Last week, for the first time ever, states and regions of the Under2 Coalition, held their annual general assembly meeting in-person at Climate Week NYC on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
High level political summit
The meeting itself was preceded by a high level summit of Coalition leaders, including Governors and Ministers.
Delegates discussed the Under2 Coalition's vision and purpose this decade, and further actions that can be taken to heighten both action and accountability. The main focus was on a need to tell the story of state and regional climate work in a clear and meaningful way, which resonates with both the international community and local people in each jurisdiction.
Getting it done
In keeping with the week’s theme, the General Assembly looked at different approaches state and regional governments are taking to reduce emissions in a transparent and robust way. This included efforts to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest, strengthening monitoring, reporting and verification, deploying alternative energy sources and rolling out nature-based solutions. They also met with business, funders, investors and other key stakeholders in the climate community to debate solutions around accessing finance and getting more reliable climate data through the use of satellite technology.
Chair of Climate Group’s UK Board, Mike Rann, opened the annual General Assembly meeting on Monday, September 19, by calling for a re-energised Coalition that takes a leading position on climate action this decade.
Although international conversations about climate and biodiversity loss continue to grow louder, the General Assembly recognized the critical role of states and regions in scaling the implementation and actions needed to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees of warming. With their political power and local knowledge, states and regions are being transformative.
Progress made since Glasgow
Since members last met during COP26, a range of new international projects have taken shape. Under2 Executive Director Tim Ash Vie looked back at these and reflected on what they mean for the Coalition’s priorities over the coming year – and beyond.
As well as launching a second phase of the Climate Footprint Project, the Coalition has started a new pilot to collect emissions data: the States and Regions Remote Sensing Project (STARRS). Six member governments have been working with Climate TRACE to analyse which sectors are producing the most emissions. Understanding this will help each region to create a personalise emissions inventory so that they can take targeted action where it is most needed.
Through the Just Transition Project and Finance Fit for Change, the Coalition has also been looking at what equitable climate action looks like - and making sure that no one gets left behind. At COP26, many island states in particular called for a clearer international focus on adaptation and loss and damage in order to tackle the climate crisis head on. This was a key theme at Climate Week NYC too, with many events on how to build a fairer future across geographies.
Regionally, the Coalition is continuing to support five Climate Fellows in India: a group of climate professionals helping states to meet India’s net zero goals. We have also launched a Green Recovery Alliance in the US, to help subnational governments access federal funding to drive a green recovery.
Marking five years of the Future Fund
This year the Future Fund turned five years old.
With the generous support of our members, it has enabled 12 projects and 18 secondments across the world. It has also given travel support to 53 governments so they could attend meetings like this year’s General Assembly.
Representing all voices is at the heart of what the Under2 Coalition does, and Tim Ash Vie thanked the contributing governments of Baden Württemberg, Québec, Wales, Navarra and Scotland for their generosity in supporting the programme.
Leading the way
This year, the Assembly’s strapline was “from collaborative ambition to ‘getting it done’”. The session was broken down into four panels, to give members the chance to hear views and updates from speakers in states and regions across the world.
The first panel, chaired by Antha Williams of Bloomberg Philanthropies, gave the Under2 Coalition’s new co-chairs an opportunity to introduce themselves and outline their priorities for the next two years. California, Chungcheongnam-do, KwaZulu-Natal, São Paulo and Scotland highlighted the very different climate challenges they face as well as their enthusiasm to drive the Under2 Coalition to even greater success over their term.
So far this year the Coalition has also welcomed 11 new members, which Tim Ash Vie introduced to the Assembly. These are:
- Boyaca, Colombia
- Ceará, Brazil
- Chihuahua, Mexico
- Cundinamarca, Colombia
- Espírito Santo, Brazil
- Gauteng, South Africa
- Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
- North Bank Region, The Gambia
- Paraná, Brazil
- Punjab, India
- Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
There has been particularly strong growth in Latin America in 2022, which is enabling richer regional conversations headed by new co-chair São Paulo and former co-chair Querétaro.
The General Assembly’s second panel focused on raising the Coalition’s collective ambition in its drive to reach net zero.
More than 80 states and regions took part in Under2’s Net Zero Futures project, with more still signing up to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign. It is clear that net zero targets are challenging, but will political will and interim targets, members are setting out credible pathways to achieve them.
Further, faster, together
After a successful launch last year, Anna Lising from Washington State led the third panel in highlighting why 2030 targets are so important in reaching net zero.
The Basque Country, British Columbia and Jujuy discussed the range of actions they committed to and how far they have come ahead of 2030. These include world-leading projects in agriculture, energy, transport and waste. The campaign is still open for any states and regions that would like to sign up.
Financing our collective future
Accessing climate finance was one of the major themes of Climate Week NYC, as it was for COP26. This is an area of growing importance and interest to governments around the world, but subnational governments are often in need of better research and resources in this area.
With the support of Stiftung Meractor, our Finance Fit for Change project is filling this gap. Working closely with participating members from Europe and North America, we’re developing a comprehensive report on the challenges and opportunities for states and regions on climate finance, which we’ll then share with the whole coalition
Looking forward to 2023
Through our new MoU, we’ve committed to becoming a net zero coalition by 2050 – at the latest.
More than half of our members have now signed up to the new commitment, with some of them coming on board at the General Assembly itself.
Nearly 80 members have also given us valuable information about their work through the Under2 Ambition Tracker. We can clearly see that governments with both regional net zero targets and a published net zero action plan have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions considerably more than those without these in place.
Crucially the Tracker is demonstrating climate accountability within our membership. It shows that there is momentum among states and regions worldwide, with clear progress on net zero emissions goals and legislation. As ever it also highlights where action is urgently needed to reduce further, damaging temperature rises.
States and regions are showing credible climate action by being open and transparent on their progress and this is vital if we are to remain a world-leading Coalition.
Photographs from the Under2 General Assembly and the High Level Summit can be found on our Flickr channel