NDCs: What is there for Latin American big cities?

A case study and workshop project for four big cities and countries in Latin America

Also available in Deutsch, Español, Português

The project focused on a selected number of countries and (Mega) cities in Latin America: Brazil and Rio de Janeiro, Mexico and Mexico City, Argentina and Buenos Aires, and Peru and Lima. A field visit including a local workshop was carried out in each city; and a final workshop bringing together representatives from all 4 cities and all 4 national governments took place at the end of the project, in Rio de Janeiro.

The landmark success of the Paris Agreement must be credited to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the countries that are responsible for more than 95% of global emissions. The NDCs were a major effort by National Governments in estimating their expected increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the coming decades, and pledging reductions of such emissions in order to limit average global temperature rise to 2ºC.

Different countries have proposed different strategies and approaches to reduce emissions. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the NDCs were determined by National Governments ‘only’. Some level of consultation existed in many, or most countries, but the engagement of subnational entities was essentially nil. This may be explained by the time pressure under which the NDCs were formulated and also, more relevantly, by the fact that most decisions affecting a country’s future carbon emissions are the responsibility of national governments: the energy mix, the percentage of renewables, emission standards, fuel standards, agriculture, land use and forest policies, and many others. Many other decisions, however, are the responsibility of subnational and local-level governments – including transportation policies, city design, waste management, building efficiency codes, consumer behavior and practices, and many others. Cities, in particular, make a crucial contribution in helping countries to arrive at a climate agreement at a global scale. To begin with, half of the world’s population lives in cities, a share that reaches 80 percent in Latin America. Cities house most built assets, generate more than 80 percent of the world’s GDP, are responsible for around 70-80 percent of the energy consumed, and generate three quarters of energy related GHG emissions. Such a concentration of people, built assets and economic activity makes cities particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This same concentration makes it attractive and more cost-effective to focus mitigation (and adaptation) action on cities. There are other reasons why is it so crucial to engage cities in national efforts to reduce emissions. Cities house most scientists and research bodies; they are major sources of innovation and dissemination of ideas and practices, therefore they may be front-runners in climate action. Many cities worldwide have in fact been ahead of their national counterparts and pushed the climate agenda with greater enthusiasm and vigor, more often as part of their commitment to sustainability and better quality of life.

This project aimed at helping both national governments as well as selected city governments in Latin America to strengthen a dialogue process to align the NDC with existing city government plans and initiatives on climate change, which may have synergies with each other.

To achieve this, two sets of activities were carried out: one substantive, which tried to better understand NDC’s specific targets and compliance mechanisms, specifically at the city level. At the same time, the project analyzed existing climate action plans of the (selected) cities to assess if and how they fit/complement the NDC targets. The other set of activities was process oriented, and aimed at promoting a dialogue between both levels of government in terms of identifying potential gaps, overlaps, and complementarities of national and city level climate initiatives. This was admittedly a challenging effort but also a very necessary one. This coordination is a goal of national and city governments of all countries in the world, rich and poor, since all levels of government are aware of the enormous challenges involved in fulfilling the Paris Agreement based on their own knowledge and capacity to carry out such a difficult agenda.

The full report is available to download above.


Sergio Margulis, Susan Seehusen, Gabriella Lattari


Brazil, January 17, 2018

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Karina Marzano Franco

Project Manager

Karina Marzano Franco
Phone +55 21 2220 5441
Fax +55 21 2220 5448
Languages: Português,‎ Deutsch,‎ English,‎ Español,‎ Français