Credit: Urban landscape, Tokyo / Adobe Stock
UN Climate Change News, 5 March 2021 – The 2021 editions of the Regional Climate Weeks kicked off this week with virtual regional roundtables designed to set the scene for regional climate action in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in November.
The roundtables for Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean on 3. and 4. March helped identify priorities and opportunities for the three regions, crucial for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Speaking to participants at the opening of the roundtables, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stressed that COP26 in Glasgow – the most important COP since the Paris Agreement was adopted – is only eight months away.
She called for urgent action to build on the recent commitments made by countries, businesses, cities and societies to embark on the transformations required to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.
“This year is crucial. We need your support like never before. This first regional climate week event can support you in setting the pace that will result in a successful COP26 in November,” the UN’s top climate official said.
A stark reminder of the importance of the Regional Climate Weeks in stepping up climate ambition came last week with the publication by UN Climate Change of the Initial NDC synthesis report showing nations must submit stronger, more ambitious national climate action plans in 2021 if they are to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In their remarks at the high-level opening of the event, COP25 President Carolina Schmidt and incoming COP26 President Alok Sharma acknowledged that governments alone cannot tackle the climate crisis and underlined the importance of a collective effort that includes cities, businesses, financial institutions and civil society.
Mr. Sharma said: “We’re backing these regional climate weeks to the hilt,” citing enhancing collaboration internationally and across society as a central theme of the UK’s COP26 Presidency. He called the Regional Climate Weeks “a unique opportunity to come together and drive practical action in every region and sector to help implement the Paris Agreement, to build partnerships and share solutions between governments and across society.”
Ms. Schmidt said that the series of regional meetings represent “a unique platform for multiple actors throughout society to share the experience and vision necessary to construct robust climate plans while also ensuring an inclusive and resilient recovery from COVID-19.”
For governments to successfully deliver on their commitments under the Paris Agreement, she added, their efforts must be tailored to regional and local realities that communities face.
The roundtables were organized by UN Climate Change, in collaboration with the Regional Climate Week’s core partners UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank, as well as with regional partners and the respective regional host governments (the Dominican Republic, Japan and Uganda).
High-level representatives from governments, along with UN system representatives from the UN regional economic commissions, UNDP and UN Environment expressed their views at the meeting, along with representatives from regional and international financial institutions, local governments, civil society organizations and representatives of indigenous groups.
Some key conclusions ahead of official summary report
Regional stakeholders framed their discussions on how to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic and how to scale up and speed up climate action capitalizing on the efforts already ongoing in the regions. Common calls made in all the regions related to:
- The importance of efficiently engaging all actors in climate action, particularly youth and women;
- The imperative of citizen- and community-led efforts to change behaviours, which is essential for more sustainable production and consumption patterns;
- The importance of nature-based solutions and of “bringing Earth back into the equation.”
The role of governments in providing clear direction and targets for climate action was also a common message in all the roundtables, with many stakeholders calling for a clear price on carbon and recognition of the value of nature and the costs of its destruction.
Participants agreed that climate finance is still a key factor in all regions to implement climate plans and policies. Whilst substantial financial resources are available, they must be channeled to build carbon neutral and resilient societies, especially in developing countries. There was also a shared understanding that financial tools such as green bonds increasingly need to be used to finance future infrastructure.
A report with specific key takeaways and conclusions of the virtual roundtables will be published next week.
High-Level Champions underline importance of non-Party climate action
At the wrap-up session of the roundtables, the COP26 High-Level Champion Nigel Topping of the United Kingdom and COP25 Champion Gonzalo Muñoz of Chile spoke of the crucial importance of non-Party action.
Mr. Topping said: “What we have seen this week is exactly what we need: state and non-state actors, young people and entrepreneurs coming together to advance action on tackling the climate challenge we are facing. We cannot have any region or community left out of this work.”
Mr. Muñoz said the discussions showed that investing in climate resilience is not just the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. “By understanding what the impact of extreme weather events will be, what disruption they will cause to different sectors and the different levels of governance involved, we can get to work forming the partnerships and collaborations needed to make sure we more than just withstand climate shocks,” he said.
The Climate Champions stressed the importance of the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, with the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the Race to Resilience campaign, designed to build the resilience of 4 billion people to climate change by 2030.
To read more about the 2021 regional roundtables, including the dates for the next events, see here.