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Pioneering Local Governments for Sustainability

Of the million or so local governments worldwide, only a few thousand are engaged actively in international sustainability projects and networking. Yet many of these governments serve as models that guide or inspire others, offering examples that innovative actors in not-yet-active cities can point to and follow. Case studies, internationally known “best cases,” and leading mayors with high public profiles represent a potent way to accelerate progress. Local governments have demonstrated to national governments that action is possible at the local level, even when progress may be slow at the national level. Local-level action is successful because it is closest to people—at a level where conditions are best known. The stakeholders know each other, trust can be built, and potential failures have limited impacts.

The most successful way of encouraging action—whether on energy conservation, climate change adaptation and resilience, low-carbon development, water management, non-motorized mobility, or other issues—is for pioneering cities to lead by example, thus inviting similar action in other cities both at home and abroad. To promote this development, ICLEI has as-

Box 14–2. Local Government Involvement in the UN Biodiversity Convention

Local governments have played a growing role in the annual meetings, or Conferences of the Parties, of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. In 2008, in parallel to the CBD negotiations in Bonn, Germany, ICLEI started a biodiversity initiative similar to the involvement of local governments in UN climate negotiations. Partnering with the CBD Secretariat and local host governments, the organization has since helped coordinate a series of biodiversity summits of local and subnational government leaders.

In 2008, the Mayors Conference on Local Action for Biodiversity produced one of the first documents to outline the important role of local governments in protecting biodiversity worldwide, titled Cities and Biodiversity: Bonn Call for Action. Two years later, the 2010 City Biodiversity Summit took place in parallel with the CBD conference in Nagoya, Japan. A key outcome was the Aichi/Nagoya Declaration on Local Authorities and Biodiversity, which provided support for the Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2011–2020), which had been adopted by all 193 parties to the CBD. For the first time, local and other subnational actors were mentioned in such a high-level UN document for the CBD and recommended as partners for national action plans.

In October 2012, the Cities for Life: City and Subnational Biodiversity Summit took place in parallel to the annual CBD conference in Hyderabad, India. This event built on the previous successes by examining and assessing the implementation status of the Plan of Action. A signify outcome was the Hyderabad Declaration on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity, a pledge by the mayors and governors of local and subnational authorities to develop and implement local strategies toward the Plan of Action, and to achieve the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Similar activities are planned for 2014 CBD conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which will be hosted, for the fi time, by a province (Gangwon).

These summits are only the visible portion of local government activities to support biodiversity protection. Municipalities depend on functioning ecosystems, and maintaining biodiversity is not only a goal for urban areas but a necessary reality. City development strategies are key to sustaining biodiversity, whether within their borders or in remote areas affected by development.

Source: See endnote 14.

sembled a network of model and satellite cities in model countries, especially for urban low-carbon development strategies. Supported with measurement instruments and tools, access to a pool of experts, and information exchanges both nationally and internationally, these cities are implementing multiyear plans with clear goals and assessment systems at hand.

In a second key approach, ICLEI propagates the courage, pioneering spirit, and innovative local activities of these leading cities as a way to influence many others. This “mainstreaming” can be supported by developing methods, mechanisms, tools, and guides, and by demonstration of successes and impacts. Deepening and cementing this mainstreaming will require the creation of facilitative national laws and economic incentives and the handing off of increased responsibilities to local governments.

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