#COP21: Global Climate Agreement’s Historic Step As Local Governments Recognised For First Time

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The legally binding international climate agreement negotiated in Paris on 12 December offers a real glimmer of hope, though it will still not be enough to avert irreversible consequences from climate change. By recognising the importance of the world’s cities and regions, the agreement has, however, increased the prospects of a more effective and sustained global effort to limit climate change, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) believes.

Ahead of the United Nations’ COP21 talks in Paris, the Committee of the Regions, the EU’s assembly of local political leaders, had urged national governments to agree not to add carbon to the atmosphere after 2050. It had pressed the EU to cut greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). It also wanted the COP21 negotiators to decide to draw up an Action Plan for cities and regions.

These three goals proved overly ambitious. “However, Europe’s cities and regions take hope from the deal, above all because it is legally binding and because two important goals of the CoR were achieved. The agreement – for the first time – recognises the role of local governments in fighting climate change, and developed economies have made a commitment to provide $100 billion each year after 2020 to support developing countries’ climate actions,” said Markku Markkula, President of the Committee of the Regions. “These are significant achievements. The result – an agreement to keep climate change ‘well below’ 2 degrees, with an aim of 1.5 degrees – is better than many thought possible and provides real potential for us to build on.”

Nevertheless, Francesco Pigliaru, President of Sardinia and Chairman of the CoR’s environment commission, remarked: “Unfortunately, the agreement does not include cities and regions within the system of governance of climate policies, a decision that will reduce the quality of policymaking and implementation.” Mr Pigliaru was a member of the CoR’s delegation at the COP21 talks.

Europe’s local governments will try to compensate for this weakness through even greater mobilisation and coordination of efforts, by using existing partnerships and mechanisms. The CoR notes, for example, that cities and regions have been the most ambitious members of NAZCA (Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action), a United Nations platform that registers commitments to climate action by sub-national authorities, companies, civil society and investors.

“Local governments have to take around 70% of measures to reduce climate change and 90% of measures to adapt to climate change,” said Annabelle Jaeger, a member of the Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and a member of the CoR’s delegation in Paris. “Local government should therefore have a bigger say in deciding exactly what measures are taken and in shaping national and international policies.”

The desire of cities and regions for a major reduction in greenhouse gases was evident at COP21. The European Commission committed extra funds to help the Covenant of Mayors, a voluntary climate initiative of regions and cities, move beyond its base in Europe and become a global movement.

“The Paris talks offered cities and regions across the globe a chance to build alliances. It is clear that their level of ambition on climate action often supersedes that of national governments. It’s time to deliver for our communities, which is why we at the CoR look forward to promoting the Covenant of Mayors in Europe and beyond,” said Kata Tüttő, who is a member of the Local Government of District 12 in Budapest, Hungary, and who was a member of the CoR’s COP21 delegation.

Recent related resolutions by the Committee of the Regions:

– “The future of the Covenant of Mayors“, an opinion adopted on 4 December 2015.

– “Towards a global climate agreement in Paris”, an opinion adopted in October 2015.