Luc Bas: States and Regions lead the way at Rio+20

25 June 2012

Luc Bas, Director of International States and Regions, The Climate Group, reflects on the leading ambition shown by the world's sub-national governments at Rio+20. 

Just before national governments finally agreed to a process towards the 'future we want' in RioCentro, next door sub-national governments from all over the world agreed to actually do something about sustainable development. The Climate Group’s States and Regions Alliance signed up to clear commitments in its Clean Revolution Statement at the World Summit of States and Regions on June 19, 2012, which also adopted a broader declaration setting out a roadmap to the green economy. 

Building a sustainable future requires a massive shift towards low carbon technologies, policies and practices. The Clean Revolution can only be achieved with strong leadership at all levels in government, business and civil society. And sub-national governments play a key role in this context: UNDP estimates that 50-80% of the necessary climate change actions must happen at the sub-national level.

These governments have the jurisdiction over key areas such as energy, buildings, waste management, transport and land use planning. They are able to implement new policies close to the citizens, and often have more scope than national governments to experiment with innovative approaches. 

The Climate Group was one of the first organizations to highlight this potential. Since the States and Regions Climate Leaders Summit which resulted in the 2005 Montreal declaration, the States and Regions Alliance has grown to 22 full members and 40 further affiliates around the globe. This network brings together the leaders among sub-national governments worldwide to exchange experiences, increase their ambition with joint commitments, build a strong voice and raise awareness for the role that states and regions can play in the climate change and green economy arena. 

The importance of this network is increasingly recognized as a reference for sub-national action, both by those governments and by international negotiators. At the World Summit of States and Regions on June 19, a day-long conference organized by The Climate Group in collaboration with Rio State and nrg4SD in the context of the Rio+20 conference, more than fifty governmental leaders came together to share experiences and sign a joint commitment towards building a low carbon future. Christiana Figueres, Executive Director of the UNFCCC, accepted this Rio Declaration on behalf of the UN and  strongly supported  this work by highlighting the role of states and regions as first movers,  incubators of innovative ideas, and developing pilots that can then be replicated at a larger scale

Ambitious policies at this level have immediate impact for the citizens: building a low carbon economy offers immense potential for local job creation and economic development. Clean and reliable transport, smart buildings technology, energy efficient lighting - and many more are examples where climate benefits and general improvement of citizen’s well-being go hand in hand - turn the Clean Revolution into a very tangible and concrete positive vision for our joint future. 

Different states and regions obviously have different challenges, based on their economic context, legislative power as well as local history and cultural background. But their examples all show that with the adequate vision and leadership, they can all develop new solutions for their sustainability challenges, that work equally for climate, business and society at large. Some of these are outlined in our new report Clean Revolution Leadership from the World's States and Regions, which we presented at the Summit. Many more examples will be gathered in our Clean Revolution evidence base, which we plan to continuously grow into an inspiring source of cutting-edge leadership from states and regions as well as a whole range of other sectors and levels. 

The adopted Rio+20 agreement doesn’t hold guarantees for real international commitment and collaboration, but through agreeing a process to action it just avoided the collapse of multilateral sustainable development negotiations. In lacking a clear top down agreement, the text recognizes more than ever the role of all actors other than national governments. For the first time the sub-national government level has been given clear recognition (separate from local) throughout the text by upping from one reference in the Zero draft, to 23 in the final text.

Rio+20 brought together climate and sustainability leaders from all over the world. A vast number of side events has illustrated the wide range of actors that are engaged in this sphere, and, independent of the outcomes of international negotiations, are already building the Clean Revolution on the ground.  

States and Regions of The Climate Group are an important part of this development and the Alliance is still growing. In the last few months, we have been able to welcome five new members from Europe, Africa and Latin America. Since last November, the Alliance also has its own governance structure, allowing regions to take a stronger lead in shaping its work, and developing work streams around major topics of interest. An ambitious working group has already taken off on a best practice policy exchange on electro-mobility, and at the Alliance’s General Assembly in Rio we have laid the foundation for further groups to work on energy efficiency financing, marine energy technologies, green economy and the involvement of SME and energy efficient lighting

At the World Summit we also launched a joint reporting platform with the Carbon Disclosure Project and R20 for more consistent sub-national governments disclosure. Many governments are already analyzing their carbon footprint, and working to develop structures to better monitor and assess the impact of their work. Transparent communication about their efforts will help them become even more effective in pursuing their ambitions and launch a creative 'race to the top' between the frontrunners and those that want to follow in their footstep. At the same time, the aggregated information will also help others better understand the ambition of what’s already underway.

The Alliance also reported back from its Copenhagen commitment to jointly plant 1 billion trees by 2015. The momentum for Rio+20 has resulted in an accelerated progress crossing the 500 million marker.

The Climate Group’s States and Regions have concretely contributed to the future they want for their citizens, in the absence of a clear international agreement. The commitments they signed up to are a good starting point for The Clean Revolution Campaign with our member states and regions. We will closely follow up within the Alliance and report back in the coming months and years on progress achieved. 

Read the Clean Revolution Statement.

Download Clean Revolution Leadership from the World's States and Regions.

Facebook icon
Twitter icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon