Regions finally recognised at international level
By Anne Eckstein | Friday 02 October 2009
According to the United Nations, nearly 80% of climate change mitigation actions and virtually 100% of adaptation activity will be the responsibility of subnational authorities. In both the European Union and the United Nations, however, it is clear that climate change decisions are adopted at the level of international organisations and states. Regional and local authorities are nonetheless directly concerned and are the first on the ground to have to deal with the sometimes disastrous consequences of climate change. They are consequently seeking a more proactive role in decision-making and implementation of the measures to be adopted at the international climate conference in Copenhagen (7 to 18 December 2009) and ask - as a very minimum, they say - to be recognised as full partners in the negotiations.
PLAYING IN MAJOR LEAGUE
Involving regions and having a say in the international talks means speaking with a single voice and organising an appropriate structure. That step was taken at the September 2002 Earth Summit in Johannesburg with the creation of nrg4SD (Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development), which groups the regional governments of five continents and whose activities quickly focused on climate issues.
Yet the real kick-off of a campaign by the regions to be admitted to the decision making process came in October 2008 in Saint Malo (Brittany, France), at the first world summit of regions on climate change, organised jointly by the EU’s Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) and nrg4SD. The regions confirmed their determination to make their voice heard, to participate in drafting the new international agreement and to obtain recognition in the official texts of the regions’ role in combating climate change. This determination to work together was then put into practice with the signature of a partnership agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for implementation of territorial climate plans (around ten projects were submitted immediately), a memorandum of understanding on the installation of a global centre for climate satellite services (CLIMSAT) and - less high-profile but still very real - bilateral cooperation agreements.
“More attuned” to regions’ demands A year later, the track record is anything but negative. From a purely logistical point of view, since lobbying the United Nations is extremely demanding, the nrg4SD Secretariat has been expanded, together with cooperation between the ‘focal points’ based in different regions. The CLIMSAT centre for climate satellite services (a branch office of the UNDP for the use of satellite data) is up and running in Brest (Brittany, France). Only the projects presented under a partnership with the UNDP are behind schedule, the bulk of this year’s effort having focused on the representativeness and presence of the regions in the negotiating bodies.
In terms of content, different networks of regions (CPMR, nrg4SD, ENCORE, FOGAR, AIRF, ARE, Northern Forum, OLAGI, ICLEI and Climate Group) have drawn up a common position on the role of infranational levels in climate change actions, a position they wish to see included in the Copenhagen agreement. At the Bonn negotiating session (9-11 June 2009), the representatives of networks secured the support of Uruguay, Senegal and Algeria (as the chair of the Africa Group) for ensuring that this platform is written into the texts. At this stage, the role of infranational levels is contained in four chapters of the draft document on long-term cooperation, namely those on a shared vision for cooperative long-term actions, improvement of adaptation actions and their implementing means, improvement of mitigation actions, and improvement of financial, technological and capacity-building actions.
The regions also made their voice heard at the informal consultations under the Copenhagen process (Bonn, 10-14 August 2009), on 21 September 2009 in New York at a special meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the eve of the World Climate Summit, on 22 September (see box), and at the World Summit of Sub-national Governments on Climate Change (Los Angeles, 30 September-3 October 2009). They will also be present for the final preparatory session (Barcelona, 2-6 November) and of course in Copenhagen, from 7 to 18 December. Though it cannot be taken for granted that they will have a seat in the negotiating groups, at least they have the assurance that certain countries (Algeria, Uruguay, Senegal) will act as their spokespersons. Others, like France, are “more attuned” to their demands.
So things are moving, and apparently faster at the United Nations than in the European Union. The European Commission, conspicuous by its absence at the Saint Malo summit in spite of the repeated calls of organisers, has not been particularly visible during the past year, notes the CPMR, which co-organised the event. Better late than never, however: a representative of DG Environment (Peter Gammeltoft, in charge of adaptation) was set to participate in the debate on this theme at the CPMR General Assembly in Göteborg, Sweden, from 30 September to 2 October).
A united front
A delegation of the world’s regions submitted a declaration to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on 21 September in New York, aimed at ensuring their recognition in cooperative long-term action, one of the chapters of the new international climate agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen. The delegation was made up of business leaders and regional and local policy makers from areas as diverse as Quebec, the European regions (represented by Michèle Sabban, president of the Assembly of European Regions), India, China and the United States. The delegates assured Ban Ki-moon that non-state players, and especially regions, are investing in the fight against climate change and sought a guarantee that the place and role of the regions would be taken into account in the future treaty. Ban Ki-moon assured them that he had received their message, promising to pass it on to negotiators and to support the inclusion of such a reference in the official texts. “The regions’ mobilisation will not stop there,” commented Sabban. She added that the regional governments would meet again, in December in the Danish capital, to make their voice heard at the very heart of the Copenhagen negotiations, as they did in New York.