Cities are increasingly asserting themselves at the global level, as evidenced by their growing prominence in international negotiation processes, particularly the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is cities where the most ambitious climate action can be observed – but also the most harrowing failures. This indicates that cities, their needs and potential need to be better considered during climate negotiations. An increasing level of collaboration among cities (e.g. in networks) makes it more feasible than ever for national governments to engage with cities as a coherent group of actors. However, what role they should play remains unclear.
This paper examines the relevance of cities and city networks in the current international climate policy architecture, especially with respect to the evolution of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and climate finance as well as other developments linked to COP21. Furthermore, the paper addresses the role that cities should play based on their potential to drive climate policies from the bottom up.
To this end, the paper starts with examining the historical and current role of cities in climate diplomacy. It then discusses cities’ motivation for engaging in climate diplomacy, including a closer examination of regional commonalities and differences. Furthermore, the paper takes a closer look at emerging actors in climate diplomacy, including city networks and the private sector. Finally, it concludes with suggestions on steps that can be taken to better integrate cities in future climate governance.