Cities on the Road to COP22

Walid Ali
Regional Climate Change Specialist
Climate Change and DRR Team
UN Development Programme.
Regional Hub for Arab States.
Amman, Jordan
Dr. Kishan Khoday
Team Leader in the Arab Region
Climate Change, DRR and Resilience
United Nations Development

The world is gearing up for the 22st edition of the Conference of the Parties (COP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the annual gathering of country representatives from around the world to negotiate progress in fighting climate change. COP22 will convene in Morocco and is expected to focus on the implementation agenda for the new Paris Climate Change Agreement. While much attention will be placed on the process of scaling up global finance and expanding support to LDCs and other vulnerable countries, another critical issue will be to scale up effort for low-carbon, climate resilience cities.

Some like Amman, the only participant in NAZCA from the Arab region, have made a more general pledge to reduce emissions and report publically on annual basis via parallel processes such as the Compact of Mayors. Other like Cochin, one among an impressive 15 cities across in India to have made pledges, have pledged to increase energy efficiency by 5% by 2020 and to increase the share of renewable energy in the overall energy mix by the same level. Cochin has already made progress on its pledge, with the Cochin International Airport now the world’s first airport to be completely run on solar power.

Despite the low levels of city pledges and engagement in the UN process from the Arab region, scope exists for expanding partnerships in the region. UNDP is the UNs largest provider of country assistance on climate change, with over US$2.4 Billion of projects today in over 140 countries, including across the Arab region. Green cities is an important topic therein, with UNDP cooperation supporting low-carbon, climate resilience strategies at the municipal level as well as actions in key sectors like energy efficient buildings, sustainable transport, innovation for the energy-water nexus, etc. Projects on green cities are underway with Amman, Alexandria, Beirut, Cairo, Casablanca, Dubai, Khartoum, Tunis and other cities across the region. As we move forward to COP22, new efforts are needed to scale-up and further expand results.

One example of a city seeking to do its part is Dubai, which now seeks to emerge as a hub of innovation for green cities. Low-carbon, climate resilient solutions stand at the core of this process. In support of this vision, UNDP supported an initiative in recent years entitled “Promotion of Low-Carbon Development in Dubai” focused on low-carbon, climate resilient strategies and action, with three key results: (i) establishment of the Dubai Carbon Center of Excellence as a hub of innovation and expertise to lead low-carbon economy solutions in Dubai, (ii) successful development of Dubai’s first set of CDM projects for entry into the global carbon market and (iii) launch of a series of State of Green Economy and State of Energy reports to track trends and opportunities and engage leaders in Dubai on the drive for a green economy.

As part of its scaled-up ambitions on the road to COP21 and the new Paris Climate Agreement, in 2015 Dubai tripled its renewable energy targets, with 15% of power mix to be from renewable sources by 2030, up from its former target of just 5%. Meanwhile Dubai has also taken the bold step to increase its targets for energy efficiency aimed at reducing energy consumption rates by 30% by 2030. Along with the vision set in its new Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to climate action, this now sets the bar high for climate action among cities in the Arab region.

Progress in Dubai will be about more than a vision of low-carbon development and increased investment in clean technology; it will also be about bold public policies, strategies and regulatory frameworks related to urban growth and planning. It has also been about well-aligned leadership across both national and city levels. At the national level the UAE hosted the Abu Dhabi Ascent in 2014 as a strategic gathering on the road to the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit, hosted in Dubai the annual World Green Economy Summit and has also launched a national Green Growth Strategy in recent years as a base for global competitiveness and emergence of a high-tech knowledge economy. The alignment of global, national and local visions on climate change, the coordination of local and global partnerships and investments, and creation of new local institutions for ‘climate governance’ and low-carbon development, are some of the lessons which could well place Dubai on the path to becoming a future leader among cities.

As we move forward on the road to COP22, institutions like the Environmental Centre for Arab Towns can help support a new era of bottom-up climate action at the city level and launch dedicated COP22 legacy initiative on this topic within the Arab region. ECAT and partners like Dubai can emerge as a “climate innovation hub” for the region, in concert with UNDP and other partners helping to catalyse innovation and south-south cooperation partnerships for expanding results in the Arab region and beyond.

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