The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), an international coalition of city leaders committed to raising the global ambition for climate action, has launched a regional chapter for South Asia in New Delhi. It aims to support the efforts of cities in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and make their communities more resilient toward the effects of climate change.

The South Asia chapter was launched within the context of the South Asian Cities Summit and through support from the European Union (EU) funded International Urban Cooperation programme in India and city network partners.

At the launch event, GCoM Vice-Chair and former UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, the architect behind the historic Paris Agreement, and EU Ambassador Tomasz Kozlowski joined mayors, commissioners, key local actors and representatives from across South Asian countries as well as global and local city network partners to share regionally relevant challenges, best practices and lessons learnt, and demonstrate how a shared vision for the future can enhance climate action in the communities and quality of life for their citizens.

The regional chapter aims to encourage and support South Asian sub-national authorities to promote the economic and health benefits of cities’ climate action. To date, 14 cities in South Asia have committed to GCoM, representing a population of more than 36 million. Through their commitments made to GCoM to take action on climate change, cities in the region could reduce their emissions by 65 per cent. The region’s overall potential to curb emissions is even greater.

The regional chapter also launched a campaign to further invite mayors and commissioners from India as well as local governments across the region to join the Global Covenant of Mayors and commit to transitioning to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy. The Indian cities of Surat and Gangtok signed a commitment to join cities across the globe to take action as part of this coalition.

According to the European Union (EU), Indian cities will host 200 million more people by 2030, and two-thirds of India’s buildings that will exist by 2030 remain to be built. The country’s future urban planning and implementation will have a decisive influence on the global climate impact of international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, many of India’s cities are highly vulnerable to sea level rise, as they are situated along the country’s extensive coastline or along major rivers and are already feeling the impacts of extreme weather events, including heat waves and floods. Many Indian cities and states are developing climate action plans as part of the national agenda. The cities of Rajkot and Surat have already begun developing urban climate initiatives that serve as examples of global climate leadership.