COP28: Science-based targets to curb the impact of cities on nature in development

Supporting cities to protect biodiversity and bolster climate resilience

Plans to develop city-focused science-based targets that include nature and biodiversity have been unveiled by the Science-Based Targets Network (SBTN) at an event at COP28, with the creation of a holistic framework covering the impact of cities top of the agenda.

The Cities’ Science-Based Targets for Nature program is designed to help municipalities manage land and water, protect biodiversity and bolster climate resilience, and is set to unfold over the next 18 months until spring 2025, when initial guidance for cities will become available.

The initiative is a collaborative effort between leading city networks, research institutions and advisory organisations focused on cities, including CDP, WWF, WRI, C40, ICLEI, Durham University, TNC and Arup. Additionally, Metabolic and Urban Biodiversity Hub will act as core delivery partners for the program.

“With this initiative, cities commit to integrating nature into their climate transition and urban policy agendas as an immediate priority. This includes establishing clear targets for the creation and preservation of green and blue spaces. Furthermore, cities setting science-based targets for climate and nature will be seeking alignment and synergies with Local Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (LBSAPs), as well as National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans,” said Eva Gladek, founder and CEO of Metabolic.

According to studies by the World Bank and the UN, cities are the largest driver of environmental impact globally, with an estimated 57% of the global population already living in cities, and number which is projected to rise to 68% by 2050. Therefore, both direct and indirect impacts of cities need to be brought in line with what nature can support.

Last year at COP15, the Kumming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework set a global goal of “halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030”. Regions and cities are seen as essential catalysts for change in the pursuit of Nature Positive Development, says the SBTN, with targets for cities essential for guiding efforts in line with the Safe And Just Earth System Boundaries, released by the Earth Commission in May this year.

Prior to COP28, Maia Kutner, CDP global director of cities, states and regions, said that sustainable and resilient infrastructure is the “cornerstone of tangible climate action”.

“Our data shows there is a golden opportunity for national governments, the private sector and financial institutions across the globe to turbocharge their support to cities and invest in this mission critical infrastructure, particularly in the Global South.

“We hope this call to ramp up city climate finance will also drive more cities to report their environmental data in a transparent way. This will encourage the investment they need to take meaningful action and create sustainable urban areas for all.”

COP28 Day 7: Urban design and transport

Also at COP28, the presidency joined with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Bloomberg Philanthropies to call for the backing of a joint outcome statement on urbanisation and climate change.

The statement sets out a 10-point plan to boost the inclusion of cities in the decision-making process on climate change, drive multilevel climate action and accelerate the deployment of urban climate finance so that cities are prepared and supported to respond to the climate crisis.

Currently, as many as 90% of cities are threatened by rising sea levels and storms, and their residents are exposed to ten degrees higher temperatures than their counterparts in rural areas.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, under-secretary-general of UN-Habitat, said: “A diverse range of stakeholders gathered including leaders from the national and local level, underscoring the shared priority of supporting urban environments to withstand climate challenges.

“Though cities, which are home to most of the world’s population, contribute over 70% of CO2 emissions, immediate action could bring down their emissions to near net-zero. Recognising cities’ role in climate action, two-thirds of the updated NDCs feature moderate or strong urban content. However, finance remains a critical bottleneck, with only 21% of climate finance allocated to adaptation and resilience, and only 10% reaching the local level.”