Fostering Multilevel Governance: The Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues

The Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues are a highly efficient tool towards achieving the goals set in the Paris Agreement. This can be seen in examples from Togo, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa, and Ecuador, writes Jisun Hwang from the ICLEI.

In February 2018, the Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues were launched by ICLEI at the ninth World Urban Forum, with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) and UN-Habitat as special partners. Since then, these dialogues have been demonstrating substantive progress on catalysing climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts by all levels of government. The Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues held so far have shown that they can enhance synergies between sustainable urbanisation and climate change. They do so by mainstreaming multilevel governance approaches aimed at raising the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.

More than 50 sessions of Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues have been scheduled for this year, taking place in 45 countries, equally distributed across the Global South and North. The outcomes garnered from the Dialogues present a wide array of forward-looking policies, strategies, regulations, and action plans for raising the ambition of NDCs. This article aims to present an analysis of key insights from the reports of Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues on the following areas: 1) urban-climate synergy; 2) multilevel governance; 3) institutional frameworks that can lay a solid foundation for enhanced ambition prior to 2020 and beyond.

Enhancing the Urban-Climate Nexus for NDC Implementation and Sustainable Development

First, the Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues have enhanced linkages between sustainable urbanisation and climate change. The transformative power of integrating sustainable urban and territorial development with climate change was recognised as one of the keys to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Several concrete ways to enhance this synergy were identified.

At the Lomé Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogue in Togo, for example, participants agreed that there is room for much greater integration of locally developed plans, actions, and commitments into the NDC of Togo. The city of Tsévié in Togo is currently developing its local Sustainable Energy Access and Climate Action Plans (SEACAP) under the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa. During the Dialogue, the Mayor of Tsévié agreed to share knowledge with the rest of the Togolese cities on SEACAPs and build their capacity. A larger number of such locally developed SEACAPs by other cities in Togo would scale up climate actions, eventually strengthening the NDC ambition on a country-wide scale by 2020.

The Manila Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogue in the Philippines echoed the same need for bringing sustainable urbanisation closer to the NDC. It was convened under the framework of the Ambitious City Promises project which provides capacity building for local governments to engage citizens and drive climate action through low emission development strategies (LEDS). This Dialogue crystallised discussion on various approaches to bring local and regional climate action in line with the Climate Change Act (2009), which emphasises the role of local governments in addressing climate change. It described local governments as “frontline agencies” in climate change. Participants underlined the importance of ensuring vertical and horizontal integration so that coordinating support amongst relevant government ministries is facilitated and that departments can effectively operationalise this legal framework.

The Importance of Multilevel Governance Under the Paris Agreement

Second, the importance of multilevel climate governance recognised by the Paris Agreement was reaffirmed through Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues. Harnessing the policy convergence at all levels of government received strong support from delegates from different levels of government. At the Jakarta Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues in Indonesia, for instance, it was agreed that emissions reduction targets would be linked to specific local issues, such as waste management and public transport. This would in turn foster dialogue, coordination, collaboration, and coherence among relevant processes pursued by different levels of government.

Another example can be drawn from the Johannesburg Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogue in South Africa. It was organised as part of the Urban-LEDS II project that is being implemented by ICLEI and UN-Habitat. It offers a comprehensive methodological framework that allows local governments to integrate low-carbon and climate resilience strategies into all sectors of urban planning and development. The current South African NDC already recognises the importance of having subnational legal frameworks and policies, especially on adaptation. Participants concurred that a constructive next step would involve the development of specific roles and responsibilities for cities and regions in the next iteration of the South African NDC, so that local and regional governments would have a clear roadmap for how they can contribute to the NDC goals.

Next Steps: How Do We Get There?

Third, Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues have identified the necessary next steps that will foster subnational actions aimed at raising ambition. The Dialogues have provided a much needed catalyst to facilitate multilevel policy dialogues on detailed methodologies “how to get there.” In this context, the outcomes of the Quito Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogue in Ecuador are worth highlighting.

At the end of the Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogue held in Quito on 4 May 2018, the Ministry of the Environment, the Municipality of Quito, WWF Ecuador, and the Association of Municipalities of Ecuador, supported by the ICLEI, the Global Covenant of Mayors, and the European Union, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which led to the creation of the National Consultative Committee for Climate Change in Ecuador. This MOU has laid the foundation for revising the Ecuadorian NDC in such a way that will reflect its highest possible ambition in achieving the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

A Priceless Tool

The Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues have created rich outcomes in many countries on the three key areas: urban-climate synergy, multilevel governance, and enabling frameworks for advancing on NDC implementation at all levels of government. This initiative has proven to be a precious exercise that is necessary to strengthen a country’s ownership of NDC implementation at all levels of government. It follows the vision of the Bonn-Fiji Commitment for a domestic multilevel consultative process aimed at achieving the Paris Agreement goals. ICLEI plans to make sure that the collection of good practices, challenges, experiences, and lessons learned from NDC implementation will feed into the 2019 UNSG Climate Summit so that the experience and knowledge from the Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues will be made available to a large audience.

Jisun Hwang

Jisun Hwang

Senior Climate Advocacy and Policy Officer at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
Jisun Hwang is Senior Climate Advocacy and Policy Officer at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.She supports the coordination of ICLEI’s global policy and advocacy on climate change, actively following and coordinating ICLEI’s engagement in the framework of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).She conducts advocacy, represents the ICLEI network in climate negotiations, and has regular communication with the UNFCCC Secretariat. She also supports ICLEI’s focal point role of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) and engages with the Friends of Cities and Regions at the UNFCCC.
Jisun Hwang