International policy will be cloaked in urban chic this month, as events focused on sustainable cities, the New Urban Agenda and urban food security feature in the October sustainable development calendar. Meanwhile, the focus on climate change will intensify as preparations for the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC advance. The wait appears to be over for those watching the ratification, acceptance and approval process for the Paris Agreement on climate change to reach the thresholds for entry into force, as does the wait for the selection of the next UN Secretary-General. Planning for the implications of both decisions will now be underway in earnest in October.

Sustainable Development

A few key events in October will highlight the nexus between sustainable agriculture, food security, nutrition and urbanization. The 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is expected to address these issues, as well as engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), urbanization and rural transformation, and monitoring. The CFS meeting will include a forum that, building on the outcomes of reports of the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), is expected to address the challenges and opportunities resulting from rapid urbanization and the transformation of agriculture, food systems and rural spaces.

These meetings will be complimented by the Second Mayors Summit of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP), which will promote more environmentally sound and fair food systems in urban areas. Mayors of signatory cities to the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact will participate. The World Mountain Forum will also feature discourse on sustainable agriculture and food security, among other topics. The World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, taking place in Bogota, Colombia, will bring together stakeholders and officials from 12-15 October 2016, to discuss global urban policy issues just before Habitat III. And the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), scheduled to convene in Quito, Ecuador, from 17-20 October, is expected to adopt the New Urban Agenda, which will provide the first global agreement focused on implementing the SDGs within a specific context, since the adoption of the SDGs in September 2015.

Many of the same delegates and experts working on urban issues and attending these meetings will also be focused on the debates at UN Headquarters, where the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) has gotten underway. Now that the high-level annual debate has concluded, the five committees are launching their substantive work. The month will see discussions among Member States on key agenda items related to sustainable development, as delegations prepare for informal consultations to finalize agreement on resolutions before the end of 2016. The organizational meeting of the UNGA’s Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) provided indications of the forthcoming discussions on allocating resources for implementing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the SDGs. The Second Committee began its general debate on 3 October. Judging from the interventions of the EU and others, the Committee will have to find its footing after failing to agree on changes to its agenda and working methods in the 70th session. For many governments and the UN system, a priority issue during this session is the 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), which will be negotiated by the UNGA’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial). A first draft of the negotiating text is expected on 17 October.

Natural Resources

The month of October is serving up a plate of “surf and turf” to go along with its urban agenda. In the natural resources arena, this month will see meetings focused on measuring land degradation neutrality as well as the conservation of marine resources, with a special focus on the Arctic. The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has just wrapped up, with some key decisions on species listings.

With regard to land, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will convene a special session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC15) to discuss methodological questions related to national reporting on the Convention as well as on the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target featured in SDG target 15.3. This meeting will also review outcomes from regional LDN Target Setting Programme (TSP) inception workshops conducted in 2016, highlight experiences from countries involved in the programme and offer further guidance on LDN target setting.

Focusing on marine biodiversity, immediately following a Senior Arctic Officials Meeting of the Arctic Council, another body – the 2016 Arctic Circle Assembly – will consider Arctic policy. The Assembly is expected to draw more than 2,000 participants from 50 countries to Reykjavík, Iceland (possibility the largest annual gathering focused on the Arctic) to discuss a wide range of issues inclusive of climate change, industry and conservation as well as communications and innovation, all relevant to the region. Later in the month, attention will turn specifically to Arctic marine biodiversity when the 35th Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) Scientific Committee meets concurrently with the 35th Meeting of the CCAMLR Commission to discuss the marine conservation. The Commission serves as CCAMLR’s main decision-making body.

Marine biodiversity will be further discussed when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets for it bi-annual session in Slovenia, to take decisions on the conservation and management of whale species. It will also be on the agenda when the Extraordinary Summit of the African Union of Maritime Security and Development meets in Lomé, Togo. The Togo meeting will seek to establish a roadmap on Maritime Security in Africa, including an African strategy for protecting oceans and seas.

Finally, the CITES CoP17 has just concluded. Delegates there addressed a number of important decisions, including to reject trade in white rhino horn, the transfer of the African grey parrot to Appendix I (no trade), and the up-listing of all pangolin species to Appendix I (no trade), while proposals to down-list and up-list populations of African elephants were defeated along with efforts to open the ivory trade. In addition, the first dedicated decision on fighting wildlife cybercrime as well as a resolution to combat corruption were agreed.


In the climate arena, momentum will keep growing, building on the special ‘High-Level Event on Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change’ convened by the UN Secretary-General at the end of September. Here, the first of the two thresholds for entrance into force was passed (the total number of Parties was brought to 60, passing the 55 Parties threshold). Recent additional accessions brought the total over the second threshold on 4 October, and the Paris Agreement is expected to come into force in early November 2016, during COP 22.

October will also see various events related to climate change action occurring outside the UNFCCC process, with the discussions likely to feed into ongoing climate negotiations. Two major events will address emissions from global aviation and maritime shipping, which, combined, represent about 5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Although both sectors are among the fastest growing sources of emissions at the global level, with their share projected to rise between 10-32% by 2050, they are not addressed under the Paris Agreement on climate change. Two October events will discuss curbing emissions from these sectors. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is currently holding its 39th Assembly, which, among other issues, is addressing a possible a global market-based mechanism scheme to cover emissions from international aviation. The ICAO Assembly is meeting in Montreal, Canada, and will conclude on 7 October. Later in the month, the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will hold its 70th session in London, UK, to address, among other items, air pollution and energy efficiency, further technical and operational measures for enhancing the energy efficiency of international shipping, and the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships.

Another event, the 28th Meeting of the Parties (MOP 28) to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, may also generate significant mitigation benefits. At the meeting scheduled to take place in Kigali, Rwanda, from 8-14 October, Parties are to consider, inter alia, a proposed amendment to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are human-made gases commonly used as refrigerants and propellants in aerosols. Because they do not damage the atmospheric ozone layer, they are often used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances (ODS). However, HFCs, like other F-gases, are powerful GHGs, with a global warming effect up to 23,000 times greater than CO2. Their phase down is projected to prevent the emission of up to 100 billion tonnes (Gt) of CO2-equivalent or more by 2050. Pressure is on delegates to reach consensus, as in September, leaders from over 100 countries announced the formation of a coalition (Coalition to Secure an Ambitious HFC Amendment) and issued a statement calling for the adoption of such an amendment.

On climate science, the 44th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will meet in Bangkok, Thailand, from 17-20 October, to consider the draft outline of the Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global GHG emission pathways in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. This outline had been agreed during a scoping meeting held back in August. At the Paris Climate Change Conference in December 2015, the UNFCCC COP requested the IPCC to prepare such a report. In Bangkok, the IPCC is also scheduled to discuss other items related to its sixth Assessment Cycle, namely the outline of the Methodology Report(s) to refine the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National GHG Inventories, the organization of a Workshop on Climate Change and Cities, and the proposal to hold an Expert Meeting on Mitigation, Sustainability and Climate Stabilization Scenarios.

Other key October meetings in the climate arena relate to climate finance: the Adaptation Fund Board will hold its 28th meeting from 4-7 October, in Bonn, Germany; the 14th meeting of the Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will be held from 12-14 October, in Songdo, the Republic of Korea; and the Council of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will hold its 51st meeting from 24-27 October, in Washington DC, US.

With the deadline for Parties’ and observers’ submissions passed, UNFCCC delegates will be busy in October digesting the views submitted to make the most of the precious negotiation time at the Marrakesh Climate Change Conference, which is scheduled to open on 7 November.

Lauren Anderson, Alice Bisiaux, Faye Leone and Lynn Wagner

We are pleased to bring you the October 2016 Monthly Forecast. Please contact us with any comments or suggestions on this column. For more information on key sustainable development events in October 2016, please consult our calendar of upcoming events: For information after these events conclude, visit our knowledgebase: