The role of the local level in the negotiations

In a briefing to civil society organizations yesterday, COP 16 President Patricia Espinosa resoundingly praised the efforts of local governments and subnational authorities for their efforts to fight climate change. Cathy Oke, a representative of the Melbourne (Australia) government, posed the question to Espinosa of how the recently signed Mexico City Pact, and other examples of subnational commitments to address climate change, could be recognized in the negotiations as an effective strategy that should be supported in international dialogues. Espinosa emphatically responded that the Mexico City Pact is a very important contribution to the negotiations, as it signals the readiness of local authorities to act, significant in that any future UNFCCC agreement would be largely implemented through local and subnational channels. Espinosa highlighted Mexico as an example of a nation that recognizes the value of subnational action, pointing to the cooperation between President Calderon’s government and Mexico City municipal authorities on the issue of climate change, despite party differences. Espinosa also said that the Mexico City Pact would be presented to the COP in a major, visible event that would likely be open to non-accredited parties.

While Espinosa’s remarks are welcome in the Local Government and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) community, there is still significant work to be done in the COP to maintain existing references in the negotiation text and to add new ones. Just a few days ago, Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe, chair of the AWG-LCA working group, released a streamlined text that eliminated most references to local and subnational governments. Ronan Dantec, mayor of Nantes (France), questioned Espinosa as to how to tackle the issue of the less-than-exhaustive nature of the shortened text. Espinosa reassured Dantec and the rest of the group that the shortened text is simply a suggestion from the chair, with the previous text, from August’s Bonn meetings, still on the table for negotiations. Espinosa also added that the delegation from Mexico plans to raise the issue of the inadequacy of the streamlined text in Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) sessions. Whether the SBI is an appropriate or sufficient venue for addressing the concerns of LGMA delegates, as well as those of the many other focal point groups whose references were cut, still remains to be seen.