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Unlocking the Hidden Economic Potential of Cities

This article originally appeared on the blog for GLOBE Leadership Summit for Sustainable Business. 

Cities are already the powerhouses of the global clean energy economy. But with greater private-sector engagement, they stand to contribute even more.

When we consider both their potential to reduce carbon and drive economic growth, cities are hugely important players on the global stage. Indeed, new C40 research indicates that urban policy decisions made before 2020 could determine up to a third of the remaining safe global carbon budget that is not already locked-in by past decisions.

Fortunately, mayors of the world’s largest cities—including the more than 80 members of the C40—are discovering that the policies and programs that reduce their emissions are driving substantial green growth in their local economies. In fact, the New Climate Economy recently found that building smarter cities—by investing in low emission transport, more efficient buildings, and waste management—represents a vast $17 trillion opportunity worldwide by 2050.

At the recent COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, Ban Ki-moon, Christiana Figueres, Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Redford and others joined more than 400 mayors at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders in Paris. All called upon local leaders to drive global action on climate. The summit underscored that cities will prove critical partners in helping national governments achieve their agreed-upon carbon emissions reductions.

Just prior to COP21, the C40 released a roadmap for prioritizing city climate action. It identifies the two keys that will unlock the greatest potential for urban climate action: Finance and collaboration.

Indeed, over the 18 months we have worked to increase financing options for cities, including a robust technical effort to help cities increase their creditworthiness; launch of the C40 Finance Facility – an effort to unlock up to $1 billion in green infrastructure over the next four years; specialty networks sponsored by Ford Foundation and MasterCard to enhance transit-oriented development and urban mobility management; and a health and environment-focused research partnership with global healthcare company Novo Nordisk.

City collaborations offer a lucrative opportunity for the private sector; every USD$1 million invested in project preparation could yield USD$20 to 50 million in capital support for successful projects. Additionally, new C40 research indicates that climate action holds significant co-benefits in terms of improving economic and social well-being of citizens.  Yet with all of the positive benefits, barriers remain.

One roadblock that regularly stymies city climate action is the limitations cities face in their interactions directly with the private sector. Specifically, cities looking to partner with the private sector in implementing innovative energy, waste, and mobility solutions continue to face procurement and conflict-of-interest challenges when working directly with the private sector.

And this focus on solutions is exactly why C40 is looking forward to participating in a series of events in the infrastructure and urban development track at the GLOBE Series 2016 conference. City leaders will have the opportunity to learn from each other, and they’ll also interface directly with corporate and financial executives, influential business leaders, and thought leaders and industry experts with the capacity to implement innovative sustainable infrastructure projects.

“As the link between green government policy and on-the-ground business action, we help businesses tap into the enormous market opportunity presented by today’s environmental challenges,” said Ian McKay, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC). “The bold actions our City has taken since 2008 have already resulted in significant increases in jobs and new businesses. GLOBE is a great way for us to share these successes, and continue to help our Clean Tech, Green Building, Local Foods and other industries thrive, while reducing our impact on the planet.”

“GLOBE is a natural next step after COP21 taking action toward increased public private collaboration to combat climate change” said Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen. “As the lead city for the Green Growth Network, enhanced collaboration with the private sector is a key priority for Copenhagen and essential for driving climate action globally.”

Alongside the GLOBE Series, C40 will partner with the Vancouver Economic Commission, Renewable Cities, and Danish cleantech cluster CLEAN to host the 100% Renewable Energy Challenge—an event bringing together global leaders to co-create solutions to concrete challenges that businesses and cities face in achieving 100 percent renewable energy.

For C40 cities, the City Solutions Platform will offer an opportunity to further develop the solutions that are proposed during the workshop. The City Solutions Platform is a joint venture from C40, CLEAN, and the International Cleantech Network (ICN), with support from Realdania and corporate partners Danfoss, Grunfos, Hitachi, RTI, and Ramboll.

Along with companies like GLOBE Series and other organizations and our partners, we look forward to ushering in this new era of sustainability as a top priority for businesses around the globe, where cutting carbon emissions and growing the global economy go hand in hand.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Woodworth
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    February 26, 1:26 am

    The ideas of cutting carbon emissions while growing the global economy do go hand in hand, as Al Gore often remarks.
    Gore made the speech of his life the third day before COP21 ended, but it did not make the media. The last six inspiring minutes may be seen in my inside-COP21 documentary, at: