Development Finance

New coalition launched to help cities tackle climate change

Ani Dasgupta, Global Director of the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities will lead the new Coalition

The new Coalition for Urban Transitions, an initiative partnering WRI with C40 and the New Climate Economy, was launched this week during the Climate Action 2016 conference in Washington DC to help cities make the economic case for climate change action.

Ani Dasgupta, Global Director of the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities will lead the new Coalition. Dasgupta said the goal of the initiative is to help mayors make the economic case for their climate projects.

“[We are] trying to move the discussion away from the environment minister to the finance minister,” he explained. “Making cities more liveable and making them more productive are one in the same thing.”

The focus of the coalition will be gearing evidence-based reports towards national policymakers as many developing countries do not have a coherent policy towards sustainable urban development. Dasgupta said the initiative seeks to ultimately “make finance ministers think of cities as instruments of economic development” and a way to develop their whole country sustainably.

In conjunction with the conference, C40 released a report, Unlocking Climate Action in Megacities. The network’s research identifies the barriers that inhibit 80 of the world’s largest cities face in tackling climate change in their unique urban environments.

The report notes that cities should gear internal operations towards reducing bureaucracy as much as possible, foster more collaborative relationships with the private sector to help with financing initiatives, come up with ways to innovatively integrate various urban facilities to use existing resources in a more climate-friendly way, and engage citizens to take action as well.

In attendance was Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris who outlined to Development Finance actions that her city is taking: reducing fine particle pollution, the need for “electro-mobility”–or shifting to more electric vehicles instead of diesel–and innovating the building sector for new, greener construction while retro-fitting old buildings.

Speaking through a translator, Hidalgo added that the overall goal with summer coming is to mitigate the “heat concentration” the city experiences every year. Paris is planting 20,000 new trees on and around buildings and plans to “re-claim” the banks of the River Seine by making it car-free for the season, she explained.

She also noted that Paris is trying to “recycle” the power in existing facilities. For instance, she recently inaugurated an outdoor pool that is continually kept warm using the heat from a nearby data centre. She plans on pursuing a plan to use sewer heat to serve public buildings and schools.

In the US climate action taken by cities can be more political. As Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, pointed out, some cities in the US have unique and “major arguments to overcome” in order to make such changes.  Reed said he “frequently defend[s] common sense reform” in Atlanta because in the politically conservative state of Georgia, the majority of lawmakers belong to a political party that does not believe climate change exists.

Despite the political issue, Reed was able to get the largest expansion of Atlanta’s public transport system in the city’s history approved by the state government. Dasgupta added that Reed was able to do so by highlighting the co-benefits of this climate-related project: greater access for poor communities in the city and an easier commute that makes for more productive workers–a key goal of the new coalition.