COP26 update: cities, regions and the built environment

By Elise Belcher, Adessou Kossivi, Bijay Kumar & Becky Murphy
11 November 2021


Throughout COP26 we’re calling on international decision makers to give greater attention to loss and damage, gender equality and inclusion, and climate finance.

Key updates

Migration and resilience

Parag Khanna, the author of Move, presented a number of maps visualising the global population density, global climate stresses, and a global climate suitability forecast, as a means for projecting the anticipatory movement of climate migrants/refugees across the globe. His analysis points to a conclusion that the majority of displacement is and will continue to be intraregional, and identifies the region of Eurasia as a hotspot for the highest levels of displacement to take place in the next few decades. In his concluding remarks, he emphasised the importance of balancing out mitigation and adaptation strategies, and called for a much greater increase in finance for the latter, given the existing climate change realities of the tropics.

David Groisman from the Resilient Cities Network in Buenos Aires spoke of the critical importance international migration brings to the culture and economic growth of many cities around the world. “Cities thrive on migration, through improvement of productivity, increase in innovation, and resulting growth of wealth,” he said.

However, he highlighted the importance of integration efforts required to ensure that the potential tensions faced by the host and the migrants and/or refugees are addressed. He listed the common perception, social cohesion, stakeholder engagement, inclusive city planning, and political leadership as key areas for addressing those tensions.

Advancing gender responsive child and youth participation in locally led adaption

We heard from UNICEF, YOUNGO and UNFCCC on how to adapt, act and share from the perspective of children and youth. Consultation with young people, especially girls, was highlighted as a success to some ongoing climate change adaptation work.

Alongside listening to their ideas, an emphasis was placed on creating an enabling policy environment for them to participate including: conversations and education on global risk and what it means to them in their context; developing leadership skills; and connecting them with local authorities in safe spaces for discussion and advocacy.

Tools including feminist participation action research and ‘climate change cards’ were shared. We hope to pass these on to GNDR members in our forthcoming risk-informed development guide and toolkit.

Human mobility in times of climate change

Migration is not always a success story and can be significantly erosive to socio-economic status. Many people are seeing their income sources eroded by climate change. This is having an impact on vulnerable adults, women and girls with issues such as girl early marriage becoming more prominent. Young people are also experiencing the disproportionate impacts of climate change. Policy solutions were explored with a call to have more meaningful participation of youth in decision making – they are indeed agents of change.

A Syrian refugee activist called for the advancement of rights of displaced people, stating: “We must include the voice of those on the ground at the front line of risk.” A climate refugee stated that COP26 had been disappointing: “Where is the delegation of climate refugees? We need much more listening. Listening to the local level voice and really hearing the needs and recommendations from the locally displaced people.”

The role of host communities was acknowledged, with the burden placed on them with more people in a locality accessing resources. Ensuring they are part of the same processes is necessary too. The Pacific Resilience Partnership was highlighted for their work in this area.

Advocacy capacity strengthening

We were able to host an online seminar on advocacy skills for those interested in getting more involved in influencing decision makers at local, national, regional and international levels. We discussed what advocacy is, why it is important and where we should start with principles, design and monitoring tools, and learning from experiences in Bangladesh, Antigua and Barbuda.

Key actions and influence

We took time  to reflect on what has taken place at COP26 and what can be planned for COP27 to be held next year in Egypt:

  • We are really pleased with the loss and damage negotiations
  • Whilst finance remains limited, it was the first time for it to be discussed at COP26 and Adessou was able to take part in the working group negotiations; there was also significant discussion going on with other partners and we know we can build more influence
  • We are also pleased with the fact that GNDR has been seen in ‘climate circles’; with the secretariat, global board and members all present, we were able to show that we can be a valuable and credible partner and influencer
  • It was fantastic for secretariat staff to meet with members after nearly two years without travel; the connection and conversation we had with all who were able to attend was fantastic
  • We learnt a lot, both in terms of how we build our influence at such events (asking questions in seminars, networking, creative ways to share branding), and also about ongoing work that is taking place that we hope to connect with or continue to learn from

Reflection also brings with it things we’d like to improve on. We have ideas about how to connect with members even more, organise differently to achieve more and perhaps have more events. However, we’d like to discuss this with members who attended and those who are interested in attending COP27.

Today we met REAP: aiming to make one billion people safer from disasters, they have brought together high-level governments, donors and organisations to scale up the use of forecasting information for local action. We discussed how GNDR might be able to bring the perspective of civil society and communities most at risk into this work and look forward to an ongoing partnership together.

This is our final briefing from COP26. On Friday 12 November negotiations close and we hope governments make strong commitments to address all aspects of risk associated with climate change. Thank you to BMZ (Germany) who made our travel to COP26 possible and to everyone who has supported our work.

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