The COP28 presidential session on Local Ecosystem Restoration for Nature-Positive Cities and Regions, held on Wednesday 6 December in Dubai, was a pivotal gathering for local and subnational governments. 

It was convened by the COP28 Presidency, High Level Champions, UNEP, ICLEI, the World Bank and Global Commons Alliance to rally cities and regions around advancing a soft call on nature-positive urban development from the UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28, H.E. Razan al Mubarak.

Today, we issue a soft, but important call to action for cities worldwide. First, cities should integrate nature into their climate transition plans. Second, we urge cities to report their commitments to the CBD recognized CitiesWithNature Action Platform. Third, cities should set science-based targets for nature and climate. We also urge cities to significantly increase investments in nature, nature-based solutions and ecosystem restoration. We also call for partnerships to introduce innovative financing instruments.

– H.E Razan al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion and President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Leveraging the momentum from COP28’s Nature Outcome Three, the call to action for nature-positive development, is a crucial strategy in tackling urgent environmental crises. The Mayor of Barranquilla, Colombia, and the Secretary of Sustainable Development from the State of Yucatan, responded to this call in the session.

Today, we issue a soft, but important call to action for cities worldwide. First, cities should integrate nature into their climate transition plans. The 21st century is a natural revolution that we must embrace and understand. That is why, as a part of the biodiversity network of Latin America and an avid advocate of ensuring that nature action is as important as climate action, we embrace the call to be nature positive! As a lighthouse city of the World Bank, UNEP and ICLEI’s Urban Nature Program, Barranquilla is showing that we are part of nature.

– Jaime Alberto Pumarejo Heins, Mayor, Barranquilla, Colombia

As ICLEI biodiversity portfolio holder and endorsers of the Race to Zero and Race to Resilience campaigns, and the CBD recognized RegionsWithNature and CitiesWithNature reporting platforms, we invite and encourage all cities and regions to join these initiatives, and establish science-based objectives aligned with local and national biodiversity strategy and action plans.

– Sayda Rodriguez Gómez, Secretary of Sustainable Development of the Yucatan State Government

The session showcased the innovative Generation Restoration (2023-2025) Project, which focuses on promoting restoration at scale, particularly in urban areas. This project is financed by the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by UNEP, with the support of and in coordination with the UN Decade Secretariat and ICLEI’s Global Biodiversity Center. It is designed to overcome political, technical and financial barriers to promote large-scale restoration within the framework of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The Collaborative Effort to Equip Cities to Take Integrated Action on Climate and Nature, coordinated by the Global Commons Alliance, was also showcased in the session. Additionally, the session highlighted the Science Based Targets Network initiative in developing guidance for cities to set science-based targets for climate and nature, through the Cities Hub Nature Program; as well as existing tools such as the Nature Positive Playbook and World Business Council on Sustainable Development’s ‘Nature Positive Roadmap for the Built Environment’.

The COP28 Presidency recognizes that both Parties and observers have been unequivocal about the urgency of investing in nature and people to respond to the impacts of climate change. This session’s strategic importance lay in its focus on nature and nature-positive urban development that responded directly to one of the COP28 Presidency’s four paradigm shifts – PUT NATURE, PEOPLE, LIVES AND LIVELIHOODS AT THE HEART OF CLIMATE ACTION.

The global goals on adaptation are setting targets for resilient ecosystems. There are similar targets in the Global Biodiversity Framework. When it comes to adaptation and resilience, all ecosystems and all species are important because they are the mesh of life on which we all depend to stay alive. And cities, in particular, are critical because of the choices that are made in cities that have a footprint well beyond the city boundaries.

– Mirey Atallah, Head, Nature for Climate Branch/Moderator, UNEP

Since 2019, we have demonstrated our commitment to the green Istanbul vision by incorporating several new urban forests and large urban parks. We have made more than 4 million square meters of green space available for public use to protect and increase biodiversity.

Let’s remind ourselves that we are all in this together and we have no borderline between us, between our countries, or between our cities.

– Ekrem İmamoğlu, Mayor, Istanbul, Türkiye

The Bonn climate plan was adopted in March this year. We want to become climate neutral by 2035 at the latest. Our climate plan is ambitious as we designed it within the boundaries of the Paris Agreement 1.5 degree goal. Bonn also has a biodiversity strategy, and our ambition is to become a sponge city.

– Katja Dörner, Mayor, Bonn, Germany

Seattle is seen as a leader in the US for sustainable practices both nationally, but also globally, which is a badge of honor for us. One common theme resonating at COP28 is that regardless of the federal, national or international standards we want to put in place for climate action, it really starts at the local level – with cities, committing and implementing nature and climate actions.

– Anthony-Paul (AP) Diaz, Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle, USA

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