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20 November 2023

Urban Africa will be advocating for accelerated action at COP28

Our cities and regions across the continent are gearing up to make their voices heard loud and clear at COP28, through a range of more than 30 interventions, stressing the urgent need to scale up a rigorous all-of-economy, all-of-society approach which leads to urgent and significant climate action this decade.

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COP28, hosted this year by the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will mark a pivotal moment when the world will take stock of its progress on the Paris Agreement. This conference aims to build on past successes and set the stage for future ambitious efforts to effectively address the global challenge of climate change. It is expected to drive the implementation of previous climate agreements, ensuring that nations stay on track to meet their commitments. Climate finance will be a prominent theme, with a call for increased funding to support mitigation and adaptation efforts, particularly in developing countries.

This year, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the focal point of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency and UN-Habitat, the United Nations entity responsible for sustainable urbanisation, have announced plans for a joint pavilion in the Blue Zone at COP28. The Multilevel Action & Urbanisation Pavilion will function as the global stage for the city and subnational climate agenda at COP28. It will not only spotlight the challenges and needs of local and subnational actors, but also showcase their accomplishments and commitments on climate action.

The inaugural UNFCCC global stocktake is scheduled to conclude at COP28. This process serves as a means for countries and stakeholders to monitor their advancements in achieving the objectives outlined in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. As the focal point of the LGMA, ICLEI is at the forefront of driving the localisation of the global stocktake through the #Stocktake4ClimateEmergency initiative. This not only presents an opportunity to evaluate the progress of local governments in climate action but also to highlight the significance of multilevel action. African subnational governments have demonstrated climate action leadership, as several local governments on the continent are officially contributing their local stocktakes as inputs into the UNFCCC global stocktake.

COP28 is calling for unity, action and delivery, emphasising the powerful cycle that action builds hope and hope builds action. ICLEI Africa is closely aligning with the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA) and other relevant partners to ensure that this call to action is realised. Together, we aim to present a strong, unified constituency of African subnational government leaders at COP28, demonstrating a shared commitment to urgent action and on-the-ground delivery.

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We are gearing up to boldly advocate for a range of pressing issues both in the lead up to, and during, COP28. These include:


Securing increased funding to support the development and implementation of locally driven projects in African cities, regions and towns is critical. It is imperative that  funding is tailored to, and can be easily accessed by, subnational governments in Africa directly benefiting their citizens’ needs. This is crucial for building climate resilience and ensuring access to clean and affordable energy for the most vulnerable.


The biodiversity and climate crises are inherently interconnected and therefore need to be addressed through an integrated approach. Implementing nature-based solutions (NbS) within urban areas is crucial to advancing just and equitable, climate resilient African cities. Channelling increased investment in NbS at the city-scale that prioritises building resilience, particularly among those most vulnerable, is therefore essential. Global platforms like CitiesWithNature & RegionsWithNature play a vital role in fostering this integrated approach and ensuring a nature-positive future.


Mobilisation of multilevel governance processes that enhance collaboration among national and subnational governments and communities is essential. We are actively advocating for a decisive resolution at COP28 that mandates the involvement  of subnational governments in the revision of Nationally Determined Contributions in 2024.


Strengthening efforts to propel Africa’s just transition is imperative. This encompasses equipping subnational governments to develop a vision for a just transition, and establish priority areas and locally-appropriate pathways for enacting a transition, supported by the requisite knowledge, capacity and resources. Inclusive processes are imperative to ensure no one is left behind, risks are mitigated, and opportunities of just transitions are unlocked, to enable prosperous societies, and thriving, resilient, local economies. Institutionalising and mainstreaming just transitions in the structures and processes of subnational governments is crucial for ensuring they guide these transitions in the long term.


It is critical that we empower and prioritise historically marginalised and vulnerable groups within urban Africa, ensuring they have a voice, recognition and agency. Their active participation in shaping the vision for future cities, and planning and developing climate change policies, is vital to ensure that no-one is left behind. By fostering inclusivity, and adopting a people-centred and human rights-based approach, cities can better address sustainability challenges and improve the overall quality of life for all residents. 


Africa’s urban food systems need bold transformation. Achieving this requires a paradigm shift in our approach to hunger and nutrition that is grounded in the contextual specificities of Africa’s urbanising food systems. We must empower local governments to take decisive action by devolving mandates and budgets relating to the food system, and providing them with greater autonomy to develop climate resilient and socially just food systems at the city level. This increase in local government mandate over food system change in the urban context needs to be met with ambitious investment into city-level capacity building, policy development and monitoring mechanisms.


Accelerating access to clean cooking is crucial given that over 990 million Africans, particularly those living in sub-Saharan Africa, currently lack access to clean cooking solutions. Collaboration between the private sector, and national and subnational governments in African cities needs to be strengthened in order to increase access to context-appropriate clean cooking solutions. This concerted effort is instrumental to meeting over 50% of the Sustainable Development Goals and paving the way for a better and more sustainable future for all.


It is vital to recognise that water and sanitation are essential to human livelihoods and are intrinsically interconnected with all other aspects of life, including agriculture and food processing and preparation, energy production, health and wellbeing, and ecological function. These elements are threatened by the climate crisis that is driving increasing incidences of severe storms, flooding and drought. Well managed, resilient water systems can be catalysts for sustainable development in Africa. However, Africa currently experiences exceedingly low access to water and sanitation services, with only 201 million people (15%) able to access safely managed drinking water, and 1.1 billion (82%) living without safely managed sanitation services. Initiatives must therefore actively promote improved and safer access to water and sanitation, while building resilient and water-secure cities


The rapid urbanisation taking place in Africa is putting more pressure on infrastructure and available resources. It is estimated that 60% of the infrastructure needed to service the 2050 population has yet to be built. We must design and build this infrastructure in ways that ensure future sustainability, resilience and resource efficiency. As such, paying attention to circular economy principles that aim to keep resources and products in circulation for as long as possible, is vital. We must ensure that new business models are promoted, that natural regeneration is prioritised and that less waste is produced by our cities. Where waste is unavoidable, appropriate treatment systems are needed to reduce environmental pollution and health issues. Subnational government voices are contributing to the ongoing negotiations for a new legally-binding global plastics treaty to end plastic pollution.


We find ourselves at a critical juncture where more proactive and collaborative climate resilience pathways need to be developed and implemented across urban Africa. These should clearly acknowledge the uneven impacts of climate change and the fact that marginalised communities, particularly informal settlement dwellers, are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts. Urgent action is needed to develop innovative, inclusive, locally led and co-created adaptation strategies. Simultaneously, there is a crucial call for the fair and sufficient allocation of resources, as well as the establishment of equitable mechanisms for addressing loss and damage.

  • FIND OUT MORE about the INACCT Resilience Research Project & LISTEN to its recently launched podcast for collaborative approaches to proactive and evidence-informed resilience planning and building for informal settlements in African cities


To fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals, align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, and adhere to the Sendai Framework, African cities must embrace integrated and proactive strategies for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. This approach is essential to build resilient urban environments where the expanding population is not only prepared to withstand, but also prosper, despite the adverse conditions and future challenges posed by climate change-induced disasters and devastating climate change impacts.


The prosperity of African coastal cities and their growing populations hinges on the health of our oceans, demanding urgent action to enhance resilience and develop robust climate resilience strategies, in the face of climate change. Key to this is securing increased financial support for coastal resilience projects, emphasising nature-based solutions and sustainable practices. Embracing the blue economy is vital, aligning economic activities with marine health and strengthening the adaptive capacity of coastal communities. This commitment to increased funding is both a strategic and a moral obligation to protect our coastal cities and the marine ecosystems they rely on.

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