Science-based nature targets for cities and Race to Zero updates: The 7 biggest stories from 6 December at COP28

Images: UNFCCC Flickr Kiara Worth, Christophe Viseux, Andrea DiCenzo, Mahmoud Khaled

Buildings and Transport are two of the main contributing sectors in terms of global emissions. Wednesday 6 December marked the day in the COP calendar that nations would focus on breakthrough agendas aimed at dramatically curbing emissions from these sectors. While key commitments on mobility were sparse, the day did deliver massive global coalitions on climate-resilient buildings and a huge update from the Race to Zero initiative – which is partnering with edie on the COP28 Covered podcast.

To help you recap all the action, this article rounds up seven of the headline happenings from 5 December at COP28.

You can find all of our COP28 coverage here.

COP Presidency lays out 10-point plan for cities


Image UNFCCC Flickr KiaraWorth

To mark Buildings and Mobility Day at COP28 (6 December), the COP28 Presidency hosted a Ministerial Meeting on Urbanisation and Climate Change, alongside Bloomberg Philanthropies and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

The Meeting culminated in a statement, already supported by more than 40 Ministers of Environment, Urban Development and Housing, that outlines a 10-point plan to integrate climate mitigation and action into urban planning by providing cities with adequate adaptation finance.

“COP28 is a paradigm shift to action. We are empowering and supporting cities on the frontlines of climate change to seize the initiative,” said Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the COP28 President. “We have brought over 450 mayors and governors to COP28 and their hyperlocal knowledge is crucial in informing our global solutions. When we talk about inclusivity this is what we mean, we need all voices at the table. I thank and commend those involved for their leadership.”

The Statement builds on the ‘Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships’ (CHAMP), which was launched at the Local Climate Action Summit (LCAS) on 1 December at COP28 and aims to inform and empower Ministers on climate action.

Additionally, the 10-point plan aims to ensure that climate resiliency is in cities is part of the next round of NDC submissions ahead of COP30 in 2025.

Race to Zero progress report

Race to Zero is synonymous with COPs. The initiative was launched by the UK Government in June 2020 in the lead-up to COP26. Over the past three years, it has grown steadily, with thousands of individual sub-national actors including businesses and cities signing up, all committing to playing their role in delivering net-zero emissions by mid-Century.

At Buildings Day at COP28, Race to Zero published its latest progress report. Through its partnership platform of 26 Partners and 31 Accelerators – more than 13,500 organisations are taking action to transition to net zero and halve global emissions by 2030.

Membership of the campaign – from companies, cities, regions, financial, educational and healthcare institutions – has doubled since its launch at COP26 in 2021. 23% of Fortune 500 companies and 58% of FTSE 100 companies are now in the Race.

“Across cities, regions, businesses and community organisations, the world over, bold climate action is underway,” said H.E. Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28. “Through Race to Zero, leaders of all kinds are stepping up, and rising to the challenge — there is a groundswell of momentum.”

In 2022, the campaign updated its criteria for membership. Added to the ‘Starting Line’ criteria – the minimum set of requirements for Race to Zero participation – is a requirement for all members to “phase down and out all unabated fossil fuels as part of a just transition”. Major fossil fuel firms themselves have always been barred from participating, but the new requirement applies to all members, including businesses with minority activities in the sector or which are providing financial or other support to the sector.

Half of global emissions covered under new net-zero Buildings Breakthrough


Image; UNFCCC Flickr Andrea DiCenzo

Today, 27 countries have agreed to work together under a shared goal to make “near-zero emission and resilient buildings the new normal by 2030”

The Buildings Breakthrough is part of the Breakthrough Agenda, which provides a framework for countries, businesses and civil society to join up and strengthen their actions every year in key emitting sectors, through a coalition of leading public, private and public-private global initiatives. It is co-led by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion of France and the Ministry of National Territory Planning, Land Planning, Housing, and City Policy of the Kingdom of Morocco, and coordinated under the auspices of the UNEP-hosted Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC).

The initiative will also focus on adaptation and mitigation to ensure the buildings being built beyond 2030 can withstand climate impacts.

The International Energy Agency and the International Renewable Energy Agency and High-level Climate Champions will undertake an annual assessments of global progress in the sector.

The 27 countries which pledged their commitment to the Buildings Breakthrough are: Armenia, Austria, Canada, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guinea-Bissau, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Sweden, Tunisia, Türkiye, United Kingdom, United States of America, and Zambia.

Together, these nations represent one-third of the population and more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions. They also contribute two-thirds of global GDP. In addition, the European Commission and 18 international initiatives have announced their support.

Science-based targets to be unveiled for city impacts on nature

office building with tree for reducing carbon dioxide, eco green

The Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) has unveiled plans to develop a target-setting process for cities to champion nature in a bid to respond to the climate crisis.

Unveiled at COP28, the initiative aims to create science-based indicators and frameworks that allow cities to set targets to cover nature and climate.

The programme is set to be established over the next 18 months, at which point the first published guidance will be available for cities. The SBTN is developing the indicators in partnership with CDP, WWF, WRI, C40, ICLEI, Durham University, TNC, and Arup.

Read full coverage here.

High Level Champions launch water resiliency campaign

At COP27 in Egypt last year, a host of countries made commitments to improve water efficiency, boost water access and join up action on water resiliency under the Sharm El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda.

One year on and the UN High-Level Champions, along with the COP28 Presidency have launched the Working Group on Urban Water Resilience under that Agenda. The Working Group aims to equip cities with the knowledge and tools to improve resiliency in the face of droughts, floods and other water-related risks.

Last year, the C40 Group of cities revealed that its members are collectively facing “grave risks” from river flooding, drought and coastal erosion, with annual costs set to top $194bn by 2050. Across the 96 member cities, river flooding will affect 7.4 million people in C40 cities by 2050. Flood damages to these cities, collectively, are likely to cost at least $64bn per year from 2050.  When other flood-related costs are added, including healthcare costs, river flooding will cost this network of cities $136bn per year, on average, between 2022 and 2050.

Nations pledge to increase sustainable timber use in construction


Image UNFCCC Flickr: Mahmoud Khaled

While a global retrofit is required to help the built environment align with scientific pathways for decarbonisation, thought also has to be considered for the materials used in new buildings.

According to the WorldGBC, operational emissions (from energy used to heat, cool and light buildings) accounts for 28% of the built environment sector’s 39% contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. The remaining 11% derives from embodied carbon emissions found in the material and construction processes across a building’s entire lifecycle.

In a bid to reduce emissions from building materials 17 nations agreed at COP28 to substantially increase the use of timber in construction as part of decarbonisation efforts.

The announcement was made at a COP Presidency event under the auspices of the Forests and Climate Leaders Partnership (FCLP) which is co-chaired by the United States Special Presidential Climate Envoy, John Kerry and the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources for Ghana, Samuel Jinapor.

The commitment states that wood “from sustainably managed forests provides climate solutions within the construction sector”. With this in mind, the nations will, by 2030, commit to “advancing policies and approaches that support low carbon construction and increase the use of wood from sustainably managed forests in the built environment”.

The 17 nations are Australia, Canada, Republic of Congo, Republic of Costa Rica, Republic of Fiji, Republic of Finland, Republic of France, Federal Republic of Germany, Republic of Ghana, Japan, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kingdom of Norway, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Sweden, the UK, and the US.

New report outlines the business case for adaptation and resiliency investments


Image UNFCCC Flickr Christophe Viseux

Much has been made about the need to boost investment into adaptation and resiliency. Research states that between $160bn to $340bn may be required each year to drive long-lasting climate action.

At COP28, a new report, published by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) and unveiled by the United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, explored the benefits that early movers who invest in adaptation and resiliency can unlock.

The research found that for every $1 invested in those measures, between $2 to $15 can be yielded in financial benefits. Looking ahead, companies that focus on this could be worth nine times their current revenues in the future.

Currently, companies focusing on resilience-building mechanisms and investing in adaptation – such as solutions like water systems and storage – are seeing benefit-to-cost ratios ranging from 2:1 to 15:1 and sometimes as high as 53:1. The report states that some companies can generate 77:1 ratios across aspects like food, health, water and energy.

Read the full story here.

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