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Copenhagen’s Results: Targets, Transparency, and Resources

by Art von Lehe, ICLEI Policy Analyst Jan 04, 2010

COP Mayor Nickels and Mexico City Mayor

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels confer
outside ICLEI's Climate Lounge during the Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Many expected COP15 would produce a treaty to take over where the Kyoto Protocol leaves off when it expires in 2012. Instead, the outcome of COP15 was “The Copenhagen Accord,” and the hard work of reaching a treaty is now left for further COP meetings. For months leading up to COP15, the expectations for results were downgraded from “full treaty” to “agreements,” as a result of intense international negotiating gridlock. While a binding treaty was in fact not reached, progress was made and local governments will continue to lead the way.

The Copenhagen Accord, negotiated between President Obama and the leaders of a handful of nations including China and India, was struck at the eleventh hour as the Conference teetered on total collapse.

The resulting Accord is a political agreement, as opposed to a legal one, since some nations opposed adopting the Accord. Thus, the Conference of the Parties decided to “take note” of the agreement with a handful of nations, out of 193, speaking out in opposition. Had there been consensus surrounding the Accord, the result would still have fallen short of the legal force found in fully ratified treaties.

While the Accord is not legally binding, it is “politically binding” in the sense that a nation in breach can expect diplomatic responses including shaming, and withholding of discretionary funding; these tools are considered by some international experts enough to mark the Accord as a real set of commitments.

While the Accord fails to mention local governments; earlier versions of U.N. negotiating texts, which are endorsed by the Accord, include local governments as actors in the struggle to combat catastrophic climate change. The inclusion of local government provisions in the negotiating texts are a result of ICLEI’s sustained engagement in the U.N. process.

Three Points of Progress

While the Accord is not a treaty, nor does it include local government language, it provides three dramatic results that represent hard-earned international progress: targets, transparency, and resources. Breaking through on these points represents movement from frozen gridlock between developing and developed nations that has existed for years. However, there is still much work to be done, and recognition and empowerment of local governments must be included in the post 2012 framework for effective international climate action to be successfully implemented.

1) Targets
The Accord achieved for the first time in history the agreement between all major emitters, developed and developing nations alike, to commit to real emissions targets. These targets are to be added to the agreement by January 31, 2010. Most experts expect these targets to be consistent with those numbers already released leading up to COP15. Local governments across the world have forged the way by already committing to and in many cases reaching their goals for reducing GHGs.

Under the Accord, developed nations agree to “commit to implement” emissions targets for 2020 while developing nations agree to “implement mitigation actions,” and least developed nations and small island nations “may undertake actions voluntarily and on the basis of support.”

The parties additionally agreed to a long-term goal by recognizing the scientific call to keep global average temperatures from rising 2° C. The Accord also calls for a review of this 2° C goal by 2015 to consider strengthening the agreement to prevent a temperature rise above 1.5° C.
2) Transparency
Often referred to as “measurement, reporting and verification,” the concept of transparency was a major sticking point, particularly between the United States and China. After much wrangling, an agreement was finally reached.

Developed nations agreed that emissions targets and delivery of financing will be measured, reported and verified “in accordance with existing and any further guidelines.” Local governments have for years been in the business of measurement, reporting and verification – a detailed report of progress achieved by ICLEI USA’s membership is outlined in our recent report, “Measuring Up.”

Under the Accord, developing nations agreed to “be subject to their domestic” measurement, reporting and verification and subject to “international consultation and analysis under clearly defined guidelines.” Developing nation actions receiving international support will be subject to international accountability guidelines.
3) Resources
One major point of contention between developed and developing nations was that of resources to combat and adapt to climate change. Basic agreements were met on the major points which included finance, technology, adaptation, and deforestation.

Throughout the negotiating texts leading up to the eventual post-Kyoto treaty, local governments are mentioned. For a detailed analysis of local government considerations in the international negotiations leading up to Copenhagen, see our COP15 Briefing Book.

  • Finance: The Accord calls for “scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding” for developing countries to support mitigation, adaptation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building. Developed nations to provide a mix of public and private funds (in USD) on the order of: $30 billion between 2010-2012; and $100 billion per year by 2020.
  • Technology: The Accord established a new technology mechanism to accelerate the development and transfer of technology for adaptation and mitigation.
  • Adaptation: Developed nations "shall provide adequate, predictable, and sustainable” funding, technology and capacity building for adaptation in developing nations.
  • Deforestation: The Accord calls for the “immediate establishment of a mechanism … to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries” to support actions that enhance forest sinks and reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation. Deforestation was not included in the Kyoto Protocol and represents nearly 20 percent of all GHG emissions worldwide.


Moving Forward

Copenhagen demonstrated that it is a difficult task to reach global consensus upon the details of a legal architecture designed to overhaul the world’s energy economy. This massive equation involves not only the heads of state and diplomats that attended the meeting, but their systems of government and political complexities back home. The United States is a perfect example of this dynamic, and President Obama was careful to carry commitments that would not exceed the current congressional trajectory (see our take on the latest congressional signals and what it may mean for localities).

Looking forward, the successor to the Kyoto Protocol that was scheduled to be finalized in Copenhagen is expected now to possibly emerge from the next annual U.N. Conference –COP16, to be held in Mexico City.

Read ICLEI USA's final statement on Copenhagen: Local Governments Merit Seat at the Table Post-Copenhagen

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Tough Questions From a Copenhagen Postmortem

by Don Knapp Dec 27, 2009

Warning sign with question mark


The distance of two weeks has given Bill Becker a clearer perspective on the chaos that was Copenhagen. Becker writes a brief postmortem on SolveClimate, looking at what happened and didn't happen at COP15 from the U.S. perspective. The results are deflating to say the least, and beg the question:

If global expectations, sobering science and basic human compassion did not work at Copenhagen, what will? What hope is there for a better outcome next year, or anytime soon?

The U.S. Senate doesn't currently inspire that hope, but Becker, the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, is already considering the possibility that we must look beyond them:

If there is a silver lining in the storm clouds that gathered over Copenhagen, it may be the full realization that government will not solve the climate problem — that we in business, in civil society, in communities and states, and in our roles as consumers and investors — must take responsibility at the grass roots.

At ICLEI, we couldn't agree more about the importance of these emerging roles. But we're still staying hopeful that strong federal climate legislation can complement local and grassroots actions.

Two other great reads are the New York Time's op-ed assessment of Copenhagen and the work ahead, and the Washington Post's take on Obama's tough fight to get Senate support for his Copenhagen pledges.


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Mayor Hays: Let's Finish This Job

by Patrick Hays, Mayor of North Little Rock, AR; President and Board Chair of ICLEI USA Dec 18, 2009

Mayor Patrick Hays in Copenhagen

Mayor Patrick Hays of North Little Rock, AR, speaks to reporters outside ICLEI's
Climate Lounge during the Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Despite its shortcomings, the Copenhagen climate summit marked a historic shift in the global response to climate change. We commend the progress made, the paradigm shifts in the right direction, the momentum it built, and the foundation that was laid for bolder action in the near future.

Unfortunately, for the more than 1,200 local government representatives like me who went to Copenhagen with a high bar, the question remains: Why is it that national governments are failing where local governments have long succeeded? If the international community had followed the lead of local governments in seeking and implementing ambitious climate solutions, we would be well on our way to solving the challenge of climate change.

In the coming months, local government leaders – along with other subnational entities like states and, increasingly, the corporate sector – must be brought to the table in a more substantive capacity. We didn’t wait for the federal government or any international negotiating body to set the terms for dealing with climate change, and as such we’re at the forefront of the solutions – economic, environmental, technological and political – that now need international backing.

There will be several opportunities in the near future to bring these leaders into the fold, starting with the climate talks in Bonn in late May and leading up to COP16 in Mexico. The World Mayors Council on Climate Change, under the leadership of Mayor Marcelo Ebrard of Mexico City, will engage committed mayors from all over the world in strong climate advocacy.

In addition to having a legitimate seat at the table, in the coming months local governments must continue to do what we have for years: lead the way. The outcome of Copenhagen makes local government climate leadership and emissions reductions initiatives more imperative than ever.

As elected officials, we know the power and potential of bold commitments and visionary collaboration; we desperately need both now. World leaders still have a responsibility to commit the world to reduce emissions quickly and dramatically, to avoid the thresholds of dangerous climate disruption. We need a binding agreement that opens up clean pathways out of poverty in developing nations. It must launch a clean energy revolution that transforms and revitalizes our economies. It must deliver solutions as big as the problem.

At ICLEI USA we have already reached out to the Obama Administration including the State Department to start a substantive dialog that will drive the process, post-Copenhagen, of opening the door for more local government participation.

Our message is clear: Bring local governments in as partners, give us a seat at the table and let us share in this responsibility. We are ready. Let’s finish this job so we can all start working together on the real job that lies ahead.

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New York Times: Mayors Seek Role in Climate Regulation

by Don Knapp Dec 16, 2009

COP15 Climate Lounge


Article reposted from NYT's Green Inc. Blog
December 17, 2009
By James Kanter

One of the busiest corners of the packed building where the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen is taking place belongs to a group called Local Governments for Sustainability.

The group has been holding standing-room-only presentations since the beginning of the conference, with mayors including Michael Bloomberg and Marcelo Ebrard of Mexico City presenting their environmental achievements and lobbying for a leading role in any agreement that emerges this week.

The group has 1,100 delegates at the conference, the second largest number after the host government Denmark.

That number also is a measure of the growing effort by cities and towns — where half the world’s population live — to win more influence over efforts to tackle climate change and to access more funding to put their sustainability policies into action.

Many of the delegates underlined that the bulk of emissions reductions that will be made under any climate accord would require major changes in the building stock and transportation systems of cities, which are home to half the world’s population and a huge proportion of global economic activity.

Mr. Bloomberg said this week that the United States government should have directed more stimulus money to cities, while Mr. Ebrard of Mexico City said that the spectacle of seeing nations at the summit still dominating talks over future policies on climate change has been nothing short of exasperating.

“This is the 21st century,” he told a packed presentation this week. He called for greater input from citizens and their local representatives and “not simply negotiations among heads of state as we did in the 20th century.”

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Disappointment in Copenhagen as Local Leaders Are Turned Away

by Annie Strickler Dec 16, 2009

COP15 general scene

Below is the text of a statement released by ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability today in Copenhagen in response to the failure to include local governments in a substantive capacity in or allow basic access to the international climate negotiations. More than 1,100 people came to Copenhagen representing local governments from around the world, only to be turned away in these final days.

Read why we find this unfortunate and unacceptable:


Why is it that national governments are failing where local governments have long succeeded? If the international community had followed the lead of local governments in seeking and implementing ambitious climate solutions, we would be well on our way to solving the challenge of climate change. Instead we find ourselves in Copenhagen on the brink of letting down people from every corner of the planet.

It has been not only days, but years, that we have asked to join with you in this discussion. Since the Rio Convention of 1992 we have supportively stood by you as world leaders with the unending hope and deep belief that you consistently and sincerely find a basis for agreement to effectively address climate change. We trusted you. It has now been 17 years with very little progress on your part.

Different from recent international climate summits, as we headed to Copenhagen this December both our hopes and anxieties were high. Despite headlines chastising the world’s biggest emitters and international leadership for their failure to come to an agreement, we were genuinely hopeful.

As elected officials, we know the power and potential of bold commitments and visionary collaboration. Both of those are required here in Copenhagen, yet they have been trumped at COP15.

We have offered to sit at the table with you and help inform your process. We have asked to be involved with a growing insistence represented by a chorus of local and sub–national leaders from across the world representing all large emitters from developing and developed countries.

We as local elected officials value deeply the obligations that our public roles commit us to. To that end, we cannot return to our homes and constituents without having come to Copenhagen and delivered the message we want you to hear.

It is our demand that the world leaders, Heads of State and the United Nations commit to a strong outcome here in Copenhagen; if not binding it must be operational and set a date within six months for established and binding language. It must commit the world to reduce emissions quickly and dramatically, to avoid the thresholds of dangerous climate disruption.  It must open up clean pathways out of poverty in developing nations. It must launch a clean energy revolution that transforms and revitalizes our economies.  It must deliver solutions as big as the problem.

Do not underestimate our voice, our willingness and power to act and our ability to mobilize. We are hundreds of local leaders around the world supported by millions of people who have long demanded action. We are here to work with you. Let us serve as a resource to you. We are here to help you as are the other expert stakeholders that have come together in historic numbers here in Copenhagen. We understand the political and financial risks that feed your uncertainty; our first-hand experience is proof to allay those fears.

Why do your negotiations exclude the government actors who have demonstrated the political will and practical ability to start solving this global problem? The stakes are too high to be constrained by an antiquated process that mutes the voices of millions. Bring us in as partners, give us a seat at the table and let us share in this responsibility.

Bring us in as partners, give us a seat at the table and let us share in this responsibility. Local and subnational governments should not be underestimated. We are ready. We accept our responsibilities to implement your agreement. Finish this job so we can all start working together on the real job that lies ahead.


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Closed Doors Instead of a Seat at the Table

by Annie Strickler Dec 16, 2009

Closed Green Doors

Photo credit: maistora via Flickr Creative Commons

As COP15 in Copenhagen both draws to a close while also accelerating with the arrival of Heads of State including President Obama, tens of thousands of the summit’s participants have been locked out of this historic meeting.

These are the people who made the first week of the conference so energetic, passionate and promising. They – I should say “We” – range from youth delegates to CEOs to mayors to indigenous people to veterans. We are of all political persuasions and races and regions of our planet.

And, in the case of mayors and other local government leaders, they are the people who will ultimately determine the success of any policy agreed upon by these international negotiators. Energy is used in cities and saved in cities. Harmful greenhouse gas emissions are created in cities and reduced in cities. And the solutions to our collective challenges will be created and implemented in cities.

Yet local governments – representatives of which were more than 1,100 strong at Copenhagen which was the second-largest delegation at COP15 – had their access to the summit slashed late Wednesday night. Less than 20 members of the local government group were allowed in today. (Rumor has it the UNFCCC accredited 45,000 people for a venue that has a 15,000 capacity)

We were never given a real seat at the table, but at least we were given access to the decision makers and afforded an opportunity to make our voices heard. Today that access was denied.

What can’t be denied is that local governments have for decades been critical in solving the climate challenge and will be critical in the same vein for decades to come. The doors at Copenhagen may have been closed, but cities are innovative and will only find more doors to open.

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Sir Nicholas Stern Recognizes the Role of Cities

by Don Knapp Dec 16, 2009


Sir Nicholas Stern lends his support for the recognition of the role of cities in addressing climate change during an official side event held on 16 December 2009, during COP15 in Copenhagen. Mayors from 100 leading cities sent a united and strong message to nations and the UN on behalf of cities and local governments world-wide, that cities act and must be recognised as a key partner in tackling climate change.

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Mayor Bloomberg Spotlights the Message Behind the Message

by Don Knapp Dec 15, 2009

Speech by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at ICLEI event during COP15 from ICLEI Global on Vimeo.

Mayor Bloomberg didn’t mince words in his opening talk during ICLEI’s panel discussion on Tuesday: Cities need direct funding for climate mitigation. Cities produce approximately 75 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and worldwide, so you have to send the money to where the problem exists, and where climate impacts will be felt first.

That’s been an oft-repeated headline in the media over the past week, of course. But Mayor Bloomberg drove home the crucial secondary message that isn’t always getting through: Local governments need to be empowered not only because they’re responsible for GHG emissions, but because they’ve proven they know how to implement climate action measures successfully and efficiently.

Climate change is a monolithic problem for governments to tackle. (breaking news, right?) Where do you start? What are the most practical and cost-effective measures to implement? Local governments have already developed a playbook and defined a roadmap for emissions reductions. Mayor Bloomberg highlighted the success of New York’s approach, through its PlaNYC sustainability plan, the new green buildings legislation, and a commitment to accountability.

When you watch the video, also take note of the way Mayor Bloomberg frames the importance of climate action in New York:

We’ve had an environmental agenda that unchokes our economy, cleans up our air, saves us some money, and as a byproduct, helps stop us from destroying the planet. I’ve always thought that if you want to make process, you have to bring [the topic of climate change] back to something that’s near term and personal, otherwise people talk about it but aren’t committed to it, and certainly aren’t willing to spend their money and time to change it.


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African City Calls for Collaboration and Support from Local Governments in Industrialized Nations

by wesleylook Dec 15, 2009

Rainbow People Joining to Surround Globe

At the heart of the international debate in Copenhagen is the question of how, and to what extent, developed nations like the United States will provide financial and technical support to developing nations. At a COP15 meeting held this week at the ICLEI Local Government Climate Lounge, a similar dialogue unfolded between local government leaders.

In a meeting that brought together mayors from cities such as Kyoto, Mexico City, and Bonn, Mr. Saleh Maalim Alio, councilmember of the municipality of Madera in Eastern Kenya, called on counterparts in the United States, Europe and other parts of the industrialized world to commit to stronger networking and information exchange. Mr. Saleh Maalim Alio asked that local governments from developed nations “partner with, provide support to, and assist local governments in developing countries.”

Mr. Maalim Alio made a presentation during the panel session, outlining the well-known fact that while developing nations—particularly those close to the equator—have contributed the least to the global glut of greenhouse gasses, they will experience the most numerous and severe climate change impacts. He went on to explain the ways in which a strange and devastating cycle of drought and flooding has developed in his area over recent years, disrupting agriculture and stability. His presentation included shocking images of desiccated goat corpses in the desert sands and barren crop lands that had once brought sustaining yields.

When asked about the feasibility of partnering with local governments from the developing world, one US mayor said that it would be nearly impossible for her to win the support to run such a program without outside funding. She noted the pressing economic situation at home, and that she could not imagine her city council or citizens getting behind an initiative to help an African city, when she is currently having to layoff police officers and balance her own budget. She went on to say that with foundation or other outside funding it could indeed be a great partnership opportunity—especially for university towns or between a city and an organization like ICLEI, which could be responsible for the logistical coordination, research and facilitation of information exchange.

Following his presentation, Mr. Saleh Maalim Alio noted that the support that his community could most use would be in the areas of funding, technology transfer and capacity-building. He said that many communities in the area are in a similar position: they need capacity building and training for the local leaders as well as community members and farmers, and of course they need funding.

One of the challenges in this type of partnership is that the municipalities from developing nations primarily need support in adaptation efforts, while most cities from the industrialized world are focusing on mitigation. Local government representatives have argued that the best partnerships are those where each partner benefits from the relationship, rather than it being a one-way street of knowledge transfer. It is possible that partnerships between developed and developing cities could focus on projects and policies that aim to address mitigation and adaptation simultaneously—an area that does demand much more emphasis and that will become increasingly important as climate impacts increase in all parts of the globe while the imperative to reduce emissions grows in severity.

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Mayors Meet With State Department to Discuss Role of Local Governments

by wesleylook Dec 15, 2009

People chain - Green link

The ICLEI USA delegation of mayors and county supervisors has been active in engaging US State Department senior negotiators here in Copenhagen. The ICLEI USA delegation met with a representative from the US team of federal negotiators once this past Sunday and again on Tuesday to discuss the important role of local governments in the fight against climate change. These meetings have hit upon a range of topics, from emissions accounting methodologies to the UNFCCC treaty language being debated in the plenary halls and cluttered delegation offices throughout the COP 15.

The primary topic of discussion between the US State Department and US local governments has been UNFCCC treaty text that addresses the vital role of sub-national governments in the successful implementation of all climate protection policies. Local governments are often cited informally as key partners in the implementation of climate protection—from mitigation to adaptation—however, there has not yet been broad-spread recognition of this role within national and international climate protection frameworks. ICLEI USA delegates have requested the support of federal negotiators in ensuring that treaty language include mention of local and state government, and that local agencies are empowered and supported to the greatest extent possible. 

Currently, local governments are mentioned in the draft treaty text in three primary places, however each day there is a new pile of treaty re-drafts at the COP “Documents” desk, reflecting constant revisions to treaty language. ICLEI USA is working hard to retain this language, and as the final week of the COP 15 comes to a close many are concerned that this language could be cut from the text.

Former Mayor of Albuquerque, NM, Martin Chavez implored US State Department representatives today. He said, “We are your partners, we want to be there with you on this issue. If we walk away from this conference and we’re not recognized, but yet will have the obligations to implement, it will be disappointing for us.”

In addition to the international treaty-making process, the ICLEI USA delegation has talked with the US State Department about the importance of establishing policy frameworks that do not penalize local government early adopters (who have already picked the “low-hanging fruit”), as well as the need for a standard US emissions analysis protocol with cohesion between local, state, federal and even international levels.

The State Department has been extremely supportive of comments from the ICLEI USA delegation, and has indicated a commitment to defending and advocating for treaty language that does indeed address and empower local authority. Federal representatives have also expressed interest in continuing to strengthen the ties between federal and local government in the United States. The remarks of Gainsville, FL Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan at the session today captured the nature of the relationship well: “I want to thank you for your openness and your continued willingness to engage and support our efforts. I feel that we have a true ally here. We stand ready to help, and we encourage you to retain the treaty language that recognizes the role of local governments.”

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