Cities committing politically to act on climate change

The Conference of Parties (COP) is a meeting of the countries that have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a forum in which representatives of nation states / countries partake in international negotiations on what to do about climate change. Initially local and sub-national governments were completely absent from these international negotiations, but in the last few years many local governments have started to take a more direct interest and have gained a voice in this process.

ICLEI is the focal point for Local Governments and Municipal Authorities to officially engage in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. For COP17 in Durban, 101 seats have been allocated, by the UNFCCC Secretariat, to local government representatives globally. Access to these seats is coordinated through ICLEI. This will be the first time that local government representatives will enter the negotiations as UNFCCC recognised and accredited government officials, instead of being registered as observers from non-governmental organizations.

In their coordinating role, ICLEI has been leading the Local Government Climate Roadmap process since 2007. This is a lobbying and campaigning effort, involving a coalition of local government networks that formed in response to the Bali Action Plan (that came out of COP 13 in 2007), aiming to ensure that a strong and ambitious global climate regime is designed and implemented in the post-2012 period (after the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012).

In order to facilitate the process of local governments engaging with and lobbying other parties in the international climate change negotiations, ICLEI together with the South African Government, through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), South African Cities Network (SACN), eThekwini Municipality, and the Department of Environmental Affairs, hosted  “The Durban Local Government Convention: adapting to a changing climate — towards COP17 / CMP7 and beyond” in parallel with the COP17 proceedings.

Representatives from over 950 local governments (many of them cities) met in Durban to elaborate on the outcomes of the Resilient Cities 2011 Congress (held in Bonn, Germany, in June 2011), focusing on understanding and improving the profile of adaptation as a critical tool in achieving local developmental and sustainability objectives. The result was the signing of the Durban Adaptation Charter committing to mainstreaming climate adaptation into local government development planning, aligning adaptation and mitigation strategies, prioritising the role of functioning ecosystems, and seeking innovative funding mechanisms to tackle climate change at the local level.

The burning question of course is what will come of this expression of political will… how do we move from agreed principles to actions on the ground that dramatically scale up the few existing pilot projects dotted around the globe that have shown to be effective.



Anna Taylor a Researcher on Climate Change and Urban Sustainability at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town. Anna’s work forms a part of her PhD research on the governance conditions for adapting to climate change at the city scale.  Her PhD research is jointly funded by ACDI and the Mistra Urban Futures Programme.

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0 Responses to “Cities committing politically to act on climate change”

  1. Jannie

    They must be really concerned regarding the threatening climate change. Enough to say that they are still concern for our Mother Earth’s status. The government must be awaken by this already, for this isn’t only for themselves. But for all of us!

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