Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day: The Power of Cities at COP26

Imagine there were a country with 4.5 billion residents that didn’t have a seat at the table at the COP climate conferences. This would be outrageous. It would, in essence, make negotiations pointless, since half of the world’s population wouldn’t be represented in the outcomes or the final decisions. 

The world’s cities face this reality. However, even without an official seat at the negotiations table, with over 400 delegates, including governors, mayors and councilors, in attendance, cities and regions rival the largest national delegations in attendance this year. These delegates are doing all they can to make sure subnational voices are heard. 

Today is Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day at COP26, and we are excited to see the tide changing. Every year our voices are stronger and heard by more parties and leaders. This was evidenced by an exciting day yesterday, when representatives from the LGMA delivered interventions at the COP26 High Level Segment and in a closed meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UN Secretary General António Guterres. Today, other representatives will meet again with the Secretary General.

Additionally, representatives from cities and regions lobbied multiple national parties to add explicit reference to multilevel collaboration and action to the draft Glasgow Outcomes that are now being circulated.

In his intervention as the LGMA Focal Point, Yunus Arikan, Director of Global Advocacy for ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, spoke to Prime Minister Johnson and Secretary General Guterres about the need and benefit of multilevel collaboration.  He said, “Since 2015, very few parties from North and South have raised their national ambition. And these are the ones that engaged their cities and regions. We want the Paris agreement to be delivered through multilevel action, and want to replicate that spirit [in the Glasgow outcomes] so that multilevel action is embraced by all parties. If a Glasgow vision of multilevel action stems from this outcomes document, this will be the beacon of hope shining from Glasgow.” You can watch the full intervention here

Mayor Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester, UK, delivered a strong statement at the High Level Segment on Wednesday. He said, “Left to its own devices, the market will not get us there. So we will need our Governments to have the courage to regulate… We also need them to have the courage to let go where they can – to hand the baton to cities and regions, as this is a race which can only truly be won from the bottom up… Cities are ready to lead this change. Just as the Paris agreement recognised multi-level collaboration, Glasgow must strengthen this call and recognise that its time has truly arrived. So my message to COP26 is this: Let’s leave Glasgow on the right path. Free up your cities and regions to lead this revolution. Let’s achieve climate justice and social justice together – not just a greener world, but a fairer one too.” You can watch the full intervention here (17:27 GMT + 1 / 00:47:47) and read the full statement here

The Glasgow Outcomes Document – What the LGMA is asking for

The COP26 UK Presidency texts were also released yesterday, which are important, as they lay out the path from the Paris Agreement till now. As the Paris agreement already recognized the role of all levels of government, the LGMA is looking to build on that recognition.

The LGMA is asking parties to include explicit reference to multilevel and collaborative action, and to recognize the role of cities and other subnationals in reaching the goals of the Paris agreement. The LGMA has made three specific recommendations for changes to the text (in capitalized text below): 

  • Preamble, last paragraph

Recognizing the important role of civil society, including youth and indigenous  peoples, in addressing and responding to climate change, and highlighting the urgent need for MULTILEVEL AND COLLABORATIVE action

  • para.75

75. Recognizes the importance of international AND MULTILEVEL collaboration on innovative climate action, including technological advancement, across all actors of society, sectors and regions, in contributing to progress towards the objective of the Convention and the goals of the Paris Agreement;

  • para.76

76. Also recognizes the important role of non-Party stakeholders, including civil society, indigenous peoples, youth and other stakeholders, CITIES AND OTHER SUBNATIONALS in contributing to progress towards the objective of the Convention and the goals of the Paris Agreement;

We have already seen uptake of local, regional and other sub-national government participation within national commitments in Glasgow. For instance, the U.S.-China joint agreement specifically references inclusion of sub-nationals in their working group, and in methane emission controls

Today the power of cities to deliver climate action will be on full display. We invite you to participate through the Multilevel Action Pavilion and join this important dialogue! 

Photo credit: Paul Adepoju /