COP28 Takeaways for Cities

COP 28 wrapped up in Dubai last week with a commitment from countries worldwide to transition away from fossil fuels. The agreement marked the first one in which fossil fuels—the cause of climate change—were explicitly acknowledged.

To say it’s a bit late to acknowledge the role of fossil fuels is an understatement. Indeed, most of the local governments SSG works with are among cities worldwide that made climate emergency declarations recognizing the cause of the climate crisis years ago.

Countries Formalize The Role of Cities in Climate Action 

Cities continued to push for urgent climate action at COP28 and had more presence on the COP agenda than ever before. Their role and prominence was shaped by city-oriented climate action initiatives by C40 Cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies, ICLEI, and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

At the outset of COP, the COP28 presidency co-hosted the first-ever Local Climate Action Summit with Bloomberg Philanthropies to recognize the role of local governments in climate action. At the summit, 78 countries formally acknowledged the role of municipalities in climate action through the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP) for climate action. Signatories, including Canada, Chile, and the United States (countries in which SSG has offices), pledged to work with cities, towns, states, and regions to enhance climate action. Additionally, COP28’s final agreement, signed by 200 countries, highlighted the important role of local and subnational governments in climate action.

On the sidelines, city leaders highlighted the power of intergovernmental partnerships. In 2024, Denmark will become the first country in the world where every municipality has a climate action plan. If fully implemented, municipal climate action plans are expected to cut Denmark’s national emissions by 76%, supported by municipal plans to install wind turbines, increase forest area, and rewet carbon-rich farmland.

Local Governments Focus on Cutting Methane

Cities play a critical role in reducing solid and liquid waste-related methane—a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet. To this end, the US Department of State and a coalition of international partners, including C40 Cities and Bloomberg Philanthropies, launched the Lowering Organic Waste Methane Initiative (LOW-Methane). The initiative aims to reduce at least 1 million metric tons of annual waste sector methane reductions before 2030 by working with 40 subnational jurisdictions and their national government counterparts. 

As we’ve highlighted before, reducing methane emissions is the fastest way to slow down climate change and cities can implement plenty of viable solutions to do it, including composting organic waste, capturing landfill gas, and more.

Cities Collaborate on Climate Action Initiatives 

COP28 also saw the launch of several collaborative climate action initiatives for cities. For example, C40 Cities, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Clean Air Fund announced a new cohort of cities for the Breathe Cities Initiative, which focuses on using climate action to make it easier for urban dwellers to breathe. Participating cities, ranging from London to Nairobi, have pledged to cut air pollution by 30% by 2030—a move that could prevent 39,000 premature deaths and 79,000 new cases of asthma in the 2030s. 

C40 Cities also showcased the Water Safe Cities Accelerator. Launched in the lead up to COP28, the initiative brings 16 cities together to protect the communities most vulnerable to floods and drought, and develop emergency responses for these situations. The signatories included several North and South American Cities (Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Phoenix, Quito, and Rio de Janeiro). Other cities can also join, while you can access adaptation case studies related to water here

With many national governments lagging on climate action, initiatives like these show that cities can lead the way .