G20 mandates OECD and UN-Habitat to help intermediary cities tackle climate change and achieve their SDGs

The G20 Italian Presidency launched the G20 Platform on SDG Localisation and Intermediary Cities (G20 PLIC) and the G20 Rome High-level Principles on City-to-City partnerships endorsed by G20 Leaders to unlock the potential of intermediary cities to contribute to regional and national development efforts.

Through a virtual meeting, the launch brought together Marina Sereni, Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, G20 Presidency; Schneider CH Siahaan, Indonesian Deputy Minister for Development Funding and next G20 DWG Chair; Mathias Cormann, OECD Secretary General; and Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director.

Intermediary cities offer a significant, but often untapped, potential for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and contributing to sustainable development. In 2015, cities with less than one million inhabitants in low-income countries hosted around two-thirds of the urban population and accounted for 45 % of carbon dioxide emissions. As these cities grow and become wealthier, local governments will not only have to ensure access to public services and infrastructure but also tackle potential increases in their use of carbon-intensive energy sources. In addition, in OECD countries, the digital acceleration and increase in teleworking experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to have lasting effects on the attractiveness of intermediary cities for people and companies, providing opportunities for more balanced, polycentric and quality urbanisation.

Until recently, intermediary cities, especially in low-income economies, were not at the centre of the development agenda. Although that is beginning to change, it is critical to maintain and accelerate momentum on this front, in order to fully address their challenges, and help drive progress on the SDGs and in achieving climate targets, not least as 70 % of cities from OECD countries are yet to reach the 2030 targets in 15 of the 17 SDGs.

“COP 26 was a sobering reminder of the challenges that developing countries are facing and the urgency with which we need to meet them. It also underlined the critical role cities play in responding to climate change, to advance a just transition and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement,” stated Mathias Cormann, OECD Secretary General during the event.

Under the Italian Presidency, the G20 has also recognised the importance of action, through the launch of the G20 PLIC, underscoring for the first time “the importance of adopting territorial approaches for the design and implementation of multi-level governance systems, dialogues and policies that are sensitive to local, regional, national and international contexts while advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda”.

However, intermediary cities cannot do this alone. Achieving the SDGs will require strong commitment and co-ordination between national, regional and local governments. Without them, the vast majority of SDG targets will be difficult to achieve.

From a UN system perspective, the UN-Habitat Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, noted during the event that “To advance the local adoption and implementation of the SDGs, the UN system has just launched the Local 2030 Coalition, which offers a common space to mobilise, engage and empower every local actor, everywhere. This Coalition is built on the premise that the people closest to the challenges of sustainable development are best positioned to solve them.”

The G20 Platform on SDG Localisation and Intermediary Cities will help keep the focus on intermediary cities and build their capacity through peer learning and partnerships, as the UN system joins hands to localise and advance the SDGs around the world.

The Platform will operate as a collaborative space for G20 countries and other interested stakeholders to engage in peer dialogue, knowledge sharing, capacity building, and consensus building, through which new and effective approaches could emerge and be developed for these intermediary cities to reach their SDGs, and, in turn, contribute to achieving them in surrounding rural areas. In addition, the platform will also provide a space and mechanism to undertake and showcase empirical analysis and case studies that can guide policy actions, especially in developing economies, to reduce the contribution of these agglomerations to climate change.

Building on the High-Level Principles on city-to-city partnerships for localising the SDGs developed by the G20 Development Working Group (DWG) with the support of the OECD and UN-Habitat, the Platform will compile a Compendium of good policy practices and support both pilot projects and city-to-city partnerships that facilitate progress on SDGs in developing countries.

The OECD and UN-Habitat will be working closely with international city networks such as United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), and other institutions active on the localisation of the SDGs.

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