Engaging Local and Regional Governments

About This Opportunity

Subnational governments, such as towns, cities, counties, territories, provinces, regions, states, and other forms of local government, have been increasingly recognized as key to delivering on the goals of the Paris Agreement. The GST “acknowledges the important role and active engagement of non-Party stakeholders,” including subnational governments. Leveraging multi-level governance can raise mitigation ambition through new, additional, innovative and transformational actions. It can also help identify gaps and needs in planning and implementation. At a city level, responsible for often-significant shares of national emissions, these actions can have profound impacts on national progress. Subnational governments are also closer to  communities; particularly those most affected by climate change, and may deal with the impacts on a daily basis. They are also faced directly with local employment, economic and social issues, and are key partners in ensuring a Just Transition. Cooperation across all levels of government is therefore key to ambitious, resilient and equitable transitions.

Recent initiatives such as the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP) for Climate Action have further highlighted the potential of subnational governments and given impetus to greater cooperation and engagement. It commits the 72 signatory countries to enhance cooperation, where applicable and appropriate, with subnational governments in the planning, financing, implementation and monitoring of climate strategies.

The following strategies could help to implement this Opportunity:

Aligning long-term plans and visions and raising ambition across levels of government:

Subnational governments have been actively setting ambitious targets and developing climate plans. There is a significant opportunity to improve the coordination and alignment of these through greater communication between levels of government. Doing so might highlight opportunities to raise ambition in three ways. Firstly, more ambitious subnational government targets can provide a justification for more ambitious national goals such as net zero targets (see also “Opportunity: Setting Targets, Including Economy-Wide NDC Targets”). Leveraging subnational governments’ position as ‘closer’ to communities can help to ensure buy-in for ambitious action and visions of a low carbon resilient future, where benefits can be clearly articulated locally. Secondly, subnational governments have often developed plans and visions for 2050, which can help inform the development of Long-Term Strategies (see also “Opportunity: Aligning the NDC with LT-LEDS and Net Zero Goals”). Thirdly, subnational government plans can be specifically leveraged to identify new and innovative actions. Many transformative actions can be successfully identified and piloted in cities and at community scale, including across key sectors such as energy provision or transport, providing a test-bed for scaling up and accelerating technologies (see also “Route: Technology and Capacity-Building as Needs and Enablers“). This might also need financial support through the national government, or the opportunity to raise finance through, for instance, retaining collected rates and taxes at the local level for implementation. A simple action might be to develop a mechanism for local governments to submit their climate action plan to national governments, and provide detail on climate actions and implementation status and needs.

Facilitating meaningful dialogues:

To maximize the opportunities available from engaging subnational governments there is widespread recognition of the value of more meaningful, multi-level, multi-sectoral, understandable conversations. The concept of “Talanoa Dialogues”, informal and inclusive dialogues, uses story-telling as an accessible way to enable stakeholders to openly report on progress. The dialogues were designed to support actors to raise ambition and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Annual national-local dialogues before and during the NDC process and subsequent work-planning phase could help ensure a more inclusive process and minimize barriers.

Moving beyond ‘communicate and consult’ to ‘collaborate and co-own’:

Integrating subnational governments into NDC processes can bring many benefits. Communicating and consulting are important, but going beyond this to establish ways to collaborate and ensure co-ownership can help to scale up ambition and implementation. For example, Utilizing existing relationships and networks across key sectors or technical areas, incorporating them into working groups or workshops, can advance knowledge, understanding, data, partnerships, and innovation on action and implementation needs.

Leveraging cross-sector governance and integrated approaches by mainstreaming climate into sectors:

Whilst recognizing the cross-sectoral nature of climate change, enhancing subnational action and integration into NDCs and implementation processes can also be strengthened practically through sector mainstreaming processes, particularly via departments, plans and strategies that directly impact and influence local or urban development. Subnational governments often lack the mandate and capacity to influence key areas of e.g., infrastructure regulations or energy systems. Mainstreaming climate change into ministries and then enabling communication with counterparts at subnational levels, communicating on opportunities, challenges, data, implementation, and other needs could ensure a more joined-up and comprehensive approach. It may also help to improve accountability and ensure there are clear roles and responsibilities. (See also “Opportunity: Mainstreaming the NDC in National Planning Processes.”)

Localizing national emission reduction targets:

Aligning national and subnational plans and actions can be technically very challenging. Developing NDC targets by sector and disaggregating these could provide a clearer opportunity for subnational governments to identify and quantify their potential impact and alignment opportunities. This might also enable sector-specific strategies to be developed both at national and subnational levels. This disaggregation could also form the basis of ‘Locally Determined Contributions’ within NDCs. Where resource and capacity are more constrained, or data limitations make this challenging, an alternative might be for NDC targets to be instead broken down into specific activities, which clearly indicate what needs to be done at subnational levels. Other localized assessments could also be considered, such as vulnerability assessments. (See also “Opportunity: Disaggregating Targets across Sectors and Government Levels”).

Supporting access to finance by subnational governments:

Subnational government proposals often struggle to secure funding for a variety of reasons, including the inability to access funds, creditworthiness, national restrictions on access, budget constraints, the size and nature of projects, or capacity and awareness of proposal development processes and funding options. National governments could look at ways to provide capacity and support to subnational governments to facilitate access to funds to scale up and implement actions. Innovative platforms that, for example, aggregate and refine sub-national project proposals for investment could be a mechanism for this. See also “Route: Unlocks Finance”.

Enhancing data availability and quality:

A major barrier to action for many subnational governments is access to high-quality data and information to inform climate plans and investments. National governments can play a role in making data available at local levels, and ensuring it is specific and meets local needs. Leveraging national statistical institutes and understanding local information needs can help to ensure that information produced can be tailored and disaggregated, for instance, to subnational government boundaries, sectors, or policy areas. This also helps to support better alignment across levels of government, greater confidence in data for tracking purposes, and better supports subnational governments develop the evidence base they need for financing plans. Additionally, there may also be opportunities for subnational governments to enhance the national government data landscape. Many subnational governments are reporting comprehensive data through CDP-ICLEI Track for instance which could be used by national governments to enhance the quality of data. See also “Opportunity: Enhancing and Integrating Data Across Government.”

Focusing on collaborative subnational implementation strategies and finance:

To accelerate the ability to finance and implement NDCs, there could be a focus on developing specific subnational and sectoral implementation strategies that incorporate subnational needs. If developed in parallel to the NDC, this might help to increase implementation and feasibility and ensure ownership and buy-in.

Country Examples

Jordan has mainstreamed the NDC in the subnational planning processes. Jordan’s NDC makes extensive reference to subnational planning processes and actions, but it also notes specific actions that have been taken to support the subnational mainstreaming of the NDC. Two different pilot projects were implemented to support the local authorities in responding more actively to sustainable policy challenges including climate change and to build their capacities to formulate and implement more sustainable local policies aligning with Jordan’s NDC. The first project targeted the large municipalities, namely Greater Irbid Municipality, Municipality of Karak, and the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA). The training and technical assistance were provided for the municipalities’ staff and the local key stakeholders which enabled them to develop their local Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans that fit their local needs. The second project was implemented in 2019 in another three medium-sized municipalities namely, Municipality of Deir Alla (north of Jordan), Municipality of Aloyoon (middle), and Municipality of Basseera (south). The three municipalities had developed their Local Climate Action Plans (LCAPs) based on the local relevant climate actions, socio-economic analysis, capacities assessment, availability of plans, staff availability, institutional structure, and data availability to define key indicators to cover both the mitigation and adaptation objectives.

(Source: “Updated Submission of Jordan’s 1st NDC”, UNFCCC)

Peru has formalized non-Party stakeholder participation in the government’s inter-stakeholder climate change coordination mechanism. Non-Party stakeholder participation is built upon previous participatory processes regarding climate action in the country following the passage of Peru’s Climate Change Law. A regulatory framework for implementing its components was developed through consultations with 2,000 representatives of the public sector, Indigenous Peoples, youth, civil society, the private sector, and academia. A participatory, multilevel, and multi-stakeholder process called “Let’s Dialogue on the Regulation of the Framework Law on Climate Change” (translated) to collect the contributions of all Peruvians was held. Stakeholders’ contributions and how they were taken into account were published on government websites, demonstrating a commitment to transparency in the decision-making process.

The framework establishes the responsibilities of the national authority on climate change, line ministries, and agencies, and regional and local governments and ensures the participation of non-Party stakeholders. Eleven different non-Party stakeholder groups can elect two representatives to participate in the National Commission on Climate Change (CNCC) alongside representatives from 22 ministries and agencies. These stakeholders include Indigenous Peoples, Afro-Peruvians, NGOs, youth groups, women’s organizations, worker unions, professional associations, academic institutions, and the private sector. Peru ensures sustained engagement between government and non-Party stakeholders through a team within the General Directorate of Climate Change and Desertification in the Ministry of Environment.

(Source: “Dialoguemos sobre el Reglamento de la Ley Marco sobre Cambio Climático”,   Ministerio del Ambiente)

Rwanda’s Imihigo national cultural practice helped support enhanced NDC ambition and accelerate implementation. Imihigo is a cultural practice in the ancient tradition of Rwanda in which an individual sets targets to be achieved within a specific period. These commitments needed to be ambitious and transformational and are not supposed to relate to routine activities. In 2006, the concept of Imihigo was translated into performance contracts at all levels of society and government, from the household to the village, cell, sector (Umurenge), district and province, and up to the national level. The performance contracts include targets that require commitments on implementation, personal responsibility, reciprocity of obligations and, mutual respect between higher and lower ranks. Furthermore, the contracts emphasize high moral values, competition to achieve the best results, and an evaluation of outcomes.

As the sub-national level is crucial for achieving Rwanda’s development goals, the Imihigo contracts between the President of the Republic and the districts play a central role. Imihigo and the NDP are seen as complementary tools. Within the first Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), from 2008 to 2012, the Imihigo contracts were identified as ‘the way in which national priorities would be driven through local governments, with all levels of government being held accountable to citizens’.

Since their introduction, Imihigo contracts have been derived from strategic policy documents across three pillars: economic development, social development, and transformational governance. The President of the Republic and the districts’ mayors sign the contracts on an annual basis.

(Source: “Where Tradition Meets Public Sector Innovation: a Rwandan Case Study for Results-Based Approaches”)

Further Resources

The following guidance and tools can provide further support for multilevel governance and NDCs.

Urban Climate Action – The Urban Content of the NDCs: Global Review 2022 (UN-HABITAT, 2022)
This report explores the linkages between NDC and urban issues. It presents the results of the analysis, including illustrative country approaches for effective multi-level governance, representing Parties’ efforts in integrating national climate policies with urban climate action.

Enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) through Urban Climate Action (UN-HABITAT, 2020)
This guide provides practical opportunities for incorporating urban climate action and human settlement issues into the NDC revision and enhancement process, drawing on existing knowledge and networks.

Collaborative Climate Action – a Prerequisite for More Ambitious Climate Policy (GIZ, 2020)
This publication focuses on cooperation across government levels – national governments, federal states, counties, provinces, districts, cities, and municipalities, to look at why and how collaborative climate action can drive more effective and ambitious climate policy.

Multi-Level Climate Governance Supporting Local Action. Instruments Enhancing Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation at the Local Level (GIZ, 2018)
This study explores the following question: How can different instruments for multi-level climate governance support the realization of local climate mitigation and adaptation potentials? The study provides guidance on the contemporary discourse, outlines the build-up of governance capacity, and presents different applications and relevant stakeholders aiming to strengthen the applicability of multi-level climate governance.

Multilevel Climate Action Playbook for Local and Regional Governments (GCoM, 2022)
This resource seeks to support the development of enabling environments that can integrate the ambition and action of local and regional governments into national plans. Such an environment can also help to produce ‘Regional and Local Contributions’ (RLCs): climate plans that are designed to feed into NDCs with the aim of strengthening their ambition.

Multilevel Climate Action Guide for Decision Makers (GCoM, 2023)
This Guide highlights three overarching recommendations that can catalyze multilevel governance and coordination. Applied with local and regional considerations, these recommendations offer opportunities for meaningful and accelerated progress toward achieving national climate ambition – through local and regional implementation.

Progress on Vertical Integration in National Adaptation Plan Processes: Analysis of Strategic Linkages Between National and Sub-National Levels (NAP Global Network, 2023)
This synthesis report presents an analysis of how countries are advancing vertical integration in NAP processes. Based on a review of data collected through a review of NAP documents submitted to the UNFCCC it presents key findings and recommendations for vertical integration on climate adaptation.

The Paris Agreement’s Enhanced Transparency Framework: The Critical Role of Non-Party Stakeholder Data to Effectively Track Progress (CDP, 2023)
This document analyzes the importance of non-Party stakeholder data and evidence in the ETF, discusses including non-Party stakeholder data in Biennial Transparency Reports (BTRs), provides tools supporting NPS data collection for BTRs, and offers recommendations for next steps.

Science-Based Climate Targets: A Guide for Cities (Science-based Targets Network, 2020)
Designed to help cities understand and adopt a science-based climate target. It explains different methodologies for setting an interim science-based target for 2030 and a net zero target for 2050. 

Climate Action Planning Vertical Integration Guide (C40, 2020)
This guide explains the principles and practices of enabling climate action through vertical integration and provides a series of good practice examples from around the world. It also introduces a suite of tools and resources, that can help city governments to evaluate barriers and opportunities for vertical integration and support the planning and implementation of strategies to improve it.

Vertically-Integrated Climate Action Tools (C40, 2020)
A suite of tools and resources that can help in the evaluation of barriers and opportunities to vertical integration, and support the planning and implementation of strategies to improve it.

Africa Framework for Vertical Integration (C40, 2021)
A framework covering key areas for cities and national governments to enhance vertical integration, with a particular focus on the African region. Also incorporates examples and case studies.

Localizing NDCs with Inspiration from the 2030 Agenda – Policy Brief (GIZ, 2021)
Policy brief looking into why and how NDCs can and should be localized. Also examines what lessons the process of localizing SDGs has to offer for localizing NDCs.

Vertical integration: GHG Data Alignment Principles and Practices for States and Regions (Climate Group, 2021)
This knowledge product is designed to support states and regions in understanding some of the practical and technical considerations for ‘vertical integration’ between national, subnational and local governments, with a particular focus on data for greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories and mitigation measures and targets.

Seizing the Urban Opportunity (Coalition for Urban Transitions, 2021)
Report outlining how national governments can recover from COVID-19, secure shared prosperity, and tackle the climate crisis through cities. It offers analysis and recommendations tailored to each country’s specific context. The report outlines how these national governments can create low-carbon, resilient, and inclusive cities.

Talanoa Dialogues in Africa: Advancing Coordinated Action between National, Subnational and International Actors (ICLEI, 2018)
The concept of the Talanoa Dialogue was introduced into international negotiations during COP 23, held in 2017, and represented the first time in UNFCCC process that national governments met with non-Party stakeholders in an official setting. This booklet outlines the lessons from the Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues, designed to initiate a collaborative process involving all levels of government to take stock of, shape, and strengthen NDCs.

Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues: Leveraging Subnational Action to Raise Climate Ambition (ICLEI, 2018)
This guide explains the concept of Talanoa Dialogues. It outlines the history and the contributions to global negotiations, as well as what the dialogues have achieved It provides examples and lessons learned before presenting a framework for organizing a Talanoa Dialogue.

NDC Ambition Handbook: Learning from city success to raise national ambition (C40, 2022)
This C40 NDC Ambition Handbook can be utilized by countries during the NDC development phase, to identify the most impactful actions that should be implemented across sectors including energy, transport, buildings, waste, construction and urban planning. Countries can use this as inspiration when selecting, prioritizing and defining actions to input into their NDC.

Non-State and Subnational Action Methodology (ICAT, 2020)
The Non-State and Subnational Action Guide provides tools for the integration of non-state actors’ activities including how to account for the variety of non-state and subnational actions undertaken by regions, cities, companies and/or sectors; assess the extent to which those actions are a means towards achieving or surpassing national climate targets; and reflect the impact of those actions in national GHG projections, policy development, and target setting.

How This Links to Other Routes

Integrating subnational governments into the NDC process has benefits across all Routes, but some important linkages include the following. Navigate to these to read more:

Route: Aligned to the Paris Agreement Temperature Goal

Subnational governments have been actively setting ambitious targets and developing long term climate plans which can be leveraged to inform more ambitious targets, set economy-wide long-term targets, and ensure buy-in and implementation of mitigation measures in key sectors

Route: Unlocks Finance

One of the biggest barriers to subnational action is lack of finance, and greater integration into the NDC process, alignment of plans, and access to data will help to facilitate this, ultimately ensuring more implementation

Route: Aligned to Paris Agreement Global Goal on Adaptation

Subnational governments are often highly aware of climate risks and vulnerabilities, with local communities directly impacted. They can be engaged and can actively support strengthened understanding of vulnerable groups, and appropriate actions.

Support Opportunities

Support is available to countries to apply the learning from the navigator and develop ambitious NDCs 3.0.

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