World Mayors and Elected Officials Sign Durban Adaptation Charter

Last week, on December 4th, mayors and elected officials in Durban made history by joining together in the signing of the Durban Adaptation Charter for Local Governments. The charter was unanimously signed by more than 100 mayors and elected officials from across the globe, following intense negotiations in Durban’s Council Chambers. These mayors and elected officials represented 950 local governments around the world, from Kenya to Thailand to Ecuador.

Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, described Sunday’s event as “the best possible start to a critical week in the life of this planet when we so urgently need real leadership on mitigation and adaptation”.

The mayor of Durban, James Nxumalo, was the first to sign The Durban Adaptation Charter. As he explained: “Local governments from around the world made history today by committing themselves to enhanced adaptation action through their signing of the Durban Adaptation Charter. The Charter is a clear indication that the impacts of climate change can only be addressed through development that promotes human welfare, ensures ecosystem integrity and promotes a new greener economy”.

Mayor Nxumalo was also chosen to present the Durban Adaptation Charter to the high level segment of the UNFCCC COP17/CMP7 as a means to encourage the Conference of the Parties to “urbanize the global climate agenda”. 

By signing the Durban Adaptation Charter, local leaders and elected officials have agreed to increase their mitigation and adaptation efforts by the following:

  • Mainstreaming adaptation as a key informant of all local government development planning
  • Understand climate risks through conducting impact and vulnerability assessments
  • Prepare and implement integrated, inclusive and long-term local adaptation strategies designed to reduce vulnerability
  • Ensure that adaptation strategies are aligned with mitigation strategies
  • Promote the use of adaptation that recognizes the needs of vulnerable communities and ensures sustainable local economic development
  • Prioritize the role of functioning ecosystems as core municipal green infrastructure
  • Seek the creation of direct access to funding opportunities
  • Develop an acceptable, robust, transparent, measurable, reportable and verifiable (MRV) register
  • Promote multi-level and integrated governance and advocate for partnerships with sub-national and national governments on local climate action
  • Promote partnerships at all levels and city-to-city cooperation and knowledge exchange


In previous years, local governments were given little if no voice in climate change negotiations and mitigation strategies. The 2010 Cancun Agreements first recognized local governments’ role as ‘government stakeholders’ in the global climate regime. The signing of the Durban Adaptation Charter further acknowledges the key role of local and subnational governments in committing to address climate change issues by advancing it on the local agenda. The Durban Adaptation Charter preamble highlighted that: “globally, local governments play a strategic role in addressing climate change, because of their direct activities in delivering local government functions; their responsibility for laws and regulations that can influence adaptation and mitigation; and their ability to demonstrate leadership and innovate solutions in this area”.

These 100 local governments showed that the key in taking steps to preserve our environment and protect future generations from climate change issues lies in our hands and it is vital to take a stand.

Earth Day Network’s Campaign for Communitieshopes to have a similar impact as the signing of the Durban Adaptation Charter, by encouraging local governments to take action in climate change mitigation strategies. In 2011, Campaign for Communities, known as Global Day of Conversation,successfully convened close to a thousand elected officials in more than 45 U.S. States and 14 countries worldwide.

To see the highlights from Global Day of Conversation 2011, please click here.                                                             

Earth Day Network would like to encourage local leaders and elected officials worldwide to use Campaign for Community and Earth Day 2012as a platform to highlight and promote their adaptation plan.