Global Covenant of Mayors Day at COP25 shines a light on the powerful impact of cities and regions


This month, governments from across the world gathered in Madrid (Spain) for COP25 – an annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which brings together world leaders to discuss key environmental issues and challenges. In previous years, these negotiations have led to landmark documents such as the Paris Agreement.

Cities and regions play an integral role in climate action. Local and regional governments are setting high ambitions, and cooperating across borders and sectors to ensure that goals are translated into results.

IUC cities and regions were prominent throughout COP with, for example Turku (Finland) sharing its circular economy expertise, and 28 Japanese local governments announcing their plans to align emissions with Paris Agreement goals.

To open the second week of COP25, on Monday, 9 December, the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM) hosted the 3rd annual “GCoM Day” in collaboration with the European Commission, European Committee of the Regions, GCoM regional secretariats, global and regional city networks, and partners. This year’s event focused on “Accelerating Action and Scaling-up Impact” and took place at the EU Pavillion.

The day featured remarks from European, region, and local representatives on implementing climate plans. After all, even ambitious goals will not be enough to address climate change unless paired with concrete action.

The event explored the role of cities and regions in the current global landscape through three distinct themes: accelerating local action; using innovation and partnerships to ensure goals are met; and moving from commitments to implementation in the Latin American context.

At GCoM Day, the Global Covenant and its partners also released Climate Emergency: Unlocking the Urban Opportunity Together, a report showcasing the collective impact of GCoM signatory cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report reveals that, for example, investment in global emissions reduction in GCoM cities is projected to deliver $2.8 trillion USD in annual returns and create 87 million jobs per year by 2030. And, GCoM signatory cities’ potential emissions reductions by 2050 are equivalent to taking over 870 million passenger vehicles off the road for a whole year.

Representatives from across government levels agreed at GCoM Day of the vast potential of cities, and their critical importance to climate action. Mauro Petriccione, Director-General, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission, said, “Cities have a key role to play here. The EU will continue to support the Global Covenant of Mayors to help cities and regions set meaningful targets and turn those into action.”

Bill Peduto, Mayor of signatory city Pittsburgh (U.S.A.), explained in the innovation session that not only must cities be engaged in international climate efforts, but cities must then, in turn, empower their citizens and communities: “To reap the benefits of innovation, empower people, give them the tools to do it, and then get out of their way.”

Overall, the day featured exchange and speeches from: the GCoM secretariat; European Commission Directorate-Generals for Energy, Climate Action, Research and Innovation, and International Cooperation and Development; UN-Habitat; World Bank Group; European Investment Bank; European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the German Federal Ministry for the Environment; United Cities and Local Governments Africa; and, of course, over a dozen speakers from GCoM and IUC cities.

With respect to international negotiations, COP25 was not, overall, as fruitful as many had hoped it would be, with many meaningful decisions simply being postponed until 2020. However, GCoM Day was but one example of how, despite lagging international negotiations, cities and regions are taking the lead to forge a more sustainable future.

Given that, it is only fitting that Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, expressed at GCoM Day, “I look forward to the day when we will welcome the 100,000th [GCoM] member. We can do it together, we can take action, and we have to take it now!”

Header image by the Global Covenant of Mayors.