization of energy grids (through the massive expansion of large-scale renewable power generation),
  • the optimization of energy efficiency in buildings,
  • enabling next-generation mobility and
  • improving waste management.

As every city is in a unique situation, the report provides scenarios for different city types, depending on size, economic status and dynamism. While low-density, sprawling cities might promote mass transit and decentralised, home-based renewable energy, high-density innovation cities might expand their existing mass transit and walkability initiatives and promote large-scale renewable energy in vicinity to the urban area.

Building on the pledge for carbon-neutrality till 2050, C40 Cities also announced that they will provide direct support to nine African megacities in developing unprecedented, robust and evidence-based long-term climate action plans using German government funding. The cities supported through this initiative are Accra, Cape Town, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Durban, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi and Tshwane.

Up tomorrow?

On the agenda for tomorrow is GCoM day at the EU pavilion, in parallel to the High-Level event of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action of which C40 is a key partner. At 11:30, C40 Cities will host a high-level Women-only panel on climate action and SDG#11, roundtables on Transport, Energy and Waste Management. The day will close with a joint event by the UK and C40 Cities - featuring some exciting news and a reception.

See you tomorrow!


November 11th: Finance and science for urban climate action COP23

Blogs, videos and photos realised with the support of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy

On Human Settlements Day at COP23, discussions focused on unlocking the potential that cities have to actually move ahead on climate change by addressing two key underlying factors: Finance and science. 

C40 Cities comes to COP23 with two main objectives. First, pushing for ambitious results during the negotiation process. Second, to promote climate action at the city level. 

To achieve these, C40 has brought together mayors and city staff from many of the world’s great cities that are leading climate action on the global scale. 

Today started with sessions that addressed two key enablers to effective climate change action in cities: Finance and science. 

GCA HS Finance Event at COP23.

No money, no (climate) action

At the “Global Climate Action: Accelerating the urban transformation - Financing and implementing infrastructure projects in cities and regions”, cities explored both the complexity and size of the finance challenge ahead in key areas like infrastructure for mobility and urban energy systems, as well as innovative financing solutions that are already available - or currently under development. 

Cities increasingly face the challenge to convert their ambitious climate action plans into bankable, investment-ready projects. While different types of investors have “big pots” of money available for sustainable infrastructure, matching these with specific projects in cities remains a challenge. Many multilateral development banks, for example, face the challenge of still having to invest through national governments, frequently resulting in cities missing the opportunity to access this important source of finance.

Mark Watts, Executive Director for C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

Mark Watts, C40 Executive Director, laid out the different programmes through which C40 seeks to address these challenges, in particular the C40 Cities Finance Facility, run in partnership with German technical cooperation agency GIZ and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Discussions focused on whether cities are better served by agencies that develop projects independently from banks - or whether such project preparation facilities should be integrated into banks to make the process more efficient. James Alexander, Director of the City Finance Programme at C40, stressed that the C40 Cities Finance Facility is deliberately designed to offer independent advice: 

“We work in the best interest of the cities we serve, to provide the best possible financing solutions from the perspective of the city. We don’t specifically promote any investor, technology company or capital provider. And the support we’re providing is always outcome-focused, not studies that sit on a shelf.“

James Alexander, City Finance Programme Director & Head of the C40 Cities Finance Facility.

Specific projects discussed in the session included the expansion of the bicycle infrastructure in Bogotá and electric buses in Mexico City, both supported by the C40 Cities Finance Facility, as well as the provision of efficient water heaters to reduce overall and peak electricity consumption in Cape Town. Several panel members also supported the idea of a “city development bank” that could bypass the bottleneck of central governments and provide direct development finance to cities. C40, ICLEI and other partners are leading these discussions with the support of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy

It’s the science, stupid!

In a second key gathering, “CitiesIPCC: advancing science to accelerate effective climate action in human settlements”, city representatives and experts tackled another key barrier: the lack of available science to support climate policies in cities. Knowing how exactly cities will be affected by climate change is key to encourage urban climate action. Understanding how to reduce emissions and how to adapt to the effects of climate change helps to focus efforts and set priorities. 

Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Director of UN-Habitat.

For that endeavour, C40, UN-Habitat and eight other major urban and scientific organizations have joined forces with the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to define the next frontier between science and cities, with the ultimate goal to accelerate effective climate action at the urban level. Ahead of the landmark Cities and Climate Change Science Conference to be held in Edmonton, Canada, on March 5-, 2018, participants to yesterday’s remarkable panel pointed out some of the needs and gaps:

  • Getting more granular information on climate change: Which cities, and which parts, will be affected? In which way? What are the effects of different city-level options for abatement and mitigation? 
  • Getting knowledge to practitioners: Even if data exists, it must be accessible by and relevant to decision makers to guide actions.  
  • Multidisciplinary and social science research: While there is broad consensus on many physical aspects of climate change, further research is needed on political and behavioural issues, like the public acceptance of the political actions required for urban carbon-neutrality.

As an example for urban climate research to motivate action, C40 has calculated that if its member cities continue their current trajectory, they will have used their whole century carbon budget by 2025, by 2060 cities the budget for the whole world - highlighting the need for decisive and rapid action plans to cut carbon emissions. 

What else?

As part of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action Agenda, Mauricio Rodas, Mayor of Quito, introduced the C40 Fossil-Fuel-Free Streets Declaration at the GCA Transport Roundtable as a major commitment to climate action in the transport area.

Mauricio Rodas, Mayor of Quito, at the GCA Transport Roundtable.

In his talk, he presented the steps his city has taken in taking action. This includes providing electric bikes to increase ridership and get new users on bikes in the hilly capital of Ecuador as well as the development of the metro network.


Up today on November 12th is the Local Leaders Summit, a massive gathering that brings together local and regional climate change leaders from around the world. We are looking forward to a major announcement by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy that will help cities to better track their emissions and their progress towards their climate targets, as well as C40’s new announcements on Deadline 2020 programme. We will also play a key role at the 2017 Climate and Clean Air Awards that recognize local climate action efforts. 

Stay tuned!