Cities will be key to a low carbon, resilient global economy able to address and adapt to climate change. Many are emerging as leaders cutting emissions and greening infrastructure. Photo ©Pline
At a Technical Expert Meeting on urban climate action during the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn 10 June, experts spoke of the urgent need to prepare cities for climate impacts. As the World Bank explained, hugely expanding populations above all in the cities of the developing world are becoming increasingly vulnerable and need to build resilience
Worldwide, funding for climate action is increasing with major financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the Global Environment Facility launching financial assistance programs specifically for local and subnational governments.
However, according to the World Bank estimates, only a small percentage of the 500 largest cities in the developing countries are considered creditworthy - about 4% by international financial markets and 20% by local markets. Lima, Peru, the host of the upcoming UN Climate Conference, is one of the few developing cities that has already achieved a credit-worthy status.
At the Technical Expert Meeting, the World Bank explained that it is currently helping a number of countries improve their credit ratings. The World Bank has already organized two "Creditworthiness Academies" for municipal experts, the first in Nairobi, Kenya.
“Start thinking about a carbon prices for your cities, even if it is shadow carbon prices. That will make us investors know where we need to direct our investement, be they in transport or in other areas,” said the World Bank expert James Close.
The next location of a World Bank's training session will be Kampala in Uganda, a town which is already leading by example. Kampala intends to obtain a shadow rating by Dec 2014 and a full rating by 2015. The city is already including climate aspects in all infrastructure project designs. This means encouraging the use of buses instead of mini-buses and motorcycles as a means of public transport. The city has also started building solar lighting and intends to expand the scheme.
Solar street lights in Kampala
Cities benefit from cooperation with all levels of government, but also with other cities and in other countries. There is a business case to be made for such cooperation, as businesses that market climate solutions gain access to new markets thorough this route.
On the same day as the Technical Expert Meeting, the global cities network ICLEI issued a pdf-icon new report showing that 10 cities meanwhile have 100% carbon neutrality targets. One of the cities, which also presented at the Technical Expert Meeting, is Malmö. By 2020, the City of Malmö is to be climate neutral and by 2030 the whole municipality is to run on 100% renewable energy.
This is to be achieved in a wide variety of ways, touching on almost all areas of life. In Malmö, 98% of household waste is already recycled or transformed into energy. The town’s bus fleet operates on biogas and the city is investing in a fleet of electric vehicles. Part of the electricity needed for the town comes from Sweden’s largest offshore wind park located off the coast, and a new solar park is under construction. All of this truly accounts for a "great transformation".
Overall, urban areas have significant up-coming opportunities. Due to the increasingly urbanized world population, a huge amount of investments into infrastructure will have to be made by cities over the next 20 years. This represents a window of opportunity to do things differently and to prevent locking in high-carbon infrastructure.
In this context, experts highlighted that planning leads to action. Cities that have climate change plans in place tend to take action, whereas cities that don’t have such plans in place risk lagging behind. Yet the benefits of action are many, from cities contributing to national mitigation aims to actions that both curbs emissions and result in improved air quality.