Ambitious climate policies emerging from regional governments in territories

Article taken from issue N°7 of Territorios magazine of the Consortium or Provincial Autonomous Governments of Ecuador (CONGOPE)


Transport systems with reduced emissions or zero emissions, sustainable consumption models and circular economy, changes on the use of earth, and agricultural practices to reduce emissions, among others, are actions that can be developed from local bodies.

Climate change is a global challenge in which society and international actors should intervene in a complementary, coordinated and coherent way. In this scenario, the role of intermediate governments is critical through its jurisdiction. Particularly in decentralized states, where the subnational level creates and implements laws, policies, strategies, programs, and legal mechanisms among areas that affect directly to greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, energy, environment, transport, industry, agriculture, land use and civil security.

“Indeed, as per these competencies, as expected, around 50% and 80% of these adaptation and mitigation actions required to battle against climate change are being or will be implemented by the subnational level. Furthermore, these competencies will become key factors in order to preserve the contributions for emissions reduction, established by states signing the Paris Agreement, as concrete measures. Therefore, regional governments will have a critical role as catalysts within their implementation process”, as stated by Natalia Vera, Secretary General and spokeswoman of nrg4SD. This network groups together regional governments worldwide working for the benefit of sustainable development.

nrg4SD delegation at COP23

Regional governments are architects, in many occasions, of ambitious and innovative climate policies –sometimes– overcoming the level of ambition of their own states or the rhythm of international society. One of those cases is São Paulo (founder member of nrg4SD), Brazil, which approved the Emissions Reduction Law in 2009. Those decisions allowed the State to register currently zero industrial emissions. That proved how an effective leadership in a subnational level can be reversed into positive effects, and it also supposed a stimulation to other Brazilian states, and for the Federal State itself.

Moreover, regional governments are closer to citizens and can benefit from direct connections with civil society, while being able to develop important awareness campaigns aiming at involving citizens and other parties interested in climate change adaptation. In this same line of ideas, regional governments, given their flexibility on procedures and decisions, are able to create alliances with the private sector, NGOs and financial institutions, resulting in the establishment of technologies, financing systems, and training processes. Finally, due to their strategic position among state and local levels, they promote vertical coordination and inclusion in policies, which is critical for a coherent and efficient approach directed to long-term results.

The importance of articulation

Vera goes beyond the role of central, intermediate, and local levels should have, where it is critical to work coordinately when implementing global agendas. “When understanding transposition of international commitments towards domestic level by the State, and implementation, according to competencies distribution, by the central, intermediate and local levels, we need to be aware that all the levels of government have a responsibility and a role to play in order to succeed achieving global goals”, she states. And she adds that permanent cooperation areas and the appropriate ones for coordinating and cooperating among all the levels should be established in the role awareness, that is naturally complementary. Therefore, coordination mechanisms are important, since they allow the contribution on a subnational level to the reports and positions that the States lead to international debates. In this sense, information from the bottom upwards provided by subnational levels is crucial for making global decisions; hence, the role of implementers overpasses itself in order to become strategic actors for decision making.

Besides, regional governments have an acute role in the challenge of multilevel articulation since they are located as a required and key component in the chain, and, therefore, as guardians of that vertical integration of policies. Furthermore, regional governments are important observers of territory conception as a continuous factor. Hence, needed links between urban and rural areas are ensured, given that they are important to provide a flow of resources and working ecosystem services, among others in the territory.

Two successful examples

Regional governments can develop many adaptation actions within their own legal areas, for instance: strategies for transport systems with reduced emissions or zero emissions, sustainable consumption models, and circular economy changes on earth usage and agricultural practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among others. Vera describes two successful examples supported by nrg4SD.

Natalia Vera – nrg4SD Secretary General

The first one implemented a tool designed by the Basque Center for Climate Change, that assesses adaptation policies based on 17 indicators and 53 metrics covering general aspects. This allows identifying members of the network, in which phase they are from the technical point of view in terms of climate adaptation, and so then it assesses its progress and identifies possible improvement areas for their plans. Specifically, this tool is very useful to those regional governments that do not have an adaptation plan yet, or for those that have already one under a very early stage. “From nrg4SD, we invite regional governments to use this tool, and we advise them about how to use it with the support of researchers, who provide us with a guide to use it, and further information analysis. Therefore, this is a very successful cooperation in which are involved both the academic world and the investigation one, decentralized cooperation (nrg4SD network) and the local experience (intermediate governments).

Another case of success is the “Visiting Experts” program, an effort to promote practical learning among the network members. Indeed, nrg4SD subsidizes the residence of a representative in underdeveloped countries at the head office of a more developed country. “Many expert residences have been developed, the most recent is the one from Mamadou Ndong Touré, Projects responsible for Climate and Development of the Departmental Council of Gossas (Senegal), who enjoyed his stay for a month in the Government of Quebec, where he had the chance to learn experiences from this Government in the context of climate change in general, carbon market, and especially green economy”.

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