High Level Champion for Climate Action at COP26

The conditions for political leadership are set: society wants it, business is counting on it, the money is there, and cities will benefit. 

  • The Yearbook of Global Climate Action is published today, outlining the High-Level Climate Champions’ five-year vision for enhancing the implementation of commitments and accountability for progress. It’s seen a 22% increase in the number of actors registered on the Global Climate Action Plan Portal compared to 2020.
  • In an event today – Racing to a Better World – UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, COP26 President Alok Sharma, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and others join High-Level Climate Champions Gonzalo Muñoz and Nigel Topping in outlining the plan for the next five years to shift the focus of businesses, investors, cities, regions and civil society from ambition to implementation. Starts at 15:30 in Plenary Cairn Gorm or live-streamed here.
  • Another event, at 9:00 today, will highlight the role of cities and regions in enabling policies and driving market demand to decarbonize the built environment – which accounts for 38% of emissions. That will be followed by an event at 10:30 about building places for people to thrive in a zero-carbon and resilient world. 
  • The £27.5 million Urban Climate Action Programme launches today to provide technical assistance to at least 15 mayors of mega-cities in developing countries, helping them to shape and deliver goals to reach net zero emissions and build resilience to climate change.
  • 1,049 cities and local governments are now part of the UN-backed Race to Zero, representing 722 million people. This has the potential to reduce global emissions by at least 1.4 gigatonnes per year by 2030, C40 announced at the start of COP26. 
  • Among those, 593 cities have committed to shift towards resilient and sustainable energy systems, 501 are working to build zero-carbon buildings and 415 aim to shift to zero waste. 222 have committed to divest from fossil fuels. 
  • In addition, 260 governments representing 50% of the economy and 1.75 billion people now aim to reach net zero emissions by 2050, as the Under2 Coalition updated its membership criteria ahead of COP26 in line with a 1.5°C warming. The Race to Zero campaign already counts 67 state and regional governments. 
  • And 68 state, regional and city governments have signed up to a range of ambitious sectoral actions to accelerate climate progress by 2030, including on clean transportation, the built environment, energy, nature-based solutions, waste, agriculture, environmental justice, and inter-governmental cooperation and planning.
  • Meanwhile, 33 cities and more than 76 regional governments – including Maharashtra, India’s largest state by GDP with a population of over 124 million – are now committed to help build resilience within the decade as members of the UN-backed Race to Resilience campaign
  • C40’s Mayors Migration Council Task Force will champion investments to boost adaptation and reduce displacement in migrant communities, facilitate dignified movement and other efforts as part of their new agenda. The Robert Bosch Stiftung foundation is putting $1 million into supporting efforts in Africa.  
  • 16 regional governments and networks, led by Scotland and Lombardy with Regions4, this week called on national governments to drive emission reductions, measurable and coherent actions on coherent and solutions-oriented collaboration. 
  • 42 businesses will today announce that they have signed the World Green Building Council’s updated commitment to drive operational emissions to net zero by 2030. It now addresses embodied emissions – from initial construction – as well.
  • US$1.2 trillion in real estate assets under management is now committed to halving emissions by 2030, along with 20% of architects and engineers, hitting a Race to Zero breakthrough on the path to net zero before 2050. The number of construction companies in the campaign has also doubled in the lead up to COP26. 
  • San Francisco is today joining Los Angeles, Mexico City, Oslo and Budapest in committing to at least halve emissions from the initial construction of buildings by 2030, with a 30% reduction by 2025. This is as part of C40’s Clean Construction Declaration
  • The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, an international coalition of national and subnational governments and other stakeholders working to facilitate the managed phaseout of oil and gas production, launches today. It is led by Costa Rica and Denmark.  
  • Nine new Partners join the Race to Resilience to deliver stand-alone transformative actions including on digital finance,  urban water infrastructure, early-warning weather systems and knowledge sharing. 
  • 11 forest sector companies, including seven of the top 100 companies, have now signed up to the Race to Zero, representing 10% of global forest and forest product sales. The aim is to reach 20% by 2023. They are: Finland’s UPM, Chile’s CPMC and Arauco, Brazil’s Suzano and Klabin, Sweden’s Holmen and Austria’s Heinzel.  

In depth:

Cities & Regions 

Urban Climate Action Programme: With £27.5 million, the new programme will provide technical assistance to at least 15 mayors running mega-cities in developing countries, to shape and deliver on net zero targets and build resilience. It is supported by C40 and a joint UK-Germany facility for developing climate-resilience and low-carbon urban infrastructure projects. The selected cities – in Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa – will receive help with implementing local priorities including by marshalling local budgets and staff resources, and preparing for projects.

Cities race to zero – and clean air: 1,049 cities and local governments are now part of the Race to Zero, meaning 722 million people are covered by targets for net zero emissions by 2050, according to C40. The new C40 chair, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, has committed to align the group’s budget and staffing behind efforts to tackle air pollution and reduce emissions in cities in developing countries. Two-thirds of C40’s budget will now support climate action and green recovery efforts in developing world cities on the frontlines of climate change. 

Meanwhile, San Francisco today joins Los Angeles, Mexico City, Oslo and Budapest in committing to at least halve emissions from the initial construction of buildings by 2030 under CO40’s Clean Construction Declaration. And Beijing and Qingdao have joined 38 C40 cities in the clean construction programme, formally partnering with peer cities to accelerate the transition to resource efficient net zero buildings and infrastructure of the future.

→Why it matters: Cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce over 60% of greenhouse gas emissions – but account for less than 2% of the Earth’s surface, according to UN Habitat. Both climate change and air pollution are exacerbated by the burning of fossil fuels.

Under2 Coalition goes for 1.5°C: The largest network of states and regions committed to reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement took an important step last month in raising its membership criteria to align with limiting warming to 1.5°C. This step brings 260 governments representing half the global economy in line with achieving net zero by 2050 as a coalition. The Race to Zero campaign already counts 67 state and regional governments. 

Cities and regions race to resilience: The Race to Resilience aims to boost its membership of cities to over 200 within the next year, from 33 now. Member cities in emerging markets are focusing on nature-based solutions, social equity and water; industrialized cities are focused on energy, food systems, governance, waste and the links between urban and rural communities. Edinburgh became the latest city to join the campaign during COP26. The campaign’s 76 regional governments include India’s largest state by GDP, Maharashtra. 

Why it matters: Cities are already home to half the population and their populations are growing. Some 70 million people are moving to urban areas every year in the next 30 years, according to the IPCC. A disruption to one part of a city system will ricochet to others – for example, flooded roads will block traffic and public transport. This calls on cities to both build system resilience and target their specific risks, according to McKinsey and C40 Cities Climate Leadership

The Built Environment

Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment: The 42 businesses signed up to the commitment are boosting their efforts to address embodied emissions – from initial construction – as well as cutting operational emissions to net zero by 2030. The commitment now requires existing buildings to: 1) reduce their energy consumption and eliminate emissions from energy and refrigerants and 2) build new developments and major renovations to be highly efficient and renewable powered with minimum embodied carbon and compensation for all residual upfront emissions. 

New demand signals sent before and during COP26 can drive a faster decarbonization of the construction sector, including the First Movers CoalitionSteelZero, ConcreteZero and Clean Construction Declaration

Built environment breakthrough: $1.2 trillion in real estate assets under management is now committed to halving emissions by 2030, along with 20% of architects and engineers, hitting a Race to Zero breakthrough on the path to net zero before 2050. Over 100 SME construction companies in 10 countries are now part of the Race to Zero. 

→Why it matters: The built environment accounts for nearly 40% of global emissions. All countries are urbanizing, yet demand for buildings is increasing and housing supplies are tightening. This requires a reduction of emission across the lifespan of buildings – their operational emissions from energy that generates heating, cooling and lighting; and embodied emissions including the production and transport of materials used in construction. 

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