Towards sustainable cities: Implementing the NDCs and SDGs at the local level

By Nathaly Agurto and Stella Schröder

Cities and urban settlements play a key role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the commitments of the Paris Agreement. Since Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest rate of urbanisation in the world, GIZ conducted a study on how its urban projects within the region contribute to the implementation of the global agendas.

Global goals, local implementation
Cities and urban settlements will take on a key role in achieving a large part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With the New Urban Agenda, even more emphasis has been put on SDG 11: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” This goal is accompanied by seven proposed targets pertaining to housing, transport, planning, natural/cultural heritage, resilience, environment and open space. Achieving Goal 11 depends on the level of engagement of different actors at local level on the one hand (stakeholders, regional governments, community-based organizations, academia and the business sector); and on adequate synergies between national and local policies on the other.

Nevertheless, the SDGs have a broad scope and, therefore, actions towards a new future for cities have a direct or indirect impact on all 17 sustainable development goals. Hence, while the SDGs are global, their implementation is local.

Urban development in Latin America and the Caribbean
During the second half of the last century, and even more in this century, the landscape of Latin America has transformed its rural nature into a highly urbanised reality. The region has now reached an average urban population of between 70 and 80 per cent of the total population (CEPAL). Furthermore, Latin America has experienced a significant increase in the number of megacities of more than 10 million inhabitants, and in cities between 1 and 5 million inhabitants (MINURVI, UN HABITAT, ECLAC, 2016).

The accelerated process of urbanisation coincided with an international tendency to prioritise growth models of territorial expansion. In addition, public structures of control and planning continued to be gradually weakened. Focused on the use of private vehicles and neoliberal speculation in urban and rural land, these models enhanced social and economic inequalities and resulted in a widening gap between the affluent and the poor. Hence, it is more than urgent to change this paradigm.

The NDCs and their urban relevance
Just like for the SDGs, urban areas play an essential role in fulfilling the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)[1]163 Parties have submitted their first NDCs. , formulated by most countries in the region as a result of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The NDCs embody each country’s efforts to reduce national emissions and limit contributions to climate change. They thus pair national policy setting — in which countries determine their contributions in the context of their national priorities, circumstances and capabilities — with a global framework that drives collective action towards a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”URBANET” suffix=””]NDCs can be framed either in terms of means or of desired outcomes[/inlinetweet]. A country can commit to implementing specific emission reduction actions like advancing a feed-in tariff for renewable energy technologies, or alternatively to a certain outcome or result: for example to reduce emissions to a specific level.

Although both the global commitments and the NDCs deal with climate and environmental issues from the perspective of nation states, there are several connections to the urban realm. Besides the general entry point of urban planning, there are four other entry points to sustainable urban development: transport, home and office buildings, industrial production and poverty reduction. Each of these entry points address major causes of greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, climate change.

For example, one part of Peru’s NDCs is the potential of climate change mitigation through the renovation and modernisation of its public transportation systems. In this context, the city of Lima would like to transform its entire bus fleet into an eco-efficient integrated public transport system. Moreover, Peru encourages and promotes the use of treated wastewater for a reuse of 50 per cent of urban wastewaters.

Analysing project impacts in terms of contribution to the SDGs and NDCs on the urban level
In 2016, GIZ conducted a study that evaluates the contribution of German Development Cooperation projects in Latin America and the Caribbean to the implementation of NDCs and SDGs. The study analyses projects in Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru that directly contribute to the urban indicators of the SDGs and NDCs, and evaluates them according to their qualitative and quantitative results.

The analysis is based on a matrix that cross-references the indicators of relevant urban SDGs and the NDCs of each of the participating countries. Hence, it was possible to match the direct or indirect contributions of the projects corresponding to the SDG indicators. For better understanding, the study identified examples from each country in the different sectors of water, resilience, energy and industry, mobility and transport, finance and capacity building. Three of these will be presented here in an abbreviated version.

The water sector in Ecuador
Water scarcity is increasing across Latin America, including in Ecuador. Hence, in its NDCs the country recognises that measures have to be taken to maintain the hydrological cycle that ensures the availability of water required by society and ecosystems.

Cities nowadays face the specific [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”URBANET” suffix=””]challenge of guaranteeing adequate quantitative and qualitative water supply[/inlinetweet] to their inhabitants and at the same time maintaining water sources for the future. With the support of public institutions at all administrative levels, the aim of service improvement is based on the criteria of efficiency, effectiveness, fairness, transparency, intercommunal cooperation and citizen participation. Moreover, environmental awareness has been raised through numerous events and campaigns addressing topics such as sustainable use of water, conservation of water sources, and appreciation and acknowledgement of the city-water source link. With the impact of these actions, the country contributes to its NDC to foster the regulation, preservation, saving and sustainable use of water on all management levels.

The mobility and transport sector in Peru
The ongoing urbanisation process in Peru led to the creation of several metropolitan areas. The [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”URBANET” suffix=””]lack of urban planning measures to accompany this process caused critical problems in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions[/inlinetweet] and air pollution, in particular due to the cities’ large vehicle fleets and their high fuel consumption. In Peru, the transport sector is thus responsible for 40 per cent of GHG emissions from the energy sector, and for 11 per cent of the overall national emissions.

Transforming the current system into a well-functioning and sustainable urban public transport network would reduce long-term costs in health expenditures and traffic accidents, ensure access to work and public services and contribute to global climate protection. Therefore, GIZ projects support the establishment of a National Program for Urban Transport in selected major cities, and assist the implementation of the Sustainable Urban Transport NAMA TRANSPerú.

With its efforts in the Lima-Callao metropolitan area to improve the conditions for implementing sustainable, low-carbon emission transport systems with a mitigation effect of 1.1 to 2.03 megatons of CO2 by 2019, German Development Cooperation supports Peru in achieving its NDCs by reducing GHG emissions in the transport sector and thus by mitigating climate change.

Cluster Transportation in Lima, Peru © Oficina General de Planeamiento y Presupuesto del MTC

Cluster Transportation in Lima, Peru
© Oficina General de Planeamiento y Presupuesto del MTC

The resilience sector in Mexico
Mexico has integrated the gender perspective in its NDC in order to reduce the inequality gap between men and women who are facing the challenges of climate change. At local level, Mexico City is a pioneer in establishing gender equality as one of the seven guiding principles of its Climate Action Programme (PACCM), an exercise that could be replicated and scaled up nationwide.

The purpose of this initiative, led by the Climate Change Unit of the Ministry of Environment of Mexico City, is to integrate gender-sensitive indicators able to assess and improve the existing climate policy. The initiative is supported by capacity building measures and coordination among the climate change liaisons of local government departments and key stakeholders. Activities include the development of 55 gender related indicators with according methodological sheets, which were integrated into 78 actions of the PACCM. Some examples are users’ parity in institutional services; legal and programmatic arrangements for gender equality; gender gap reduction in relation to vulnerability; and gender-oriented communication.

As we can see, development cooperation projects in the region help to achieve a country’s specific NDCs and their commitments to implement the 2030 Agenda. From our study, we can conclude that GIZ projects implemented in urban contexts have brought each of the participating countries closer to their GHG reduction goals in the different sectors of water, resilience, energy and industry, mobility and transport, finance and capacity building. However, this is not a final analysis since there are many newly implemented projects in the participating countries whose results and contributions to the NDCs and SDGs have yet to be established.

Nathaly Agurto
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    Stella Schroeder
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