Latin American local governments’ leaders, signatories of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, met for the first time after the COVID-19 pandemic in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to discuss priorities for the region’s municipalities.
The meeting held on the 19th, 20th and 21st of October, as a side event to the C40 Cities Summit, allowed governments to discuss ways to strengthen climate change adaptation and improve access to climate finance.
The coordinator of the Global Covenant of Mayors for the Americas, Hélinah Cardoso, points out that the meeting “strengthens the political representation of regional municipal interests within the GCoM, allowing greater visibility of climate action and reinforcing the ownership of the alliance’s global strategy for the territory”. For Hélinah, “it is very motivating to have a space with local authorities to debate and promote the climate agenda in Latin America”.
The Ambassador of the European Union in Argentina, Amador Sánchez Rico, highlighted the EU’s commitment throughout the years in tackling climate change and its efforts to make it a reality. In this sense, Rico emphasized that, “local action has the magic to convert goals or strategies that may seem distant or abstract to citizens into concrete and real changes that help in the response to climate change. That is why the role of all the mayors who are here today is so decisive.”
The representative of the city of Buenos Aires, Hernán Reyes, emphasized that, “the climate and ecological crisis that plagues us is perhaps the greatest challenge facing humanity, as it requires an unprecedented level of global action and cooperation. In this context, local governments are becoming increasingly relevant. Cities, which occupy only 3% of our planet’s surface, are responsible for 60% to 75% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. Consequently, it is in the actions of local governments that the biggest climate game is played,” he said.
Adaptation, resilience and climate finance at the center of the debate
Among the challenges pointed out by the authorities are the increasing damages caused by the devastating effects of climate change over the last five years. Heat waves, forest fires, droughts, and floods are already part of everyday life for many citizens in the region.
To address them, experts and local authorities have concluded that it is essential to strengthen knowledge and capacities to implement nature-based solutions at the local level, in particular focusing on urban biodiversity, green areas, and water resources; to invest in sustainable and resilient infrastructure; and to develop awareness-raising actions to mobilize citizens in these efforts.
In terms of climate finance, municipalities are defining in their local climate action plans their mitigation and adaptation potentials, needs, and opportunities in financial terms. Multi-level governance, national budget transfers, and inter-institutional articulation are proving to be key.
GCoM expert, Elise Abbès Castillo, highlighted the strong performance of local governments “despite the scarcity of resources and the barriers they face, municipalities and the actions they have developed and plan to develop are key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement and tackling climate change.”
For the executive director of the Argentinian Network of Municipalities Facing Climate Change (RAMCC), Ricardo Bertolino, one of the key points is the integration of actions with the private sector. “The municipalities, if they don’t resort to the private sector, cannot do the whole task. In this sense, we have developed some tools in which we are involving the private sector in climate planning, in the climate agenda,” he said. According to Bertolino, in Argentina there is already private sector financing for projects that are part of the municipalities’ action plans.
First meeting of the Latin American Mayors Forum
The new governance body of the GCoM in Latin America, which brings together 12 local authorities from eight countries in the region, known for their work and commitment to the fight against climate change, had its exclusive meeting on the second day of the event.
In the words of the Executive Director of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability – Latin America, Rodrigo Perpétuo, the Mayors’ Forum means increasing the possibility of influence and incidence of our region in major global agendas, especially this global climate agenda. “We hear the call to action, the call to implementation. The big question for this forum is: what do mayors need to implement the climate agenda in their municipalities? The Global Covenant of Mayors is the first step in the sense that it is, in fact, the most comprehensive and important global commitment for local climate action,” he said.
This governance mechanism will give greater visibility to the signatory municipalities’ climate action commitments and strengthen their presence in key events and spaces for the regional and global climate agenda.
In the event that marked the first meeting of the Forum, the local authorities made their contributions to the GCoM Latin America Declaration for COP27.