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Urban-LEDS Hosts Side Event in UNFCCC Blue Zone

On 7 December the Urban-LEDS project, implemented by ICLEI and UN-Habitat and financed by the European Commission, held an official side event in the EU Pavilion in the presence of the heads of the organizations and a panel of mayors involved in the project.

Joan Clos, Director of UN-Habitat, opened the session by reminding the audience of the challenge and importance of supporting fast-growing cities, especially in emerging economies in their transition towards Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS), where it also means disrupting the established status quo. Clos thanked both the European Commission and ICLEI for the support they were able to provide to the 37 Urban-LEDS cities and insisted on the role of Urban-LEDS in providing practical project implementation and capacity building examples.

Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI, echoed Clos’ statement and reiterated the importance of finding solutions in cities, where rapid urbanization is a cause of high GHG emissions but also an opportunity to birth and implement ambitious solutions. These rapidly urbanizing cities must continue to develop but in a different way. Urban-LEDS is empowering them on this pathway.

Finally, Peter Craig McQuaide, speaking on behalf of DG DEVCO, reminded the audience that the European Union is an example of growth decoupled from GHG emissions. From this perspective, the EU is committed to spending at least 20% of its current budget (2014-2020) towards climate related actions, including cooperation projects with developing countries. McQuaide praised the presentations for showing how the EU-funded Urban-LEDS project was able to bring about change that would otherwise not have been possible.

Maryke van Staden, Director of the Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting (carbonn Center) presented the Urban-LEDS project, including the Solutions Gateway and Pools of Experts online platforms, as access points for information and expertise on low emission development solutions. Van Staden highlighted the GreenClimateCities methodology, which is a step-by-step process to analyze, act and accelerate local climate action. This methodology, developed specifically for local government, embodies the essence of the Urban-LEDS project: it seeks to institutionalize processes of change within local governments’ systems and capacity. As testimony of the leadership from the Urban-LEDS cities, she also saluted the numerous TAP projects submitted by Urban LEDS cities and their achievement under the Compact of Mayors. Currently 22 of the 37 cities of Urban-LEDS are committed to the Compact of Mayors.

Finally, cities took the stage to present their achievements under the Urban-LEDS project. Mayor Bima Arya of Bogor described the leadership and ambition of Bogor, despite extremely rapid rates of urbanization, a dense concentration of activity within the city center and a staggering number of new motorized vehicles on the street of Bogor (800 motorcycles and 200 cars every week). Despite these challenges and with the support of Urban-LEDS, he was able to integrated LEDS in the city’s 5 Year Mid-Term Development Plan and the city’s budget, and to implement measures such as weekly car-free days or streetlights LED retrofits.

Mayor Masina of Steve Tshwete presented the latest project that he was able to implement with the support of Urban-LEDS: the roll out of passive insulated cookers and the installation of a solar PV system on the roof of a community center, thereby benefitting local schools and kindergartens.

Vice-Mayor of Shimla, Tikender Panwar stressed the importance of developing a GHG inventory for the city of Shimla, which was made possible by the project and will be able to show how progressive, clean and attractive the city of Shimla is.

Maria Aparecida Pedrosa, Secretary of Environment for the city of Recife, Brazil, also praised the importance of capacity building as provided under Urban-LEDS to help the city develop their first GHG inventory in 2012. Thanks to the training provided by the Urban-LEDS project, the city staff was able to update the GHG inventory in 2013. The latter showed an encouraging decrease of GHG emissions of 2.5%.

Giovanna Sanche, International Relations Coordinator of the city of Sorocaba, explained that Urban-LEDS significantly helped the city in its transition to low emission development by having helped the administration identify concrete actions such as the implementation of a BRT system, legislation on green buildings or the expansion of bike lanes. Sorocaba now seeks funding to implement these actions, notably through the TAP projects.

To conclude the evening, Leszek Drogosz, Director of the Department of Infrastructure of Warsaw, shared a few impressions on the Global Exchange program under Urban-LEDS. Through the Global Exchange, model and satellite cities were able to go on a European Study tour hosted by the European Urban-LEDS cities. The entire Urban-LEDS network also convened in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and Bogor to share experiences and best practices. Drogosz noted that the cities quickly became true friends, which enabled them to share their visions, ideas and challenges, proving that despite their different backgrounds cities have a lot of the same goals and can find support and inspiration in this friendly cooperation.