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Press release

COP28 is a step change in the role of subnational states and regions

21 November 2023, 15:46 UTC 1 min read

COP28 is a watershed moment for subnational states and regions, as their governments will take center stage in Dubai and claim their critical place in the fight against climate change, Climate Group said today. The Secretariat for the biggest global network of subnational states and regions, the Under2 Coalition, highlights the potential for the upcoming UN climate conference in Dubai to be the most local COP in history.

In September this year, COP28 President-designate Dr Sultan Al Jaber and UN Special Envoy Michael Bloomberg announced that subnational governments, along with cities, will be formally part of the COP process for the first time ever at the Local Climate Action Summit in Dubai in December. In addition, Climate Group hosts the annual General Assembly for the Under2 Coalition.

“The COP process has always been about bringing together the leaders of national governments to push for climate commitments. And thanks to high-profile city mayors and financial backing, many cities like New York and London have received lots of attention for their work on climate.”

“But there’s a whole sway of subnational governments, like Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa and Chungnam Province in South Korea, that have often been left out of the conversation. It’s high time that changes, as these regional and state governments have greater legal and economic firepower than cities, while being able to be nimbler and bolder on climate than their national governments.

“So thankfully and rightly, there is increasing focus on the driving force of subnational governments at this year’s COP. We’re seeing real political leadership from the likes of California’s Governor Gavin Newsom that is highlighting this crucial level of government. It’s long overdue, as subnational governments are crucial to reducing emissions. They deserve, and need a place at the table”. 

Champa Patel, Executive Director of Government and Policy at Climate Group

Under2 Coalition General Assembly 2022

“Regional governments like Lombardy are best placed to understand the needs and priorities of local people. Only this year we carried out research with young people here and it’s clear they want us to focus more on climate change and the environment – it’s their future we’re talking about after all.

“But we’re so often overlooked when it comes to international diplomacy. I’m hoping that at COP this year we can all come together at the subnational level, get our voices heard and take the action needed to protect our environment alongside our national governments.”

Giorgio Maione, Minister for Environment and Climate, Government of Lombardy, Italy

Dr. Al Jaber has spoken of the importance of “engaging every person, every generation and every corner of society”, not just national leaders. 

The UN has also recently sought to engage with subnational leaders more, for example, Governor of California Gavin Newsom spoke at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, a forum normally reserved for leaders of national governments. 

“As one of the world’s most climate vulnerable states, Pernambuco is committed to taking action that will cut emissions and helps us adapt to the changes we are already seeing around us. But we can’t do this alone. At COP28, we’ll be calling on national governments and the international community to greatly increase their ambition and to listen to the voices of states and regions across the world. We’re on the frontline of this crisis and we know what needs to be done, to stop the planet reaching an unsustainable point of warming. Now is the time to put plans into action, together.”

Raquel Lira, Governor of Pernambuco, Brazil