Cities in South Asia and other regions of the Global South are facing some of the most severe impacts of climate change. These impacts are often exacerbated by a combination of geographical, socio-economic, and environmental factors. According to the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2023, in a scenario of 2°C warming, disaster-related mortality and economic damage will result in annual losses close to $1 trillion, or 3% of the region’s GDP. If Asia wants to continue its economic growth, combat poverty, and reduce climate risk, it would need to invest about US$1.7 trillion in infrastructure each year through 2030, as per an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study.
Failure to act promptly, inaction, or insufficient action will lead to a persistent loss of lives, breakdown of essential urban infrastructure, financial strain on public authorities, and societal imbalances. Mitigation and adaptation strategies are crucial, including sustainable urban planning, climate-resilient infrastructure, green spaces, renewable energy and community engagement. International cooperation and support play a vital role in assisting cities in the Global South.
Key Achievements of COP28
The recently concluded 28th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Expo City, Dubai, held from November 30 to December 12, 2023, was marked by some of the most significant achievements in the history of COP sessions. Some of the critical ones include the first ever signalling by countries of the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era by recognising the need to transition away from fossil fuels. Cities and subnational authorities have been taking an active role in promoting multi-level action as current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are not on track to keep us on the 1.5ºC pathway.
The operationalisation of the loss and damage (L&D) fund, with commitments of around $700 million from the United Arab Emirates, United States, Japan and the European Union, provides direct access to subnational governments for addressing the urgent effects of climate change. The COP28 Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnership (CHAMP) saw over 70 nations committing to collaborative efforts, with local and subnational governments to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
A historic Local Climate Action Summit, convened on the sidelines of COP28, saw a $65 million commitment from UN Special Envoy Michael R. Bloomberg to support local leadership for climate actions. On December 6th, COP28’s Multilevel Action, Urbanisation and Built Environment Day was anchored by the second Ministerial Meeting on Urbanisation and Climate Change of the COP process. A wide range of ministers, regional and local leaders, financial institutions, and non-governmental stakeholders came together for the high-level event to decide on a set of multilevel, Paris-aligned actions for cooperation in the UNFCCC domain. These actions were centred on cooperative policy and financing for sustainable urbanisation across sectors such as buildings, waste, transport, water, energy, and nature. Another breakthrough was of 118 countries setting targets to triple renewable power generation capacity to touch 11,000 GW and double energy efficiency this decade.
Further, the UN Secretary-General’s “Early Warnings for All” Initiative was also launched, which aims to protect everyone from hazardous weather, water, or climate through life-saving early warning systems by the end of 2027. Another milestone of COP28 was to reach consensus on targets for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), providing global standards for resilience to climate change and outlining requirements for funding, technology, and capacity-building assistance.
Immediate Priorities for South Asian cities
In order to finance the implementation of priority climate action, Climate Action Plans (CAPs) should have an efficient resource mobilisation plan that looks beyond their own internal budget allocation to include new and alternative sources of funding. To plan and carry out climate activities, cities can make use of the integrated and systematic ClimateResilientCities (CRC) methodology. In the region, about 12 cities have planned and conducted climate initiatives using the CRC Methodology. Cities should address financial challenges, clean up accounting records, improve revenue, control spending, and manage debt. Seeking creditworthiness and securing non-grant finance through climate-smart urban development can support a transition to climate resilience.
ICLEI South Asia at COP28
ICLEI South Asia was proud to support the successful convening of the Multilevel Action and Urbanisation Pavilion, the home for local and regional governments in the COP28 Blue Zone, hosted by ICLEI and UN-Habitat with support from other partners. The Local Governments and Municipal Authorities delegation consisted of more than 500+ representatives, including 150+ mayors, governors, councillors and other local and subnational leaders who demonstrated how they are driving transformative climate actions in their local communities.
Over two weeks, ICLEI South Asia, with partner support, held sessions focusing on climate solutions, innovation and finance in the framework of specific needs and priorities for G20, G7, Global South and the Asia Pacific. The aim was to unite, act and deliver measurable climate initiatives for a low-emission, resilient future with support from diverse stakeholders, including subnational and national governments, policymakers, youth, and experts. The events highlighted ICLEI South Asia’s members’ efforts in urban climate action.
A big thanks to ICLEI member cities, funders, and partners for their crucial role in making engagement at COP28 successful, emphasising the importance of collaboration in promoting integrated climate-resilient development.
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