Forum on Experiences and Best Practices of Cities and Subnational Authorities – Bonn Intersessions

By Navam Niles

The COP at its nineteenth session decided to accelerate activities under the workplan on enhancing mitigation ambition, including by:

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.

The ADP requested the secretariat to organise a Forum, in conjunction with the fortieth meeting of the subsidiary bodies, to provide an opportunity for such information sharing. A Technical Expert Meetings (TEM) on Urban Environments will also take place during the same sessional period to allow for synergies in participation and focus.

The events will provide a basis for the discussion on the implementation of action at the sub-national and city level. The operation of the Forum will allow for the showcasing of specific initiatives and best practices in creating an enabling environment for action and mainstreaming climate change considerations into local development plans. The Forum will be chaired by Dr.Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director, UN-HABITAT.


  • Welcome remarks by the Chairperson
  • Opening address by the Executive Secretary

Mapping the Potential

Keynote addresses: Participants will have the opportunity to hear a series of focused and inspirational keynote interventions regarding the extent of potential action to respond to the challenge of climate change at the city and subnational level. These addresses will outline the extent to which such authorities impact the policy landscape, through planning and regulations, and their role in guiding and undertaking action across various sectors.

  • Policies and regulations – Mr. Mark Kember, the Climate Group
  • Transport and spatial planning – Mr. Mark Watts, C40
  • Built Environment – Mr. Edward Mazria, Architechture2030
  • Community involvement and climate resilience – Ms. Vanessa Castan-Brot0, 4CPPD

Experiences of Implementation

Panel discussion: Building upon the outlined potentials for action a panel of representatives from city and subnational authorities will be asked to share their views in a moderated discussion on concrete actions taken by cities and subnational authorities in the design and implementation of climate sensitive development. The session will be an interactive dialogue with the panelists designed to draw out examples of building resilience and mainstreaming mitigation and adaptation into local development agendas, and the challenges faced in doing so.


  • Mr Mussa Natty, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
  • Mr Yann Francoise, City of Paris, France
  • Ms Louise Bedsworth, Republic of California, United States of America
  • Gov Jose Salceda, Province of Albay, the Philippines

 Following this initial exploration with the panel of the potential for action and challenges faced the Chairperson will invite Parties and the panel to elaborate on: ‘ ‘How the 2015 agreement can address barriers to action, facilitate cooperation and recognize the outcomes Of city and subnational actions”.

Towards Enhanced Action

Open discussion: The Chairperson will invite Parties and observers to share additional information and views from the floor and to further discuss information provided during the panel discussions. Building on the discussions earlier in the Forum, this session will aim to pick up on proposals for next steps, including voluntary cooperation, that can be taken forward after the Forum, through the TEMs or Other means as appropriate.

Built Environment – Mr Edward Mazria, Architecture2030

Mr Mazria highlighted the importance of the urban built environment and its influence on global climate change. The urban built environment contributes to 70% of GHG emissions; therefore, it is a critical element in the global efforts to keep temperatures below 2C. The importance of the urban built environment will only grow in time. By 2030, 82 billion square meters (900 billion square feet), amounting to an area of about 60% of the total building stock in the world, will be built and rebuilt in urban areas. However, growth in urban areas also provides an opportunity to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Projected global construction between now and 2030 will occur in the following regions: China (38%), US/Canada (15%), India (9%), Middle East/Africa (9%), other emerging economies (12%), Western Europe (4%), and other developed countries (4%). Together, the US/Canada and China will account for about 53% of all new or rebuilt buildings. However, despite the dominance of these two states, a global agreement is vital to reduce emissions in the other regions of the world.

The current roadmap developed by Architecture2030 involves four key elements. First, new buildings, should strive to reduce emissions by up to 80% by 2020 and carbon neutral in 2030. Second, concerning existing buildings in developed countries, planners should renovate buildings at a rate of about 2-3%/year. Third, existing buildings in developing countries, where planners are expected renovate a minimum of 1.5-2% per year. Lastly, specify building products that meet C02 emission reductions, below category average of 50% by 2030.

Mr. Mazria also noted that by 2020 most countries would need to peak and begin reduction based on their pre-established targets. He also outlined the progress his organisation has achieved. He noted that in practice, every major organisation has adopted 2030 targets for carbon neutrality. Furthermore 73% of global architectural firms and 100% of all top designers have also adopted the targets. These are in addition, to the various policy making bodies and professional organisations that have also adopted the targets over the years.

Referring to the US, Mr. Mazria noted that all major US buildings adopted the 2030 targets and new federal buildings are going carbon neutral by 2030.

Finally, he noted the challenges faced in implementing the 2030 targets. The most important challenge was getting access and sharing critical information. Thus, proper designing and planning could reduce emissions by 80%. Information is also critical in developing and sharing low cost design and planning processes. The second challenge is technology, specifically, energy (renewable energy and energy efficiency in design and planning). In the US, for instance, despite increase in building stock energy, consumption and emissions have dropped and this is projected to drop further in the coming years. Furthermore, the adoption of off-shelf technology has helped reduce energy consumption equal to about 250 500MW power plants. American consumers have already spent USD 560 billion less on energy between 2005 and 2013 than was originally projected in 2005. Moreover, they are projected to save more than 4.5 trillion between 2013 and 2030.

Policies and Regulations – Mr Mark Kember, the Climate Group

Mr. Kember noted that the Climate Group works with partners all around the world. Together, its members account for about 5% of the total population but 15% of global output. However, when examining the total membership and reach when factoring together its networks and affiliates, the organisation deals with 500-600 million people and about 25% of global output.

He also noted that the current set of goals revolve around the target of reducing emissions by about two giga tonnes. To achieve, this goal and the broader goal of limiting global temperature rise and catastrophic climate change, the involvement of sub-national actors is crucial.

In fact, 50-80% of all activities related to reducing emissions and keeping temperatures below 2C will take place in the purview of cities, states, regions and provinces. These sub-national elements represent the bulk of activity and usually have the most direct route to action. Cities are taking actions to reduce emissions because it makes economic sense and not simply because someone in government wants such actions. Cities pay particular attention to jobs, investments and urban development, and all this is heavily influenced by climate change.

Cities also address the gap between policy and practical implementation. Sometimes policies, which are developed at the international, regional or national levels, are disconnected from the practical realities on the ground where sub-national governments have a great deal of expertise.

In addition, sub-national governments can avoid serious political controversy and set ambitious targets (California, Scotland and North Rhine Westphalia, have set targets for 80% emission reductions). In general, sub-national governments are important because they create a link between high-level policymaking and the international process.

Transport and Spatial Planning – Mr Mark Watts, C40

Mr. Watts spoke on the role of transport and global emissions. He noted that transport accounts for as much as 30% of global emissions and is the fast sector for emission increase. Importantly, cities around the world account for much of the growth in transportation. For instance, London experienced more than 2.3 billion annual bus trips, which was more than half of all bus trips in England. Thus, city policies play an important role in the emissions related to the transport sector. Moreover, the growth of cities and increasing demand for mobility is inevitable.

The growth in transport will have serious implications for cities and the public. For instance, air pollution, which already accounts for about 1.3 million deaths, will only get worse. In addition, increasing traffic congestion causes as much as a 10% GDP loss in some areas. Thus, cities of the future need to be different.

Future cities will be compact, dense and focus on public transport. To make the cities liveable and sustainable there are many policies that sub-national governments and cities can implement. First, policy initiatives are necessary to reduce the need to travel. Second, there is a need to utilise transport that is more efficient, especially public transport. Third, cities need regulations to improve of the entire vehicle fleet.

In this regard, C40 is creating a coalition for enhancing action on transportation issues. Already, 94% of its members have initiatives for emission reductions. Many cities are also focusing on electric vehicle schemes, electric trains and other technologies. A great example is the bus rapid-transport schemes, which is an interesting idea that originated in the global South but made its way to the global North, where about 35 cities have such schemes. Mr. Watts also noted that about 70% cities are considered parking reforms and other schemes to regulate or limit congestion and transport emissions.

In this regard, national governments can aid the process in many ways. A good step would be to give mayors more powers to enact reforms. This is a sensible approach because mayors can launch ambitious programmes while sparing the national government any political strain of controversial reforms. In addition, national governments could also help by providing a framework and necessary guidance concerning the adoption and implementation of technology. Lastly, it is important to note that national governments can help cities with funding or facilitating funding processes and linkages.

Ecofys – Mr Nick Harrison

Mr. Harrison noted that his organisation has partnerships with more than 120 countries and organisations. In addition, it manages three global platforms and involves itself in nine different working groups. He noted there were special opportunities for national governments to support-sub national governments in their goals to reduce emissions, increase climate resilience and increase the liveability of cities and other sub-national entities.

In the process of outlining the opportunities, he noted that sub-national governments are key influencers of climate change policies since they are often tasked with translating policies into actions at the most basic levels of government and public policy. In addition, sub-national governments offer a bottom-up approach towards policy and decision making processes. Arguably, sub-national governments are better able to understand local needs, cultural sensitivities, economic factors, etc. Moreover, it is safer and cheaper to experiment and pilot new ways to address climate change at the sub-national level. Sub-national entities are also better equipped to handle other issues such as taxes, fees, policies, waste, etc. This is particularly important for states around the world because most of the global emissions emerge at a sub-national level.

Mr. Harrison also noted key challenges faced by sub-national governments and the manner in which national governments can support them. One such way is through direct funding for sub-national mitigation actions. Already countries ranging from Germany to India have set up funding for sub-national mitigation schemes. Another area is technology access. National governments can share and focus national technological assets to improve the knowledge resources of sub-national governments. Closely related to technology is the need to access and process vast quantities of data to improve decision-making processes. National governments can also aid sub-national governments with capacity and skills solutions.

Ms Vanessa Caston – 4CPPD Community Involvement and Climate Resilience

Ms. Caston noted that issues pertaining to climate change represent a unique set of problems that deserve a unique set of solutions. This is particularly true when examining the role of sub-national governments. She noted that good climate change actions could be achieved through community involvement in the process. Moreover, engagement and participatory planning could be viewed as a political process to enhance the urban process. Thus, citizens can realise their dreams for their urban environment in a manner that is both complimentary and engaging.

The main benefit of participatory urban planning is the fact that it helps multiply and speed actions in a manner that is difficult to do so at a national level. However, she also noted that participatory urban planning comes with its own set of challenges that deserve attention.

The most important challenge is education and awareness. There is a need to model solutions in terms of practical implications. This will help enhance understanding and awareness of key issues. A second issue is institutional challenges. In most cases, participatory urban planning does not require vast resources but it does require institutional support and large bureaucracies and red tape can hinder the development of such initiatives. A third challenge refers to multi-scaling up. This refers to a repetition of experiences in different contexts. In many cases, the experiences learned in one situation are not entirely transferable to another case. This is because experiences do not always travel the same way. In this context, individuals and institutions need to work together to experiment and innovate in a participatory process.

[Photo Credits: IISD]

About The Author:

Navam Niles works as a Research Associate at SLYCAN, focusing on energy security and the politics concerning global environmental problems. His core research interests also include Public International Law, International Development, Foreign Policy Analysis, and International Security. In addition, he is a lecturer at the Royal Institute of Colombo, teaching subjects pertaining to Politics, International Relations and Development Studies.