COP28 Spurs Global Urban Sustainability Partnerships

Ministerial delegates from over 40 nations convened in Dubai today to fortify their support for subnational climate action, collaborating under the umbrella of the COP28 Presidency. Their collective effort resulted in a series of groundbreaking partnerships aimed at accelerating the transition towards net-zero emissions and bolstering climate resilience specifically within urban environments.

A diverse array of partnerships was unveiled, encompassing critical sectors such as buildings, waste management, urban water resilience, and the restoration of urban natural ecosystems. These collaborations notably build upon the recent launch of the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships for Climate Action (CHAMP) on December 1. CHAMP’s expanded focus now incorporates cities and regions, emphasizing their pivotal role in shaping federal climate commitments and strategies.

Dr Al Jaber, UAE’s special envoy for climate change, and the president-designate of the COP28 emphasizing the essential contribution of mayors and governors worldwide in achieving the objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement and maintaining the 1.5°C threshold, highlighted the launch of CHAMP and underscored the collaborative efforts with entities like UN-Habitat and Bloomberg Philanthropies. The intent is to acknowledge and reinforce the critical role cities and their leaders play in combating climate change.

Dubbed the Multilevel Action, Urbanization, Built Environment, and Transport Day, the second Urban Climate Ministerial held in partnership with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28 marked the culmination of an unprecedented week. Notably, the participation of mayors and governors in the COP process reached unprecedented levels. Brazil’s Minister of Cities, HE Jader Barbalho Filho, concluded the meeting by announcing Brazil’s intentions to broaden participation and engagement for the Ministerial at COP30.

Collaboration between the COP28 Presidency and Bloomberg Philanthropies resulted in the Local Climate Action Summit (LCAS) on December 1-2, a pioneering event that welcomed over 500 subnational leaders to a COP summit for the first time. This summit also saw the announcement of nearly USD 500 million in new climate investments exclusively focused on cities.

Several flagship initiatives were launched as part of this collective effort:

1. The Buildings Breakthrough: Supported by 27 countries and spearheaded by France and Morocco, this initiative seeks to normalize ‘near-zero and resilient buildings’ by 2030. Recognizing the building sector’s significant environmental impact, the partnership aims to address nearly 40 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, half of the extracted materials, and one-third of global waste attributed to this sector.

2. The Cement Breakthrough: Canada and the UAE, along with an inaugural cohort including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan, and Germany, initiated the Cement and Concrete Breakthrough. Their goal is to establish and promote clean cement as the preferred choice in global markets, striving for near-zero emission cement production worldwide by 2030.

3. The Waste to Zero initiative: A voluntary coalition comprising governments, NGOs, and the private sector, the Waste to Zero initiative aims to decarbonize the waste management sector and repurpose waste into valuable resources. Spearheaded by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), Abu Dhabi Waste Management Company (Tadweer), and Roland Berger, it aligns with the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability.’

4. The Waste MAP: Pioneering the use of satellite monitoring to track and measure methane emissions from waste, the Waste MAP platform, developed by the Global Methane Hub, Google Foundation, and other partners, empowers local governments and NGOs to identify and mitigate methane emissions in 20 global megacities housing over 100 million people.

Continuing the momentum, two new programs aim to expedite the adoption of 15-minute city (15MC)/proximity planning policies and gauge their impact:

5. C40’s Green and Thriving Neighborhoods Program: In collaboration with Urban Partners, C40, a network of nearly 100 mayors worldwide, aims to accelerate the realization of highly liveable, walkable, and people-centric cities through the 15-minute City concept. Moreover, C40 introduced the Healthy Neighborhoods Explorer, in partnership with Novo Nordisk, to quantify the environmental and health benefits of 15MCs.

6. The Generation Restoration project: Aligned with the Paris Agreement and the Global Biodiversity Framework, this ongoing initiative supports pilot projects across eight global cities to catalyze urban ecosystem restoration and mitigate emissions.

7. Commitments to fossil fuel-free land transport: Recognizing the significance of transportation in global carbon emissions (representing around 22 per cent), the COP28 Presidency, in conjunction with various partners, organized the first-ever transport-energy ministerial at a COP. This initiative aims to decarbonize the transport sector and marked the inaugural World Sustainable Transport Day on November 26, 2023, calling for a doubling of energy-efficient and fossil-free land transport by 2030.

8. ‘A Playbook for Nature-Positive Infrastructure Development’: Developed in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC), this playbook highlights the construction sector’s role in conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, offering a comprehensive range of nature-based solutions.

These collaborative endeavours, encompassing the Buildings Breakthrough, Cement Breakthrough, Forest & Climate Leaders’ Partnership’s Greening Construction with Sustainable Wood initiative, and others, aim to facilitate intergovernmental and multi-level cooperation in response to the Global Stocktake. They provide a framework to swiftly transform the building sector, enhancing mitigation, adaptation, and resilience efforts.

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