When the first cyclone comes,” said Doreen Miller Robinson, Special Administrator of Labasa Town Council in Fiji, “you think it’s just bad luck – a one-in-50-year event.” However, when that cyclone was followed soon after by another, and then another, each creating as much havoc as the last, it became clear to the council that this was a shift brought about by climate change to which they would be forced to adapt.

Labasa is just one of many cities that shared insights from their struggle against climate change at CoP28 during an EU side-event jointly hosted by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) and the Covenant of Mayors for the Mediterranean (CoM Med). The event demonstrated that approaches to climate change are as diverse as they are unified, with local leaders worldwide deploying unique strategies rooted in common themes.

Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development

Labasa’s turn towards solar power as part of its mitigation effort reflects a broader trend. In East Baalbeck, Lebanon, Ali Shokor, Mayor and President of the Union of Municipalities, brought solar panels to curb rising diesel demand amidst a population surge due to the Syrian crisis. “This saved the municipality 400 US dollars per month from energy consumption equivalent to 450 liters of diesel, which reduced the economic cost and many carbon dioxide emissions,” he noted.

For André Granda, Prefect of Pastaza, Ecuador, solar panels are a solution to meeting the energy demands of geographically isolated communities in his territory, “We’ll give solar panels to 150 communities in the region,” Granda announced.

Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage

Granda also emphasized the critical role of ecosystems like the Amazon in the climate battle. “We can’t talk about climate change without talking about the Amazon,” he said, explaining his decision to flout the conventional approach of building roads and go for a multimodal approach of connecting communities inspired by indigenous use of the waterways.

Marwan Kaiss, Mayor of Batloun, Lebanon, is also synching his approach to sustainability with a regard for nature and biodiversity. His city is working with the Biosphere Reserve to fight forest fires by turning excess trees into wood briquettes to create energy locally. “It’s a long journey,” Kaiss recalled, “and with the Covenant of Mayors for the Mediterranean going through the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan, we look forward to continuing this journey together.”

Empowering Youth

All the cities present stressed the importance of working with local actors and communities – from the indigenous in Pastaza to international organizations and NGOs in Batloun and local vendors in Kota Kinabalu. Youth is a key demographic for engagement.

Nada Mohamed Global Shapers Community’s Alexandria Hub stressed the importance of using the right language to engage young minds: “There’s much jargon, and that disincentives people to get involved.” Noorliza Awang Alip, Mayor of Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, echoed this, pointing to the engagement of young staff members in sustainable city planning. She said of the city’s youth: “These are the architects of our sustainable vision,” and stressed the importance of engaging them not ‘as a mayor’ but as a friend.

Young people can shape the future – it’s important that we act now,” insisted Manuel Pala, President of Across the Sea: Our bond to the Mediterranean. He shared the focus of his youth organisation on cooperative efforts with public institutions in places like Izmir and Genoa and the development of local projects to tackle marine coastal erosion.

Crafting Green Cities

Innovation in urban planning and infrastructure was also a recurring theme. Waste management and circular economy were key themes for both Miller Robinson and Kaiss. Nabil Alkofahi, Mayor of Greater Irbid, Jordan, described his city’s transformation with green buildings, LED lights, electrifying the municipal fleet and automating services through the Climate for Cities (C4C) pilot project. “We have exerted the utmost efforts in tackling climate change by joining the Covenant of Mayors for the Mediterranean and having their help in achieving progress,” Alkofahi said, pointing to his city’s target of 40% emissions reduction by 2030.

Kaiss stressed the sort and the long-term accomplishments of his city’s efforts, from slashing municipal energy bills to building lasting change. “It’s not for me now,” he said, “it’s for our children and grandchildren.”

International Collaboration Meets Localized Action

The synergy between international cooperation and local initiatives is the essence of effective climate action. The Global Covenant of Mayors and regional covenants like the Covenant of Mayors for the Mediterranean were referred to enthusiastically by cities as crucial partners in local efforts, providing support, assisting ambition and fostering collaboration.

These leaders, through their diverse approaches, are furthering a common goal. As Miller Robinson asked, when we see “the impact of climate change, what do we do about it?” The answer, as evidenced by the actions of her own and her fellow cities, lies in the collective, innovative, and committed approach of communities and leaders across the globe: an approach facilitated by the Global Covenant of Mayors.

To discover more, watch the entire event here.

When cities engage with alliances like the Global Covenant of Mayors, they demonstrate their leadership, setting an example for cities worldwide to become part of the global solution to climate change. Consequently, Mayors and the municipal technical staff engage in a journey of preparing a Climate Action Plan, which encompasses setting a clear vision of the city’s future that will bring change while emphasising the principle of ‘leave no one behind’. From the commitment stage to reporting, cities are at different journey levels, striving for low-emission and climate-resilient development. This side event showcased and honoured the determination, talent and commitment of Local Authorities that are recognised as critical to sustainability transitions in taking this leap toward fighting climate change and its effects.

The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM) is the largest global alliance for city climate leadership, uniting an international coalition of over 13,000 cities and local governments and 100+ supporting partners.

The Covenant of Mayors for the Mediterranean (CoM Med) is the Mediterranean Coalition that brings together and supports Mediterranean local governments in their fight against climate change: CoM Med website.