Wolfgang Teubner is the ICLEI Regional Director for Europe, Source: ICLEI Europe

Wolfgang Teubner: Тhe path towards the end of fossil fuels is irreversible

Wolfgang Teubner: Тhe path towards the end of fossil fuels is irreversible

An interview with the ICLEI regional director for Europe аfter the close of COP28

After the close of COP28, we sat down with Wolfgang Teubner, ICLEI regional director for Europe, to take stock of the achievements from the climate summit and to hear his view on how the new multilateral deals will affect urban areas in Europe and the agency that cities have to be a proactive actor in global climate action.

Mr. Teubner, what are the key takeaways from COP28 for cities, and how will they impact European urban areas specifically?

First, I would like to mention the Coalition for High Ambition Multi-Level Partnerships (CHAMP), which was announced in the Local Climate Action Summit (LCAS) at COP and is already supported by more than 70 states. This coalition will strengthen the role and impact of cities and local governments in national and European climate policy.

Second, the commitment to transition away from fossil fuels, as well as tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030 is an important achievement that will certainly impact the energy planning in European cities and towns.

Finally, the role of urban development in combatting climate change and achieving the necessary adaptation has again been strengthened by the urban development ministers’ conference at COP and the joint outcome statement of the conference and the LCAS.

How realistic is it to think that this will really be the beginning of the end for fossil fuels? Do cities have an assigned role to play to that end?

Although the statement is still not as strong as it should have been, the path towards the end of fossil fuels is irreversible. Right now, it is only remaining open to how fast this will be achieved. Considering the impact this will have particularly on heating systems, transport and mobility, it is obvious that cities and their utilities will have to play a strong role in this development, whether it is explicitly assigned to them or not.

However, this should also result in a better and stronger involvement of cities and local governments in the development of relevant policies, measures, and financing instruments.

What were the main takeaways from the first-ever Local Climate Action Summit? Could something like that be replicated at the regional or local level on our continent?

As I previously mentioned, the LCAS itself being an official part of the COP28 programme and the CHAMP initiative are clearly strengthening the role of cities and local governments in the negotiation process and in the multi-level governance processes in Europe between the EU, national, subnational and local level.

We definitely need to see more policies that respond to the commitments and strategies that are coming from the local level and that ensure a multilevel governance approach.

In Europe, ahead of COP28, some ICLEI members organised local stocktakes to contribute to the global stocktake under the UNFCCC. Additionally, we already have strong initiatives like the Covenant of Mayors, the Mission of Climate Neutral and Smart Cities, the Adaption Mission and some more, that are not only offering support for cities and local governments but at the same time a considerable negotiation space and relevant events. Therefore, it would be important to use all existing tools to build momentum towards ensuring a multilevel governance approach in Europe.

How can European cities work together to ensure that COP28 agreements are implemented effectively at the local level?

In Europe, we have a strong family of city networks that collaborate in all the initiatives that I have mentioned, and a vast number of European-funded projects focused on sustainability in cities and towns. This includes even the Committee of the Regions as an official body of the EU Governance system.

I am convinced that we are all aligned in strengthening the role of cities while making sure that the fiscal, financial and regulatory frameworks are becoming supportive and responsive to the needs of locally developed strategies, action- and investment plans.

Do you foresee stronger empowerment for cities at COP29 and what will ICLEI do to advocate for this?

For ICLEI, the LCAS and the CHAMP initiative are only the starting point and platform to work for stronger empowerment of cities in relation to the Nationally Determined Contributions and the Global Stocktake exercise. This involvement and recognition are helping us to enter into talks about better framework conditions for cities and local governments.

From our side at our European Secretariat, we are bringing these developments back home to Europe and considering, in the context of the revision of Europe’s Governance Regulation and our upcoming European Sustainable Towns and Cities Conference, what it means to implement CHAMP in the EU. With all our strong initiatives, Europe can play a leading role in this and set a good example for other countries and regions in the World.



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