The Talanoa Dialogue: How Cities and Regions Can Deliver on the Promise of the Paris Agreement

By Felix Döhler

Why should urban, regional and national decision-makers alike pay attention to the Talanoa Dialogue? This process, which was initiated by the Fijian COP23 Presidency, presents an exciting opportunity to align the national and subnational spheres of climate action. Throughout 2018, URBANET will report on the issue in a new series of articles.

The Government of Fiji, as Presidency of the COP23, brought some warmth to Bonn in a cold and rainy November. Besides the warm welcome “Bula”, most attendees will have taken away the notion of storytelling and constructive, inclusive dialogue as an element of the climate talks: Talanoa. This Pacific island tradition, in the local setting, may trigger images of harmonious traditional communities. However, for Fiji and other countries that are highly vulnerable to climate change, Talanoa is a mechanism for survival : the dialogue and collaboration across all sectors of society and on all levels of government is required to limit climate change and mitigate its effects.

Talanoa – an Opportunity for National-Subnational Cooperation

As Parties to UNFCCC, national governments are responsible for preparing and implementing nationally determined contributions (NDCs). While cities and regions are widely recognised as key actors in delivering climate policy locally, the involvement of subnational actors in the formulation of NDCs so far has been minimal. This is due to lack of time for sufficient consultations before the NDCs had to be submitted in the lead-up to the Paris Conference.

Already in 2015, the Conference of the Parties (COP) had decided “to convene a facilitative dialogue among Parties in 2018 to take stock of the collective efforts […] and to inform the preparation of NDCs”. The Fijian Presidency of COP23 together with UNFCCC named this process “Talanoa Dialogue” and structured it on the basis of Talanoa principles. National governments as well as non-party stakeholders have been invited to participate in the Talanoa Dialogue. Aimed principally at raising the ambition of NDCs, the dialogue focuses on the following questions:

  • Where are we?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How do we get there?

Municipal and regional leaders are natural partners in this process, as they have a lot to say about delivering ambitious climate action on the ground. Encouraging examples do not only come from well-known, global frontrunners in wealthy countries, but also cases like Kasese, Uganda. Against all odds, this Ugandan city has made a bold commitment, mobilised local and international support and is now preparing to base all its energy needs on renewables by 2020. This said, many local governments are overwhelmed by the simultaneous challenge of urbanisation and climate change. Thus, the Talanoa Dialogue presents a unique opportunity to align climate strategies of actors on the national and subnational levels, and to learn from each other . Cities, regions, and national governments can co-create effective new mechanisms for climate policies that leave no one and no place behind.

Policy Briefing: Enhancing NDCs Through Multilevel Action

To seize the Talanoa opportunity, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and UN-Habitat jointly made a submission to the Talanoa Dialogue, summarised in a policy briefing paper. The paper focuses on the potentials and methods of multilevel climate action, and advocates a stronger integration of subnational actors in the NDC process. Here are some of its key points:

  • It is unlikely that we will reach international climate goals without effective multilevel action. The Paris Agreement holds the promise to keep global average temperature increase to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels… and increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.” Looking at current national pledges, we have to reckon with a global temperature increase of around 3 degrees by 2100. National governments must find strategic and cost-effective ways to raise the ambition of their NDCs and then deliver results.
  • The potential for urban climate action is recognised by many governments and must now be tapped. According to UN-Habitat’s “Sustainable Urbanisation in the Paris Agreement” study, 113 out of 164 NDCs reference the urban dimension, particularly targeting climate change adaptation. Recognising that urban sectors are essential elements of climate action is a valuable first step. However, the impact will be very limited if it is not reflected in NDC implementation plans.
  • National governments will benefit from enhanced multilevel climate governance. By including concrete climate actions of cities and regions, such as the ones demonstrated through ICLEI’s carbonn Climate Registry (cCR), NDCs can become not only more ambitious, but also more realistic. The effective delivery of low-carbon and resilient development at the local level will contribute more broadly to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the New Urban Agenda.
  • In 2018, the Talanoa Dialogue can be used to kick-start the multilevel climate action process. ICLEI has proposed its GreenClimateCities methodology, which enables subnational governments to analyse, enact, and accelerate climate action. ICLEI has launched the Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues with UN-Habitat and the Global Covenant of Mayors as special partners.
  • By 2020, there is a number of ways in which national governments can make NDCs fit multilevel implementation. They may formulate NDC targets related to urban action; they can enhance the policy environment in areas that are relevant to low-carbon and resilient urban development; they can promote and integrate municipal and regional climate strategies, and link them to national climate reporting (using reporting platforms such as the carbonn Climate Registry). Also, national competence centres for municipal climate action (such as in the framework of Germany’s National Climate Initiative) can bundle information, provide advisory service and capacity building measures to enable local actors.
  • In the long run, enabling strategies can also include deeper policy reforms to strengthen the mandate and effectiveness of local climate policy. Financial instruments that can trigger a climate-compatible transformation include carbon pricing and accounting for climate risk asset valuation.
  • National governments can enable effective local climate action through targeted national urban policies. The array of policy options is presented in a thematic guide by UN-Habitat.

By stating the broad potential for NDC enhancement through multilevel action, we hope to encourage national and subnational climate policy actors to use the Talanoa opportunity and intensify their discussions.

References:

Policy briefing note by GIZ, ICLEI and UN-Habitat:

Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues:
The list of the initial 25 Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues can be seen on the 2018 schedule page.

Joint submission of UN-Habitat, ICLEI and GIZ to the Talanoa Dialogue:

Felix Döhler

Felix Döhler

Policy Advisor, Urban Development at Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Felix Döhler is an Urban Policy Advisor with GIZ’s Global and Sector Programmes Department in Bonn. He supports the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), specialising in urban climate change issues. Apart from this, he is affiliated with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA).

Felix’s previous occupations include five years as a freelance consultant, researcher, and facilitator as well as four years as a GTZ programme manager in China.
Felix Döhler