‘Cities at centre of climate discussion for first time’

Publish on December 24, 2023     Source: Hindustan Times

Interview with Shruti Narayan, regional director, South and West Asia, at C40 Cities, following the recently held Conference of the Parties (COP).

From record-breaking heat to intense rain, from cyclones and floods to long dry spells, 2023 had its share of worst weather extremes. Their impact was magnified in cities due to population density, income inequalities, insufficient public services, and civic mismanagement. While the urgency for accelerated climate action in urban spaces is now understood, its roadmap, the issues of monetary and technical support, and the challenge to ensure an equitable and humane approach to implementing solutions demand more clarity and unanimity.

The recently held Conference of the Parties (COP) — the United Nations’ high-profile annual assembly of world leaders negotiating terms of climate action — agreed on the issues of transitioning away from fossil fuels and the framework for the global goal of adaptation, while taking stock of climate action and mobilising the loss and damage fund.

To understand how these outcomes will play out for cities, HT spoke with Shruti Narayan, regional director, South and West Asia, at C40 Cities, a network of 100 international cities that assists six Indian metros in framing their climate action plans. Edited excerpts:

**What were the biggest takeaways for cities from the Conference of the Parties (COP)-28 in Dubai?

This COP was, in many ways, a landmark one. The focus on fossil fuel transition; the approval of loss and damage fund (for developing countries affected by climate change) although the (pledged amount of) $700 million compared to the billions that are required is a drop in the ocean; the first-ever global stock take and a full-scope review of climate issues; acknowledging that the next round of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – which are due for revision in 2025 -- need to have a global adaptation plan; discussing the impact of climate crisis on health… These were all significant.Also, for the first time, cities found the centre stage amid all these discussions, which otherwise tend to happen at the national level. The first-ever local climate action summit focussed on cities was organised. Over 100 cities came together. The coalition of high-ambition multi-level partnerships (CHAMPS) was launched. This indicates that no action can be delivered on the ground without consultation with local and subnational governments.

**How will the transition away from fossil fuel play out in Indian cities that are heavily dependent on them? Much of the transportation, for instance, runs on oil and gas. There is a push for electric vehicles, but they’ll still be powered by electricity generated in coal-fired power plants until the share of renewables increases.

One of the things that this COP probably couldn’t do and would need to be taken up in the next COP is how this transition will happen for economies that are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. To get them to transition away quickly will require transitional financing.

Cities need data-driven and evidence-based climate action plans. Once the cities know cross-sectorally what their emissions are, they can explore how to get to the reduction part. In cities, energy building and transport sectors are the biggest emitters. If we look at energy efficiency as the first principle of production, it immediately reduces our reliance on energy. This makes the transition from fossil fuels easy and more economical.

The second step is to look at renewable energy – there’s agreement at COP-28 to triple renewable energy -- and how to bring in new technologies. Here, platforms such as CHAMPS and local climate actions provide opportunities for cities to have negotiations with subnational and national governments on the phase-out because decisions such as these require all players to come together,

The first principle of mobility needs to start from walkability and how to incentivise public transportation. That will reduce the need for motor vehicles, making electrification of transportation more viable.

Through C40’s city finance facility, we are working with Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking (BEST), looking at deploying renewable energy on bus depots to power their growing (electric) bus fleet. This kind of project can be replicable and help cities achieve their electrification targets while enhancing public transportation.

**What does the loss and damage fund have for Indian cities? What are the ways to access it?

The World Bank has been reached out to see how they could be the secretariat (to host the fund). But irrespective of the loss and damage fund, we still need to establish certain aspects of the broader climate financing. First, there are gaps in climate funds. Second, there are limitations in how cities can access these funds directly. That is the discussion on the multilateral development bank reforms: What kind of risk mechanisms can be there? How can cities improve their creditworthiness?

Disclaimer: These are compilation of links to articles in media/journals/magazines in their original form. The opinion expressed in there articles do not necessarily represent the views of ENVIS/IITM.

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