“UCLG Africa will do its utmost bit for cities and regions to keep the COP21 momentum of cooperation alive” Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, to “Cities Today” magazine.

The Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG-A), Mr. Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi was chosen among the panelists of “Cities Today” magazine to give his point of view on the COP21 agreement. In the Issue n°20 of February 2016, the magazine provides a forum to city leaders to ask them what the agreement means for cities.  The title of the article written by Jonathan Andrews is: “City leaders demand more financial support on climate change”.

Alongside Mr. Mbassi, appear as other panelists: Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director, US Conference of Mayors, Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General, EUROCITIES, Monika Zimmermann, Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI and Rafael Tuts, Coordinator, Urban Planning and Design Branch, UN-Habitat.

In this article, we listed the answers of the UCLG-A Secretary General, who appeals for the involvement of a multi-stakeholder approach to see the Paris agreement make a real impact in cities on climate change.

Full article with different panelists notice is available here


What are your thoughts on the COP21 agreement?

For the first time all nation-states accepted that they face a common threat from global warming, and agreed that every effort should be made to maintain global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. However, the fact that the agreement does not have binding provisions can be seen as a weakness. The ‘name and shame’ principle in the agreement supposes that proper monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are in place that can deliver neutral advice. Reliance on evaluation by experts of voluntary country reports will certainly not be enough to know exactly which countries are enforcing the agreement. The ‘name and shame’ principle further supposes that civil society would play a greater role. It is striking that despite the critical role expected from them, civil society organisations were not really party to the COP21 talks.

 In what areas could the agreement do more?

This is the kind of issue where a multi-stakeholder approach is key. An organized and structured quadripartite dialogue between national governments, local authorities, the private sector and civil society at all levels (subnational, national, regional and global) would have been the best way to prepare the negotiations at COP21. We are hopeful that this approach will be adopted for the COP22 in Marrakesh in November 2016, which focuses specifically on the means of implementation of the COP21 Agreement.

By signing the Paris Declaration at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders held alongside COP21, more than 600 cities will set targets to cut urban emissions in half. Was this the COP where cities became not just a side event but took the limelight away from nation-states?

Unfortunately, despite their unavoidable role in the climate change agenda, and the general recognition that no real progress would be made in curbing global warming if cities and local governments were not considered the frontline of this battle, local leaders continue to voice their case outside the negotiating rooms. The Climate Summit for Local Leaders was considered as a side event and was not part of the official proceedings of COP21. So there is still a long way to go before the UN can translate into practice the first sentence of its Founding Declaration: “We the people of the world…”


The COP21 agreement outlines that, globally, US$100 billion a year needs to be spent to pursue the targets with most costs being associated with greening infrastructure and mitigation and adaptation efforts to be incurred by urban areas. Is finance the next battle for cities and where will the funds come from? 

There is a lot of hope in this ‘climate justice fund’ of US$100 billion a year, however, past experience with climate finance shows that there is a huge difference between pledges and effective money in the cashbox. Also, accessing climate finance has been very difficult for local authorities because of discriminatory and complicated procedures. Local authorities hope that there will be a window for their direct access to this fund. We should take advantage of the period of time that separates us from the entry in force of the fund in 2020 to define appropriate mechanisms that would ensure effective access and use of this fund for mitigation and adaptation initiatives at local and regional levels.

According to C40 nearly three-quarters of challenges cities face when trying to take effective action on climate change requires collaboration with national governments, the private sector and others. What can be done to develop and improve these relationships? 

Working with civil society and the private sector forms part of the DNA of local authorities. What needs to be done is to create an enabling environment at the national and upper levels of public governance to allow more such multi-stakeholder engagements. What is also needed is an internationally agreed mechanism of surveillance to avoid abuse of dominant situations, particularly by multinational companies, whose bargaining powers can be far stronger than some of the nation-states of the developing world, not to mention their local and regional governments.

Looking ahead what are your next steps to help cities put action in place to keep global warming capped at 1.5 degrees?

Cities and regions of the developing world are conscious that they cannot replicate the unsustainable models of development followed by their counterparts from developed countries that put the world at risk with global warming. It is therefore time for all of us to join hands and find a more sustainable and low-carbon way of development. The world has enough knowledge to come up with the most appropriate solution– provided the spirit of oneness shown at COP21 prevails. UCLG Africa will do its utmost bit for cities and regions at least in Africa if not in all regions of the world, to keep the COP21 momentum of cooperation alive, and to work towards more solidarity and less zero-sum fierce competition between them.