Climate Change

Successfully addressing the climate change challenge will only be achieved, and sustained, through involvement and commitment at all levels of decision-making. In particular, sub-national authorities (regions, provinces, states or municipalities) have a key role to play in actively incorporating climate change considerations in day-to-day business and in introducing climate-friendly policies, regulations and investment decisions at their level, as a direct outreach to the public

United Nations Development Programme

What is the challenge ahead of us?

Climate change is one of the main challenges humankind is facing. The changes that our planet has undergone throughout its history are a result of natural factors like tiny changes in the Earth’s path around the sun, volcanic activity and fluctuations within the climate system. However, humans are having an increasing influence on our climate by burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests and farming livestock.

Rising sea levels, increasing precipitations and floods, desertification and droughts are some of the consequences of climate change currently experienced across the planet. Depletion of natural resources, permanent modification of habitats, climate induced migration, food security issues and increased poverty gaps particularly are some of key issues related to climate change.

According to scientists, a temperature increase of more than 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature in the next decades will have a serious and irreversible impact on the world economy and societies. That is just 1.2°C above today’s level.

To stay within this ceiling, our societies have to halt the rising trend in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions before 2020 – at least halve global emissions by the middle of this century and continue cutting them thereafter.

At COP 21, States are expected to reach a new, universal and legally binding climate regime, able to maintain the global warming below 2ºC. Subnational governments will support the future climate regime and commit to actively contribute to its implementation.

The new climate regime should consolidate the recognition os subnational governments, and provide the necessary space for their engagement and contributions. With this objective, the nrg4SD is participating in a number of meetings and events in the roadmap to Paris. More about our work can be found in our Climate Change leaflet, here.

One common goal, lots of global actors and actions

Most countries have joined an international treaty – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was adopted at the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit – to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever inevitable temperature. In 1997, a number of nations approved an addition to the treaty: the Kyoto Protocol, which provides more powerful (and legally binding) measures, targets and mechanisms aiming to commit States, in their capacity of signatory parties, to reduce their GHG emissions.

The global action to tackle climate change is twofold: on the one hand, mitigation policies are implemented to cut GHG emissions generated by human activities and to prevent further temperature increase; on the other hand, territories should be prepared to the impacts of climate change through adaptation policies, such as risk reduction and prevention strategies as well as resilience strengthening activities.

Subnational governments are particularly well placed for identifying the needs and the strengths of their societies in their climate action, and they are often responsible for the elaboration and implementation of policy, legislation, fiscal mechanisms and public investments plans in several areas – such as transport, energy, the environment, agriculture, forestry, industry, spatial planning, resource management, technology development and transfer, civil protection or development cooperation – that directly influence GHG emissions levels and deal with the impacts of climate change.

Key UNFCCC decisions that recognize this role are:

  • The Cancun Agreements – adopted at the 16th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 16) that took place in Mexico in December 2010 – represent an important step on the road to building a comprehensive and legally binding framework for climate action for the period after 2012.
  • During the 19th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties that took place in Warsaw, Poland, in November 2013, many important decisions were adopted; among them, “facilitating the sharing among Parties of experiences and best practices of cities and subnational authorities, where appropriate, in identifying and implementing opportunities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, with a view to promoting the exchange of information and voluntary cooperation”. (Decision 1/CP19 par.5b)

In the last years, subnational governments have concretely shown that they take their climate change responsibilities very seriously. In fact, their accomplishments in this area have grown tremendously in sophistication, effectiveness and importance. The important lessons being learned at the subnational level can often feed into and improve national policy and shape more ambitious and innovative responses to climate change.

nrg4SD action and partnerships on behalf of its members

Thanks to its direct work with the UNFCCC, nrg4SD represents its member subnational governments directly at international negotiations by:

  • Tirelessly advocating for a better recognition of the crucial contribution of subnational governments to climate change action;
  • Consistently working with the UNFCCC Secretariat and working groups on technical issues;
  • Regularly bringing into the debate delegations and grass roots initiatives from the subnational level, and
  • Getting involved in the Local Government and Municipal Authorities Major Group of stakeholders recognised by UNFCCC, and
  • Building upon the strength of having some of its member subnational governments taking part in their respective national delegations, nrg4SD establishes direct links with the Parties to the Convention.

nrg4SD’s partnerships on behalf of its members

Through the years nrg4SD has likewise established privileged partnerships with other organisations representing local governments, such as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and UCLG – United Cities and Local Government. nrg4SD responds to the United Region Organization (ORU-FOGAR) in the field of sustainable development, and is a partner of The °Climate Group, CDP and RIO20 in the Compact of States and Regions, collaborating regularly to maximise the recognition and visibility of subnational initiatives on climate change.

Another key partnership over the past years has taken nrg4SD and several of its members to work directly with a series of United Nations agencies in the Territorial Approach to Climate Change TACC programme. Through TACC several developed subnational governments are assisting subnational governments from developping countries on:

  • Accessing and using up-to-date climate change science, information, tools and good practices;
  • Putting in place a partnership and governance framework to address the cross-sectoral nature of climate change, and
  • Developing a climate profile and draft a climate change strategy and action plan to ensure a programmatic approach to climate change.

See the short film about the TACC project developed in Fatick, with other nrg4SD members as Rhône Alpes, Catalonia and Wallonia, all in coordination with the UNDP


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