UN Climate Change News, 17 March – The Zero Carbon City International Forum, hosted by the Government of Japan, got underway today with the aim of boosting the work done by cities in their quest for net zero emissions.
The 2-day Forum provides a platform for cities and organizations from across the globe to share concrete efforts to accelerate the transformation towards a resilient and decarbonized society by 2050 at the latest. It is being held with the support of UN Climate Change, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES.)
Speaking at the opening of the event, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, recognized the government of Japan for its recent climate change progress, including Prime Minister Suga’s announcement that Japan will work towards becoming a carbon neutral society by 2050.
Whilst outlining the keys to success at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in November (see the full speech below), she stressed the important role of non-State actors such as cities in successfully tackling climate change: “Reaching net-zero, especially in cities, is a vital part of achieving our long-term goals under the Paris Agreement.”
According to the United Nations, cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy, and account for more than 70% of global heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has said that “Cities are where the climate battle will largely be won or lost.”
Cities and regions join the race to zero greenhouse gas emissions
An increasing number of cities are already engaging in the fight against climate change, participating in initiatives including the UN’s global Race to Zero Campaign. 454 cities have already joined the campaign, which was launched in June 2020 with the aim of rallying leadership and support from a broad range of stakeholders to accelerate the shift to decarbonization.
At the virtual meeting, several cities and regions presented their plans. For example, the German city of Bonn, host of the UN Climate change Secretariat, aims to be carbon neutral by 2035. Kuala Lumpur plans to be low carbon by 2030 and “carbon neutral ready” by 2040. And London’s Race to Zero target is to become a zero carbon city by 2030.
But there is much work still to be done, and most major economies have yet to step up to the plate. The recent Initial NDC Synthesis Report compiled by UN Climate Change on national climate action plans – NDCs – shows that countries are way off track to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to as close as possible to 1.5° Celsius by the end of the century. “Never has global expectation and political commitment been so far apart. It’s time to close that gap,” said Ms. Espinosa in her address to the meeting.
See the full speech of Ms. Espinosa below:
It’s a pleasure to be here and I thank Minister Koizumi for organizing this forum and bringing together this diverse group of State and non-State participants from around the world.
A few years ago, UN Climate Change developed a concept we call “inclusive multilateralism” – a recognition that national governments alone cannot address climate change.
Success is only possible when State and non-State actors – including civil society and especially the most vulnerable amongst us – are an active part of finding solutions to climate change.
This meeting exemplifies the spirit of inclusive multilateralism and especially the very important role of cities.
I recognize the Government of Japan for its recent climate change progress, including Prime Minister Suga’s announcement that Japan will work towards becoming a carbon-neutral society by 2050.
The public and private sectors are responding. More than 200 local and regional governments in Japan are committing to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
It shows how leadership and collaboration can accelerate measures to achieve decarbonisation.
Reaching net-zero, especially in cities, is a vital part of achieving our long-term climate goals under the Paris Agreement.
Success in 2050, however, is impossible without first completing the work of today – of 2021.
That work includes finally moving the Paris Agreement from adoption to implementation. It has been on the table for five long years.
Yet we cannot get to implementation unless we achieve success at COP26 this coming November.
Right now, nations are woefully behind. To be clear, they were behind before the pandemic began.
While we’ve seen recent signs of momentum, nations simply haven’t done enough to complete work under the Paris Agreement. Nor have they sufficiently raised climate ambition under it.
An example is the recent NDC Synthesis Report, measuring the combined impact of national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement.
It shows that current levels of climate ambition are very far from putting nations on a pathway that will meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperatures to 1.5C by the end of the century.
At the current rate, nations will achieve only less than a 1% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. The IPCC as we know calls for that reduction to be 45% lower.
That must change in 2021 and major emitters must lead. Faced with a global pandemic and an existential climate change emergency, delay is inexcusable.
COP26, held only a few months from now, must be a success. It’s a credibility test for our fight against the climate emergency.
In my view, there are four keys to success at COP26.
First, promises made must be promises kept.
That means pledges Parties made before 2020 must be honoured and completed. That means strong NDCs submitted this year and especially by major emitters.
It’s also true of the pledge by developed nations to mobilize $100 billion annually to developing nations by 2020.
Second, it’s time to wrap up outstanding negotiations and implement the Paris Agreement.
The clock has run out. Implementation is needed at all levels, especially within cities.
More people are living in cities than at any point in history. They want, and deserve to live in areas that are clean, green and healthy.
The heavy lifting will be done by people such as urban planners, architects material suppliers and many others. But they must be supported by national and local policy and investment.
We need those policies now. If we want to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, we’re talking about a time period of about thirty years. That’s the general life-span of buildings being constructed now.
Policies are needed for more than buildings. City infrastructure needs to actively encourage people to adopt sustainable habits such as walking to work, recycling household waste, adopting a more circular economy and more.
These are only a few quick examples of how implementing the Paris Agreement – and with clear plans spelled out in ambitious NDCs – can accelerate the transformations throughout society we urgently need, and especially in our cities.
The third key for success at COP26 is to raise ambition in mitigation, adaptation and finance.
The best time to raise climate ambition was yesterday. The next best time is today. Never has global expectation and political commitment been so far apart.
It’s time to close that gap. And when we’re talking about raising ambition, we’re not just talking about mitigation, but also adaptation and resilience and finance.
Fourth, we must leave no voice or solution behind.
We must re-engage with observers and Non-Party Stakeholders in a unity of purpose. Our brand of inclusive multilateralism is the only way forward. Everyone has a role to play and everyone must be involved.
We see that today.
Let us seize this moment.
Let us reach not just across borders to do it, but across jurisdictions and generations, cultures and races.
Let us build strong, resilient and sustainable cities.
Let us achieve zero emissions in 2050 and make COP26 a success this November.
Let us work to complete outstanding negotiations under the Paris Agreement, move it from adoption to implementation, boost our climate ambition and ensure all voices are heard during this crucial year.
And let us build forward, build a better future, a green future, a clean future, and a future that is healthy, safe, resilient, sustainable and prosperous for all people.