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First City peer-exchange and learning on Low Emission Development

Seventeen of the 37 Urban-LEDS project cities came together at the 1st Exchange in South Africa to connect, exchange and explore ideas. Political leaders and technical staff learned from experts and one another, exploring urban low emission development, energy security, climate change and the challenges they face. This peer exchange launched the informal twinning between cities and people in the project to foster peer-learning and knowledge exchange.

Group photo

Ms. Boliya Raghubhai, Mayor of Rajkot, India

Networking and peer exchange are essential elements when addressing local climate action. Every city, every local government has its own unique context, yet there are also many similarities and a lot of existing guidance and knowledge. This, combined with a keen interest in learning from one another, forms part of the international City Network. Hosted by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality on 27-29 November 2013, a Seminar was organized, gathering cities from six countries in South Africa.  Ms. Boliya Raghubhai, Mayor of Rajkot, India, outlined the focus clearly, that cities are exploring ways to “streamline the idea of sustainability into … existing and future city planning process”. She further reiterated that the “necessary political and collective will by National, State and Local Governments is required to make serious headway towards addressing the challenges posed by climate change”.

This reality is addressed in the Urban-LEDS project where cooperation between different levels of government (vertical) and same levels of local government (horizontal) is explored. The particular focus is on jointly finding ways to optimize governance systems and structures, looking at integration for specific tasks – for example how to feed city level (bottom-up) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data to solidify national inventories, and connect urban low emission development strategies (LEDS) and climate action plans to those of other governance levels.  A specific focus is on exploring how to develop vertically integrated NAMAs – Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (V-NAMAs). This will enable local governments, the main implementers on the ground, to tap into financing mechanisms available for emerging economies and developing countries.  Clearly support for this approach is growing. South African national government representative, Brian Mantlana, Chief Director of the Climate Change Division, Department of Environment (DoE), stated: “I see the role of my team as scaling-up the action that already exist. (…) We would like to hear from you exactly what kind of support you need.”   

The Seminar program included a workshop led by Ms. Heejoo Lee from the World Bank, exploring services offered and discussing barriers and success factors when dealing with Local Climate Action Financing. A survey on lighting financing was initiated to explore the status in the Urban-LEDS project cities, providing necessary information to inform and support the World Bank’s Task Force on Low Carbon Cities in the process of identify existing public funding sources and proposing new mechanisms to engage the private sector.

Another highlight was the session on urban and spatial planning for the Urban Low Emissions Development led by Mr. Robert Kehew from the UN-Habitat Climate Change Planning Unit. Ms. Maria Coetzee, Research Group Leader for Urban and Regional Planning in the Spatial Planning and Systems in the CSIR Built Environment, South Africa, outlined aspects to be considered when developing a strategy and action plan - starting interesting discussions on this complex topic. The link between low emission development, spatial planning, different sectors,  growth patterns, local actions and instruments relevant to urban infrastructure -such as mass transportation systems, housing and wastewater systems – brought together everyone in the seminar, as it directly links to their day-to-day work.

The eight Model Cities presented their local context challenges, low emissions development priorities, and zoomed in on actions already implemented. Through the use of innovative facilitation techniques such as the “Market Place” and the “Mayor’s Forum”, cities explored cooperation possibilities in an open and cooperative environment. Almada (Portugal), winner of the 2011 European Mobility Week award, presented its inspiring example of reduction of the transport sector GHG emissions by 10% in 10 years (2001-2010) closing the event on a high note. 

Clearly substantial progress needs to be made in all sectors, by all stakeholders, with local political commitment and stakeholder engagement essential elements for the Urban-LEDS process.

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