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The value of national municipal networks for climate action

In this blog Cristóbal Reveco, Founder and International Director, Adapt-Chile, exmaines the value of local networks for promoting climate action.

In November of this year I was invited to Costa Rica by the National University to support the formation of a network of municipalities to trigger climate action. This network would be oriented towards forming a community of practice in which the local governments of Costa Rica through horizontal integration could support each other in the design and implementation of actions for reducing greenhouse gases and improving local resilience to climate change.

One of the lessons I learned from my experience when I designed and coordinated the Chilean Network of Municipalities in the face of climate change, is that networks nowadays have a central role in climate action. Throughout Latin America we have seen the birth of national networks of cities, coalitions of groups of negotiators, business groups and associations of researchers who seek to generate greater impact on the climate agenda. In this context, what is the value of a national municipal network and what opportunities and challenges does it present?

The extensive literature in network theory indicates that the purpose of networks is to increase the influence of actors to bring about changes in a certain direction. In this context, a network of municipalities in the face of climate change has shown me that it can, among other things:

  • make visible the need to have a strategic orientation on climate change at the level of all the municipalities of a country;
  • facilitate generation of consensus on municipal needs and demands for greater climate action;
  • articulate the voice of the municipalities in the face of national and global challenges;
  • facilitate access to information and the exchange of best practices among peers; and
  • promote alliances with the private sector, national governments and other international networks.

In summary, a network allows for the creation of an organized community whose efforts are focused in a certain direction, increasing the possibilities of forming consensus and generating greater influence on larger scales of governance (national and international). One of the clear examples from COP23 is that coalitions of local governments have the strength to influence national and international agendas. The American coalition We Are Still In is an example in which local governments commit themselves to ratify the Paris agreement independently of the decision of the government of that country to withdraw from the Agreement.

On the other hand, a significant challenge domestic networks face is the need to drive concerted work agendas while maintaining political momentum. Climate change is as much a political issue as it is a scientific or technical one. Keeping political actors at the forefront of these efforts is a central task of these networks; but it is also an opportunity to strengthen the influence of mayors to exert greater influence and accelerate climate action. The local agendas of education, health, and security, among others, all come to compete with climate agendas. When a mayor identifies that local development agendas are intrinsically linked to the climate agenda; or when they recognize that education, health and safety are central in constructing resilience to climate change, then we reach an essential political consensus.

That particular political consensus is what can transcend other local governments through networks that maintain the momentum of these efforts. By the year 2020, the date when the new NDCs are presented, the national municipal networks will have a central role in influencing their national governments to raise ambitions for more aggressive commitments. To achieve transparent, achievable, verifiable and ambitious commitments, it will be essential to have a concerted voice from local actors. Strengthening and expanding national municipal networks is a key opportunity to increase NDC ambitions.

Photo: Cristóbal Reveco

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