In Dialogue with the UN Secretary General and UN-Habitat Executive Director (11 November 2021)

Delivered by Minna Arve, Mayor of Turku, Finland and First Vice-President of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability in a closed meeting with UN Secretary General António Guterres and UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, and other representatives of local and regional governments:

Mr. Secretary General,

My name is Minna Arve, Mayor of Turku in Finland and I am delighted to join this meeting also in my capacity as the Vice President of ICLEI, a global network of more than 2500 cities, towns, regions in more than 130 countries, committed to sustainable urban development.

Many thanks for this kind invitation for a frank conversation on accelerating climate action along the COP26 in Glasgow

I assume yesterday, at your meeting with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, you heard from my colleague Yunus Arikan from ICLEI, in his capacity as the focal point of cities and regions to the UNFCCC, our expectations and proposals to COP26 Outcomes.

In short, ICLEI and all networks underline that in this second phase of Paris Agreement, Time For Multilevel Action has started already. Since 2015, more than 60 nations, from US to Rwanda from Japan to Dominican Republic, raised their national climate ambitions because they engaged with local and regional governments. Starting from Glasgow, we invite all nations to embrace multilevel collaboration as the new normal and the beacon of hope to respond to climate emergency.

We remain hopeful that the final Cop26 outcome will incorporate this vision.

But even COP26 fails, or outcome is not as ambitious as we hoped for, local and regional governments will not give up and will continue to act on climate emergency.

We did not give up Local Agenda 21 in 1992, and this enabled the world to adopt Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

We did not give up after Copenhagen in 2009, and this paved the way for Paris Agreement in 2015.

I would like to give a concrete example from my own city Turku –

Turku combines circular economy and 1.5o Degree Lifestyles as our roadmap for our commitment to be climate positive beyond 2029. This includes; active engagement with communities, including youth and business, collaboration with local and regional governments and applying cutting edge solutions.

And across ICLEI network, Turku is definitely not alone.

Since 2020, ICLEI is creating a community of Daring Cities tackling climate emergency beyond business-as-usual approaches.

City of Bonn in Germany created Bonn4Future as a collaboration with FridaysForFuture, which is now mandated to develop the roadmap of Bonn to be climate neutral by 2035.

Izmir Metropolitan Municipality in Turkey introduced CircularCulture as a holistic approach to transform the mindset of its communities.

City of Recife in Brazil, after declaring climate emergency in 2019, introduced climate change in the school curriculum and today the city is led by the youngest Mayor in Brazil, who committed to climate neutrality by 2050.

In order to spread this momentum of acting on climate emergency, ICLEI developed Daring Cities Call for Transformation. This call includes 10 action-oriented proposals to local and regional governments, to their communities and to the intergovernmental community, including the UN.

Let me highlight 3 of them as my concluding statement and as food-for-thought for today’s discussion;

  • As part of multilevel action response to climate emergency, we will improve our collaboration with at the municipal, regional and national/federal legislators, including partnership with GLOBE International,
  • As part of our work with communities, we will engage community leaders to reach out to those who still do not act on climate
  • And at the global level, we invite the UN to declare a global climate emergency, so that we can replicate the success of WHO in declaring COVID as an emergency.

Finally, ICLEI warmly welcomes and endorses your proposals for Our Common Agenda, including advancing collaboration with local and regional governments. Considering challenges and limitations of COP26, ICLEI would like to propose you to consider to create a “Climate Emergency Multilevel Action Task Force” so that we can elevate the momentum from Glasgow to other agendas in the UN such as Stockholm+50, Quito+6, Sendai, Biodiversity and all relevant agendas of sustainability.

ICLEI wholeheartedly gives thanks to your efforts and remains committed to mobilize all its support for your success.