From La Paz to Bonn: How city-to-city partnerships strengthen climate action

13 November 2017

The Paris Agreement acknowledges the role that cities, towns and regions can play in tackling climate change and preparing for its effects. Now, local, regional and municipal governments are stepping up, and city-to-city partnerships are one mechanism that allows cities to plan and implement climate action at the local level, learning through knowledge exchange and good practices.

This article was initially published on ICLEI website in the context of COP23.

The Municipal Climate Partnerships initiative organized by Engagement Global is one way that cities can connect to build north-south partnerships that strengthen global climate action. The initiative pairs German municipalities with municipalities from the Global South to identify potential areas for collaboration and plan joint action.

For example, the cities of Bonn, Germany and La Paz, Bolivia have been working together and learning from each other since 2002. Mariana Daza von Boeck from La Paz stated that “the role and responsibility of cities and municipalities is increasing. We are working with local actors to help build urban resilience.” This 15-year partnership has evolved to focus increasingly on collaborative climate action including disaster preparedness and renewable energy.

Through north-south collaboration and exchange, city-to-city partnerships are building capacity to adapt to climate change, focusing on citizen engagement and awareness raising and strengthening international cooperation on climate by building lasting relationships over time.

In 2007, Bonn helped facilitate funding by the Federal Government of Germany to implement an early warning system in La Paz for floods and landslides. The two cities are currently embarking on a three-year project facilitated by Engagement Global focusing on renewable energy strategies.

La Paz is also working to raise awareness of climate change and its effects for both municipal staff and city residents. They conducted a baseline study with municipal authorities to gauge the level of knowledge on climate change and are working to educate officials so that climate change can be incorporated into planning at all levels.

The need for citizen engagement and awareness was brought into stark relief this year when La Paz experienced a devastating drought. Much of the city was left without a reliable water source for almost three months.  In the light of this crisis, La Paz started a public engagement campaign to educate residents on water management and water consumption.

Mariana Daza von Boeck, from the Office of Environmental Affairs of La Paz made clear that “a society needs to fight climate change – it is not just the responsibility of the government, we all have to be engaged. In some cities stakeholders have greater awareness but in many parts of Latin America, this process is newer than in Germany.”

These city-to-city partnerships are strengthening international cooperation on climate at the local level. Verena Schwarte from the City of Bonn expressed that the link with La Paz helps them understand how their climate efforts can fit into a global context. These lasting relationships are key in strengthening international collaboration on climate and in building momentum towards achieving SDG 17 which calls for revitalized global partnerships on sustainable development.

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