Urban areas in South Asia are directly feeling the impacts of climate change, facing rising temperatures and extreme weather events. It’s crucial for these cities to act urgently to protect infrastructure, vulnerable populations, and promote sustainable development amidst these challenges.

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM) represents the world’s largest global alliance for city climate leadership, uniting over 13,000+ cities. As of March 2024, GCoM’s commitment has grown to include cities from six continents and 144 countries, representing over a billion people. The GCoM South Asia (SA) is one of the regional chapters of this alliance, focusing on the unique needs and circumstances of the regional context covering 48 cities in the SA region, representing 108 million people.

Cities part of GCoM collaborate to work towards a resilient, low-emission development, tackling climate and economic crises through local initiatives, innovative financing models, and sustainable infrastructure. The GCoM provides a platform where cities and partners can commit to significant climate action, with a focus on both mitigation and adaptation strategies. The GCoM SA segment works closely with local, national, and regional stakeholders to accelerate climate action by building technical capacity, guiding climate action planning, and facilitating access to climate finance.

ICLEI South Asia, as the GCoM SA Technical Coordinator, has implemented a multifaceted strategy to enhance the capacity of local governments and other stakeholders in the region to address climate change and related challenges. Efforts have been comprehensive, extending across cities and sectors, involving capacity building, technical support on the preparation of climate action plans (CAPs) and support on accessing climate finance. These endeavours aim to accelerate the implementation of national climate commitments and the Global Paris Agreement.

Here, we take a look at the scale of efforts by the GCoM SA Technical Coordinator since its inception in 2022.


Helping Cities Achieve Climate Goals

Developing climate action plans that adhere to the criteria outlined in the GCoM’s Common Reporting Framework (CRF) and aligning with national and global climate commitments is crucial. In this regard, GCoM SA Technical Coordinator has conducted the review of Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAPs) for six Indian cities: Bhavnagar, Surat, Gangtok, Gandhinagar, Vadodara, and Panaji. The SECAPs is a planning document for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, enhancing climate resilience, and addressing energy poverty for a just transition. The SECAPs include both mitigation and adaptation actions, focusing on sectors where local authorities can aim for long-term impacts. The review of SECAPs for signatory cities included a Baseline Emission Inventory and a Climate Risks and Vulnerability Assessment, which are updated every two years. The detailed set of recommendations have been useful for these cities in updating and finalising their climate action plans to receive GCoM Badges. 

Tailored to the unique needs of Bhavnagar in Gujarat, the GCoM CRF compliant Climate Resilient City Action Plan (CRCAP) is being prepared to promote urban climate resilience. ICLEI South Asia partnered with Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation to develop the CRCAP using the ClimateResilientCities (CRC) Methodology, aligning with GCoM’s CRF. An MoU was signed between Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation and ICLEI South Asia during the 10th Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in January 2024. With the aim to assist Bhavnagar in identifying climate risks and securing the city’s infrastructure resilience, the CRCAP includes a Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories (GPC) compliant emissions inventory, and a climate risk and vulnerability assessment and long list of mitigation and adaptation measures. 


Mobilising Climate Finance to GCoM South Asian Cities

Access to climate finance is a priority for Asia and the Pacific when governments are formulating strategies for a green and resilient recovery and to fund the climate-resilient infrastructure development and implementation. Adequate finance is essential for cities to further efforts for their respective countries to achieve their climate mitigation and adaptation goals under national climate commitments (NDCs) and the global Paris Agreement. As a result, engagement with financial entities, and establishing and maintaining dialogue with International Financial Institutions (IFIs), donors, and commercial banks is important for identifying and pursuing financing opportunities for climate projects. 

ICLEI South Asia has prepared the ‘South Asian Cities Climate Finance Landscape’ to disseminate information regarding national and international financial instruments applicable to cities in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. This initiative aims to guide cities on available opportunities on climate finance mobilisation to support the implementation of effective climate change mitigation, adaptation strategies, and resilience-building measures. By providing a comprehensive overview of available financial tools and resources, including grants, loans, and technical assistance programs, the report equips cities with the necessary information to navigate the complex landscape of climate finance. Moreover, it highlights the importance of fostering collaboration between local governments, national authorities, and international agencies to unlock funding streams and support the implementation of sustainable and climate-resilient development initiatives in South Asian cities. This landscape was launched at GCoM regional workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 2023.

To facilitate access to climate finance, the larger focus has been on promoting knowledge exchange and partnerships among stakeholders to leverage each other’s experiences through a range of capacity-building initiatives and assist cities in identifying climate finance mechanisms for urban climate projects. This includes supporting the preparation of Expressions of Interest (EOIs) and developing project applications to access technical assistance for project preparation and feasibility assessment and accessing climate finance. SA cities were also supported in submitting EOIs and applications to project preparation facilities and financing mechanisms, such as the GCoM Bankable Cities’ Climate Projects, City GAP Fund and the Urban Transitions Mission. Recently, under the GCoM Bankable Cities’ Climate Projects, cities such as Siliguri and Udaipur were chosen to receive support on conducting detailed technical and economic assessments on river restoration initiative and business model for green mobility zones, respectively.


South Asian cities awarded GCoM Mitigation and Adaptation Badges

The CDP-ICLEI Track, GCoM’s official reporting platform, helps cities to track a wide array of urban sustainability actions and progress on climate campaigns for comprehensive accountability mechanisms. It includes five modules that cities use to report on their climate actions: Adaptation, which assesses vulnerabilities and risks; Mitigation, focusing on greenhouse gas emissions inventory and reduction efforts; Energy Access and Poverty, evaluating energy consumption and addressing energy poverty; Procurement, reporting on sustainable procurement practices; and Water, gathering data on water sources and consumption for sustainable management. These modules are aligned with international frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Race to Resilience, ensuring that the reported data supports global climate action planning and reporting.

In the South Asia region, nearly 30 cities have been reporting on the CDP-ICLEI Track annually across countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan.

Reporting and recognition efforts have been robust with a large number of cities actively responding on the CDP-ICLEI Track and over 18 cities being awarded Mitigation and Adaptation Badges. Of the 18, 14 cities were supported by ICLEI SA in preparing and implementing CRCAPs, with funding support from multiple donors such as the European Union, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The badge system under the Track recognises the climate action progress of cities. These badges (which include mitigation, adaptation, and energy access), are awarded based on compliance with the CRF requirements. 


Networking and Building Technical Capacity for Decision Makers

Another effort has been the GCoM Asia webinar series — thematic webinars and knowledge exchange sessions marked strides in urban climate action. A webinar on ‘Integrated Climate Action Planning and Reporting for South Asian Cities’ drew participation from 71 regional stakeholders, demonstrating collaboration aimed at enhancing climate action coherence and accountability for the region. Another session on ‘Holistic Management of Waste to Promote Circularity in South Asian Cities’ discussed the critical integration of circular economy concepts into waste management. The pressing challenge of heat stress was addressed in another webinar ‘Rising Vulnerability to Heat Stress: Actions and Strategies for SA Cities’ to discuss strategies for enhancing adaptive capacity to heat risks. Overall, more than 200 officials have received training on climate action planning, waste management, and heat stress resilience. These training exercises have been crucial in supporting local governments with the knowledge and skills required to tackle climate change effectively.

The dissemination of knowledge has been a key priority, with ICLEI South Asia producing seven technical reports and case studies. These reports include an analysis of climate finance in South Asia cities, case studies on capacity building for low-carbon and climate-resilient development, and detailed reports on promoting sustainable urban development practices in SA cities. The ‘Climate Finance in South Asian Cities: A Landscape Review,’ provides a critical analysis of the financial mechanisms available for climate efforts. Case studies such as the ‘Capacity Building of Indian Cities on Low-Carbon and Climate Resilient Development’, which showcases successful strategies and outcomes in urban sustainability projects. Other key knowledge products include detailed progress reports on CAPs that monitor and guide the climate-related efforts in SA cities. A case study on capacity building for low-carbon and climate-resilient development in Indian cities was prepared for GCoM Playbook illustrating the strategies employed and progress made. 


Showcasing efforts at the global diaspora

Earlier this year, ICLEI South Asia participated in the GCoM Annual Open House 2024 held from 28 February to 1 March 2024. This seminal event, which took place in Brussels, Belgium, was a gathering of GCoM secretariats and partners from across the globe, providing a forum for discussing lessons learned, exchanging updates, and soliciting feedback on various global activities. 

The Open House provided a distinctive platform for the GCoM SA Technical Coordinator and partners to foster closer collaboration, exploring strategies for climate action in cities, and highlighted the impact of GCoM’s initiatives. A strong emphasis was placed on the importance of monitoring, evaluation, and reporting systems, all crucial for the long-term sustainability of climate action efforts in SA.  

Discussions during the Global-Regional Coherence (GRC) Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting focused on topics such as the refinement of the badging system for the simplified Common Reporting Framework (CRF), reference for GCoM signatories for engagement and reporting, and strategies for re-engaging dormant cities. During the Open House, ICLEI SA showcased efforts in supporting climate action planning and implementation, highlighting assistance provided to 48 cities in the region through strategic initiatives such as the Urban Transition Mission, City Climate Gap Fund, training sessions, and Business Matchmaking. 

The integrated approach of the GCoM SA Technical Coordinator showcases a dedicated effort to strengthen regional resilience to climate change. By focusing on technical support, knowledge management, financial dialogue, and capacity building, ICLEI South Asia has set a foundation for impactful and sustainable climate action across South Asian cities. 

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