12 November 2022

Decarbonisation Day at COP27: cities leverage partnerships to lead the way

In order to reach global climate goals, we must dramatically reduce carbon emissions. To this end, 11 November was officially designated Decarbonisation Day at COP27, and featured conversations on policies to encourage and accelerate decarbonisation, as well as showcases of technologies and innovation schemes that facilitate low-carbon economies.

At the Multilevel Action Pavilion, decarbonisation was pushed forward with sessions on harnessing technology to accelerate climate action, financing decarbonation, and partnerships to support innovation and technology adoption.

Partnerships for decarbonised cities

Of particular note, in the session “The road to carbon neutrality and resilience in cities: a journey of innovation, technology adoption, and partnership development”, ICLEI Europe brought together local leaders, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Global Covenant of Mayors, and Google to chart a path for using partnerships to decarbonise cities.

To ensure speedy decarbonisation, cities need financing and high quality data. These obstacles can be faced with effective partnerships.

Minna Arve, Mayor of Turku (Finland) and ICLEI Vice-President, outlined how partnering with major industry players, like the shipyard and pharmaceutical companies in Turku, has been critical. Working together has helped align their climate goals, so that the city and many of its big industrial players are all on track to be climate neutral by 2029. Partnership is not, however, always easy to secure. Kemal Kılıç, Head of the Department of Climate Change & Zero Waste at ICLEI Member Izmir (Turkey) shared that Izmir found it challenging to find partners for waste management, leading them to largely take this work on themselves.

Anna Williams, Europe, Middle East, Africa Solutions Lead at Google, laid out how Google can help address data and financing obstacles. She pointed to the ICLEI Action Fund, through which has provided grants to nonprofit and academic organisations to reduce and avoid greenhouse gas emissions in cities. In its first phase, the Action Fund granted 2.5 million EUR, while a second phase will grant an additional 7 million EUR.

To address data and technology gaps, the Google Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) leverages Google’s geodata to make climate insights accessible and useable for cities across the world. EIE’s potential seems to bear out in Europe: last year, ICLEI Europe undertook a comprehensive analysis of the EIE tool to better understand the extent to which it can assist European cities in advancing local climate action and decarbonisation. Analysis included a technical assessment and an overview for European policymakers, which demonstrated the ways the EIE can support (and has supported) data-driven policy-making for decarbonising the transport sector.

Equity in decarbonisation

COP27 is a global event. To this end, at the aforementioned session, Manuel de Araújo, Mayor of ICLEI Member Quelimane City (Mozambique) and member of the ICLEI Africa Regional Executive Committee, urged corporate partners to consider local contexts. While many private sector tools make data and innovations technically available to all, not all municipalities have the capacity to make use of these. He urged the private sector to meaningfully consider how local contexts can make their tools more or less accessible in reality.

Equity is important to consider within Europe as well. As laid-out by COP27 organisers, just the three industries of Oil & Gas, Steel and Cement alone generate “direct emissions representing more than ¼ of global CO2 emissions.” To this end, regions and communities that rely on heavy-emitting sectors for local employment face unique and disproportionate challenges to decarbonisation.

A number of European platforms and projects exist to support coal and carbon-intensive regions in transition. ICLEI Europe supports some of these efforts, including the Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition in Europe, Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine, and the CINTRAN project. Coal and carbon-intensive regions will continue to need tailored assistance and targeted funding to ensure that the European road to decarbonisation is just, and does not leave their communities behind.

Overall, multilevel action was on display at COP27’s Decarbonisation Day. Cities were invited to participate and engage in global initiatives and build strong partnerships to accelerate integrated climate actions that are innovative, data-driven, sustainable and bankable.