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City actors commit to action at UN Climate Summit

Posted 24 September, 04:50 pm

New York, 23 September 2014: National and local governments, mayors, financial institutions, and private sector companies have made robust commitments to the fight against climate change as the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, highlighted cities as one of the key areas of action that need attention.

Mr Ban was speaking at the Climate Change Summit taking place at the UN Headquarters, announcing several key commitments being made today by the world’s nations and cities.

“Today a coalition of more than 200 mayors, representing 400 million people, will sign a Mayor’s Compact to reduce annual emissions by between 12.4 and 16.4 per cent,” said Mr Ban in his press conference highlighting the main announcements of the day.

In his statement, Mr Ban said that he hoped for solid actions to come from the meeting, rather than just talking, a sentiment echoed by Dr Joan Clos, UN-Habitat Executive Director in his opening at the City Policy Room session.

“What is more important than our contribution is our willingness to think together and work towards adaptation and resilience,” he said. “[We have a] double responsibility – to diminish the greenhouse gas emissions in cities – especially in the developing world – and a high responsibility to protect our citizens against risks of climate change.”

In contrast to many previous UN conferences, the Summit has focused on the inclusion of institutional partners, international organisations and in particular financial institutions and the private sector, with a strong focus on mobilising finance for climate change action.

One such case, the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance, also announced today, is a coalition of organisations, countries and private sector companies established to leverage the funds needed to bridge the estimated USD1 trillion gap needed for low-carbon and climate resilient infrastructure in urban areas.

The call for greener urban mass transportation also came across clearly during the Summit, with a commitment to increase the number of electric vehicles in cities to least 30 per cent of all new vehicles sold on annual basis by 2030 while simultaneously developing the enabling infrastructure for their effective use through the Urban Electric Mobility Initiative (UEMI). The initiative is supported by private companies including Chinese car manufacturer BYD, Mahindra Reva, and Michelin, one of the two largest tire manufacturers in the world, as well as UN-Habitat.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a shift towards sustainable transport is essential to prevent greenhouse gas emissions by transport from doubling by the middle of the century and to achieve the internationally agreed goal of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperature.

In a visual analogy, the Head of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Christina Figueres described action against climate change as a cart being pulled by two oxen: “One oxen is cities, one is the private sector,” she said. “Cities are at the nexus between government and citizens as well as the nexus between the public and private sectors.”