ICLEI’s Cities Biodiversity Center’s Kobie Brand represented ICLEI at the World Conservation Congress in Hawai’i, September 2016. We are particularly excited about motion 28, which recognizes the importance of mainstreaming the urban dimension into conservation initiatives. We applaud the IUCN on a successful congress with far-reaching motions and decisions and look forward to improving urban sustainability on a global scale.

Please find the speech below:



Engaging with Cities – Building Constituencies

IUCN World Conservation Congress, 8 September 2016, Hawai’i

By Kobie Brand: Director: ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability



Dear Fellow IUCN Members and Friends

It is a great privilege to address you today on building a closer relation with the constituency of cities – and in particular, with those who govern them.

For those of you who are perhaps not familiar with ICLEI:

We are a collective network of cities and other subnational governments from around the world committed to – and focused on – sustainability. Our members range from large state governments like Sao Paulo State, growing megalopolises like Lagos, big and famous cities like Seoul, London, Johannesburg, Paris and New York to rather small towns and even rural communities like Bafut in Cameroon or Walvis Bay in Namibia. These 1500+ subnational governments are part of a fast growing global constituency connecting with one another and built over the last 26 year – and they share one challenging commitment binding them at the gut- To provide and sustain:

inclusive, safe, quality and thriving cities for our growing urban population.

There is no easy recipe for achieving this and this constituency “blazes the trail” by simply getting on with it. ICLEI, as network for and by cities, along with our partner city networks like UCLG, C40 and others, encourages and supports these cities to connect, share and learn from one another –and to strengthen their voices as strategic and vital national contributors to attaining globally set targets and aspirations.

Cities are the space where the consumption of resources are rapidly increasing. To give you one example: In 3 years, China, in building and connecting their cities, used more cement and steel than the USA in 100 years.

And to put this into context: Along with Asia, Africa is urbanising faster than anywhere else. Resource use in Africa is already of major concern – a key issue being of course how Africa is going to energise, considering that the entire Sub-Sahara Africa (excluding South Africa) is currently consuming less energy than Spain.  And let’s also note that every year, more Africans live in urban slums. About 400 million African urban dwellers lived in slums in 2010 and 60% of those had no access to basic services. By 2050 this number is expected to grow to 1.26 billion.

Realising that the time for talk is long over – and the time instead, for massively scaled, transformative, local action is upon us – many cities around the world – also in Africa of course – are taking action. Inspired by one another, yet each within their national and locally defined contexts – they are collectively strengthening and enabling national ambition and commitment – and greatly adding to, sometimes even leading – the attainment of global targets such as the CBD Aichi Targets and the new NDCs.

Allow me one such example from a climate perspective, given climate change is so prominent in this congress for the first time:

A newly committed merger a few weeks ago between the Bloomberg-led Compact of Mayors and European-originated Covenant of Mayors is committing an astounding 7100+ cities and other local governments in taking action on climate change. The new “Covenant of Mayors on Climate and Energy” enables participating cities to collectively commit; record and report on their climate actions in a globally recognised platform. This is happening at unprecedented scale and is truly transformative. What is even better news is that this local reporting can feed into the NDC’s – or nationally determined contributions committed to in Paris.

Cities are such powerhouses to reduce GHG emissions. Already 608 cities, towns and regions from 62 countries representing 553 million people are voluntarily reporting on our carbonn Climate Registry – with a combined commitment of 1 million gigatonnes of CO2e reductions by 2020. Given that the gap identified by the UNFCCC – considering current NDCs – is 14 million gigatonnes, these cities cover a significant part of that already – just through existing voluntary reported commitments.

And then we know cities sometimes dare to go places as incubators of change, knowledge hubs, early adopters and brave explorers. Take Adelaide and Copenhagen, committed to become carbon neutral within set time frames, take Johannesburg introducing green bonds, Recife passing a bylaw on green roofs…there are so many more great examples.

Time does not allow me to talk about the astounding buying power of cities and their ability to enable green procurement through this strength, nor to dwell on “smart cities” and how technology is reshaping our urban world in partnership with the private sector – or to give you fantastic examples of where nature is actively and successfully brought back into our urban hearts – but allow me to share just five quick ideas on how we an IUCN can engage our cities constituency:

  1. Most of us live in cities. Most of you here today go back to your city or town – engage with your local council. Celebrate their successes, share you knowledge and help make the transition to sustainability back home. For inspiration, look at our leading cities and share their commitments and ideas with your local leaders.
  2. Within IUCN – we have just adopted Motion 28 which commits all IUCN members to mainstream the urban dimension into our work, and others with strong urban dimensions such as Motion 69 – let’s get on with it, already! This means revisiting our current structures, priorities and resource allocations to ensure that we engage the amazing strengths of IUCN to help reshape our common urban future. ICLEI, for one, stands ready to work with all fellow IUCN members to implement actions on the ground through our various global and regional offices.
  3. ICLEI also has a recently renewed MoU with IUCN and look forward to collectively implementing it across our regions and structures.
  4. Let’s jointly, and each within national contexts, make the business case for and by cities for investing in, and working with, nature to shape, reshape, build and connect our cities of the future.
  5. Let’s celebrate urban life – and join each other in building smart, healthy, inclusive, safe, biodiverse and green safe cities to live, work and play in.


Thank you.



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