Cancún and local governments


Cancún Agreements officially recognise crucial role of local governments in tackling climate change and sets the scene for intensified European local-national dialogues

LG Action, networking project to give European local governments (LGs) a voice in the energy and climate, facilitated and supported the LG delegation during the UN climate talks in Cancún (COP16) to meet up with European national delegations and dialogue towards the key position of cities and municipalities to deal with the climate challenge in a bottom-up, hands-on manner. After two weeks of hard but fruitful climate negotiations, national governments for the first time in the UNFCCC process have included references to local and subnational governments in the ?shared-vision for long-term cooperative action’ and other parts of the Cancún Agreements.

Already in week one, the final decisions of the technical boards in the UNFCCC negotiations, adopted the concept of ?governmental stakeholders’, after the Local Government and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) constituency proposed specific amendments. This historic decision prepared the negotiation for the high-level segment to follow. In week two the LG delegation continued to press forward, knowing that the reference to ?governmental stakeholders’ could be dropped from the text depending on the mood and circumstances of negotiations, as previously happened in Copenhagen.

In the Cancún Moon Palace on Wednesday 8thDecember, the Cities’ and Parliaments’ Initiative meeting in which LG representatives including Minister Huytebroeck (Brussels-Capital), Mayor Ebrard (Mexico City) and David Cadman (ICLEI president on behalf of the LGMA constituency), held an unprecedented panel chaired by the COP 16 President with a keynote from Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.  This helped to ensure that reference to local governmental stakeholders would be included into the final agreement of Cancún.

During this high level event Figueres stated that “legislators, mayors and city leaders are at the forefront of the efforts to care for the planet, implementing both mitigation and adaptation efforts in the cities.”

Ronan Dantec, Vice Mayor of Nantes, France, said it is a question of credibility for the climate talks to recognise cities as the most important capacity to reduce carbon emissions in a short time. Speaking passionately about the hard work of cities to influence the climate negotiations, he pointed out that five words in the text of COP16 can be the key to unlocking the full financial capacity needed for cities to keep acting.

Minister Huytebroeck had earlier emphasised that the climate challenge lies in the city and said that we are here to complement national actions, producing very ambitious local legislation and giving important incentives to the public sector, the private sector and the people. “We bring the result” she concluded.

“Cancún delivered what local leaders with legitimate responsibility were striving for – specific recognition of LGs as governmental stakeholders in a COP decision regarding future arrangements of the intergovernmental proceedings. It will be more difficult now, not to listen to what local governments have to say or ignore their ambitions, commitments and achieved results. However, we succeeded in only achieving the first step. It is clear that appropriately enabled and financially supported local governments can do even better and more. For Europe this means intensifying the local-national dialogue, building on the Covenant of Mayors initiative and improving access of smaller and medium sized cities to financial instruments like ELENA and the EU Structural Funds to facilitate local energy and climate action. LG Action will continue to support local governments in this endeavour” said Carsten Rothballer, Climate Policy Officer of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

The LG Action project

The project LG Action ( is a unique, short-term networking action involving cities, towns and local government associations from 30 European countries, co-funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) programme. It explores challenges and needs local governments are facing in the current climate and energy context.

Input collected thus far points to a daunting range of challenges confronting municipalities, and points, among others, to the need for improved enabling framework conditions – beyond their mandate to create. Among these some key issues that were repeatedly highlighted include: a better flow of concise and useful (policy and technical) information to help local decision-making and implementation, improved legislation and national standards that support or allows action (vis-à-vis blocking or passively hampering action), easier access to financing for sustainable energy projects (also for smaller communities) with reduced bureaucracy in application procedures, and a fairer sharing of national tax income to provide capacity for local action (e.g. adequate staff numbers with relevant expertise).

Further to the above the project consortium is busy identifying potential benchmarks relevant to local-national government dialogues that can be recommended for replication in Europe. A number of local government associations and networks are supporting this project, helping to mobilise their members to engage in local climate and energy action and to submit input into the call for “local government positioning”. They also provide valuable information on local-national dialogues, acting as indispensable supporters and associates in this European networking action. Results will be widely disseminated with these actors and the Covenant of Mayors, as one of the main initiatives addressing local governments in the important field of climate and energy action.