American economist Jeffrey Sachs provides a keynote to the Low-Emissions Solutions Conference on Sustainable Development Goals.

Cities and local governments were especially evident at the Low-Emissions Solutions Conference held during last week’s COP22 global climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco, where a Handbook on creating dynamic local markets for Energy Efficient Buildings was launched.

The handbook uses a business-led approach piloted in 10 cities over the last four years to develop and implement action plans on energy efficiency in buildings.

Multi-stakeholder relationships in the building value chain and how they need to come together to promote energy efficiency in buildings. Source: WBCSD (2015), adapted from Energy Efficiency in Buildings, Business Realities and Opportunities, Facts and Trends.

The handbook goes through the steps involved and how to bring together the many different groups that comprise the buildings sector.

A key example from the handbook is taken from Poland, a country not normally noted for its action on climate change. It describes how a multi-stakeholder partnership set up in 2014 has, by November 2016, already set up a residential buildings energy efficiency financing facility of €200 million (AU$287m), produced a benchmarking report on operation costs in commercial buildings, and created a platform for public-private dialogue and action.

It is part of an initiative called EEB Amplify, launched on COP22’s Buildings and Cities Day with the aim of scaling up the Energy Efficiency in Buildings program from 10 cities to 50 by 2020. ICLEI –  Local Governments for Sustainability is currently working with 1500 cities across the world.

EEB Amplify is a partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Climate-KIC in Europe, the US Green Building Council and US Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the Indian Green Building Council. Its expansion will begin in 2017 and aims to include 50 cities by 2020.

Why different stakeholders should get involved in an energy efficiency market engagement, in what capacity, and what they stand to gain. Source: Extract from Energy Efficiency Market Report 2015, IEA adapted from IEA (2014), Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency, OECD/IEA, Paris.

It’s time to get down to business

COP22 was all about implementation. There was a shared feeling that the Paris Agreement and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals have created an irreversible and irresistible pathway to a low-carbon world and now, despite what has happened in America, the task is just to get on with it.

On display at the conference were materials, construction innovation, technologies for energy efficiency, adaptation and resilience, and sustainable mobility across electric and fuel cell vehicles.

No new fossil fuel infrastructure

NGO and government leaders spoke at a press conference about how subnational governments and major cities around the world – including in the US and Canada – are adopting No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure policies and pledges.

Cities across the Western US who have signed up to the No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure policy include Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, and uptake is accelerating.

100 per cent renewable energy

Many cities and governments signalled an intention to move cities and regions away from all fossil fuel export infrastructure and towards 100 per cent renewable energy. Many already are.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the Obama Administration’s plan for deep decarbonisation, even though the Trump administration could well undo it.

While acknowledging the uncertainty Trump’s win creates, he predicted that markets would continue to drive the transition to clean energy sources for economic reasons, and that the question was whether it would happen sufficiently fast to avoid catastrophic climate damage.

“The US plan for deep decarbonisation Secretary Kerry unveiled today is a welcome recognition of the need for urgent action, however, it does not go nearly far enough,” observed Daphne Wysham, director of the climate and energy program at the Center for Sustainable Economy.

So city representatives joined 47 governments forming the Climate Vulnerable Forum, business and civil society including from Morocco, Ethiopia and Costa Rica, the City of Oslo, the Australian Capital Territory Government, Sumba Islands and corporations like Mars and IKEA to talk about the movement towards 100 per cent renewable energy cities.

COP22 President Salaheddine Mezouar said that “renewable energies do not only mitigate our impact on climate change but open the way to new models of sustainable development with new investments, new industries and new jobs”.

Sustainable cities and built environments

The COP22 Low-Emissions Solutions Conference established four work streams:

  1. National and regional low-carbon strategies: mid-century strategies, deep decarbonisation pathways, and implementation at national, regional and local scales; and solutions and innovations spotlight
  2. Information and communications technologies: the contribution of ICT to climate action in other sectors; and innovative approaches to raising commitments towards climate action
  3. Sustainable cities and built environments: local climate action – strategies and implementation; and smart low-carbon and sustainable cities
  4. Low-carbon transport: introduction to mobility challenges and innovation in the transport sector; and electric and hydrogen mobility.

The built environment is at the heart of all of of these work streams.

Following the conference, Gino Van Begin, secretary general of ICLEI, called upon all stakeholders – business, the research community and all levels of government – to get together with local governments to “implement and take up new technologies that facilitate low emission, resilient development” and to “allow innovation to happen and to be effectively applied”.

Only by working together will they, and by definition, the world, “build a strong architecture needed to support implementation of the Paris Agreement”, he said.

Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the WBCSD echoed this, saying the conference showed “how business, government, academia, cities and other experts are already delivering the solutions that will define future competitiveness in the low-carbon economy”.

Cities100

Cities100 was another highlight of the cities day at COP22. It showcased leading solutions to urban climate challenges in 10 sectors, ranging from solid waste management to transportation, and, for the first time, solutions that address the nexus of climate change and social equity. Amongst the examples in Cities100 were:

  • Guang­zhou, China: planning for an increasing population and rising demand for energy using a multi-sector, low carbon plan for green growth targeting infrastructure and buildings
  • Kampala, Uganda: instituting energy efficiency and sustainability in all its operations to make itself an example for other African cities.
  • Taoyuan, Taiwan: which has a development plan targeting lifestyle changes and the creation of a renewable energy industry.
  • New York City, US: its Hous­ing Au­thor­ity has a building retrofit strategy to reduce CO2 emissions, heating costs and make sure that residents in affordable housing have resilient homes.
  • Auckland, New Zealand: has set up a revolving fund to enable the city to invest money generated from municipal energy-saving projects into further energy-saving improvements.

C40 chair and Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes gave a keynote address at the Sustainable Innovation Forum, which highlighted the importance of mayors and cities in tackling climate change, saying that cities are taking bold actions, but much more needs to be done, including a “coordinated collaboration between all levels of society”.

He talked about how carbon intensive and traditional businesses needed to be reinvented because they “will not have a place in a world facing climate change”, calling this “a great economic opportunity”.

“In the next 15 years, the world is expected to invest around USD $90 trillion in infrastructure. Much of that will happen in cities … Municipal governments cannot leverage those resources alone,” he said.

Climate finance

According to C40’s research, urban policy decisions made in the next four years alone could lock-in almost a third of the remaining global safe carbon budget. This is why C40 supports its member cities in developing targets and climate action plans that are aligned with a 1.5 degree pathway.

C40’s Climate Finance Facility, now in its pilot phase, will support cities in low and middle-income countries in preparing climate change projects to attract investments.

C40’s demands for municipal infrastructure finance.

At the end of November, at the C40 bi-annual Summit in Mexico City, C40 will adopt a new four-year business plan with the ambition of the Paris Agreement at its centre.

No to Trump

The 200 countries attending the COP22 conference were united in the face of Donald Trump’s campaign threat to quit the Paris accord on climate change.

“No one country, no one man, no one person can control the outcome of the destiny that we all see as part of the writing on the wall that climate change is real, we need to act and we are going to do everything we can so I definitely think that the speeches over the past several days had that impact and effect on us as a civil society and over other countries as well,” concluded Tina Johnson, policy director at the US Climate Network.

The Marrakech Proclamation, issued at the conclusion of the conference, serves as a message of solidarity against Trump’s threat. The Proclamation contains a resolution to hammer out a rulebook by 2018, and this is its concluding sentence:

“As we now turn towards implementation and action, we reiterate our resolve to inspire solidarity, hope and opportunity for current and future generations.”

David Thorpe is the author of: