Paris teams up with Johannesburg to draft climate strategy

Johannesburg is 14 times the size of Paris. [Martijn.Munneke/Flickr]

This article is part of our special report Towns’ and regions’ cooperation on climate and development.

SPECIAL REPORT / South Africa’s economic capital wants to develop an ambitious climate strategy, following in the footsteps of Paris, the first French city to adopt a similar strategy in 2007. EURACTIV France reports.

The city of Johannesburg has been working on its climate change strategy for several months. For Tau Parks, the city’s mayor, who dreams of a greener future for the South African economic hub, the aim was to announce the strategy ahead of the COP21, which opened in Paris on Monday (30 November).

But following the advice of their Parisian counterparts, the Johannesburg authorities decided to announce their emissions reduction objectives during the Paris Climate Conference, and to launch their climate strategy in 2016.

The City of Paris is member of PLATFORMA, the European network of local and regional authorities for development.

“Originally, Johannesburg wanted to announce its plan before the COP21, but Paris encouraged them to take more time,” explained Matthieu Robin, the head of urban development at the French Development Agency (AFD).

Building a climate strategy

The services of the Paris mayor’s office established an exchange of expertise with Johannesburg in August. “We are trying to help them benefit from our experience, especially on the accounting of emissions and on the identification of possible levers for action,” said Patrick Klugman, Deputy Mayor of Paris in Charge of International Relations and Francophonie.

This task is already supported by the AFD and the C40, a network of cities committed to fighting climate change, launched by the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg.

Under threat from climate change

Paris’ climate plan concentrated mainly on cutting emissions from transport and renovating buildings.

For Johannesburg, the issues are quite different. “The city of Johannesburg is still very much marked by the spatial divides of apartheid,” said Robin. As a result, exchanges between the two cities focus more on the methodology needed to develop a climate strategy than on concrete actions.

>>Read: French Senate highlights the role of local authorities in fighting climate change

And the geography of the two cities could hardly be more different. 14 times the size of Paris for two million inhabitants, the South African city’s road, water, sanitation and electricity networks all represent significant and costly challenges.

“The transport sector is also very carbon intensive, as Johannesburg is ‘purely car’ city,” said Robin. In fact, South Africa’s economic capital emits 6.4 tonnes of CO2 per inhabitant per year, compared to 4.2 tonnes in Barcelona and 1.5 in New Delhi. “This is a high level of emissions for a developing city,” Robin added.

More concretely, the cooperation between the two cities gives Johannesburg “an example to follow when developing its climate strategy, and, importantly, it highlights which pitfalls to avoid”, the AFD chief said.

The challenge is to target the most carbon-intensive sectors, to bring businesses and civil society representatives to the same table in order to make the strategy as ambitious and inclusive as possible, and above all, to ensure the successful implementation of a long and disjointed list of ideas. But for Matthieu Robin, “nothing is more effective than a dialogue between local authorities” to address this challenge.


With world leaders and representatives from the member states of the United Nations flocking to Paris for the COP21 this week, the cooperation is equally well timely for the French capital.

Klugman said, “This is our first real decentralised cooperation project on the theme of the climate.”

The city of Paris is well positioned in terms of decentralised cooperation. “We have several people working on cooperation, which is not the case for all local authorities, so we are very much in demand,” Klugman added.

France’s decentralised cooperation is based on the Oudin-Santini law, which allows local authorities to mobilise 1% of their water and sanitation budgets to finance international cooperation efforts in these sectors.

In 2014, the re-orientation of development and international solidarity policy saw this mechanism extended to the waste sector.

Local and regional government play a big part in not only raising awareness among citizens of the importance of development cooperation, but also helping share knowledge to make aid more efficient and effective.

Since its inception in 2008 PLATFORMA has been the voice of European local and regional governments active in decentralised cooperation - the town-to-town, region-to-region development cooperation.

PLATFORMA’s role is to increase recognition of the work of local and regional governments in international cooperation, deepen the dialogue with European institutions and promote effective decentralised cooperation for the development of partner countries.

Its 34 members include associations of local and regional governments at the national, European or world levels as well as individual cities, provinces and regions. Based in Brussels, its secretariat is hosted by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).


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