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Expert Voices: Abha Joshi-Ghani, Director; Leadership, Learning and Innovation at The World Bank

Image by Flemming Leitorp

All climate action is ultimately local. Thus cities must take the lead in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, creating green cities, being energy efficient, building mass transit, becoming more resilient and resource efficient, reducing waste and harnessing the digital age to deliver services to their citizens and focusing on sustainability.

At the center of this approach is city leadership and engaged citizens. Density creates the possibility of doing more with less, and with a smaller carbon footprint. As a result, we often find that cities lead the way on climate action against the inertia of national governments.

We already see a large number of cities taking the lead in sustainability through innovative financing mechanisms, technological advances, policy and regulatory reforms, efficient use of land and transport, waste reduction, energy efficiency measures and reduction of GHG emissions. What is needed now for scaling this up is systematic knowledge exchange and learning among cities. Peer- to- peer learning is a powerful tool once contextualized and adapted to the particular socio-economic and political context.  Iterative learning with feedback loops can help in finding transformative solutions. Sometimes simple measures can make a big difference. For instance, the “Mayors Task Force on Climate Change, Disaster Risk and the Urban Poor” was created after COP 15 in Copenhagen. The Mayors Task Force was facilitated by the World Bank, and consisted of Mexico City, Jakarta, Dar es Salaam and Sao Paulo. The cities created a peer to peer network and exchanged their experience on resilience, from the importance of empowering local communities, to strengthening institutions and finding innovative financing mechanisms. All agreed it was critical it for national, state, and city level policies to be aligned.

What we know today is that knowledge and learning with regards to climate action is important and needs to be accessible just-in-time. The World Bank’s Open Learning Campus (OLC) – launched in January 2016 – is a platform and ecosystem for accelerated learning for our country clients and the general public. We have a number of e-courses on key development challenges on Climate Change, Low Carbon Development and Sustainable Development. Our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 Degree Centigrade Warmer World Must be Avoided” is available both in English and Spanish.

The C40 network plays a key role as a convener of peer-to-peer learning on climate change. C40 leverages climate action in currently 83 affiliated cities, enabling them to connect with each other and share technical expertise and best practices. I was proud to be in Paris as part of the jury panel for the 2015 C40 Cities Awards, which were held to coincide with COP 21.  As we deliberated on the submissions from cities around the world I was impressed by the determination, ingenuity, foresight, creativity and commitment of each of these cities to help fight climate change and create a better life for their citizens. It was a tough decision for the jury since the top submissions were very competitive. Finally the awards went to 10 cities, for a high level of environmental success, replicability and scalability.

The one message I heard from cities – loudly and clearly – at the Awards Ceremony was that learning from each other and sharing lessons is the key to their success.

Abha Joshi-Ghani is Director of the Leadership, Learning and Innovation (LLI) Department in the World Bank Group, and Chair of the WBG Learning Board. She heads the World Bank’s Innovation Labs, Collaborative Leadership for Development, South- South Knowledge Exchange & Organizational Knowledge Strengthening and Client Learning including the World Bank’s Open Learning Campus. Before joining LLI in 2012, she headed the World Bank’s Urban Development Anchor where she oversaw the World Bank’s work on Urban Policy and Strategy, and Knowledge and Learning. She is the co-editor with Edward Glaeser of the book “The Urban Imperative: Towards Competitive Cities”(OUP, 2014). She is a member of the World Economic Forum General Agenda Council on “Future of Cities”. She has worked primarily on infrastructure finance and urban development at the World Bank. Her regional experience includes South and East Asia, Africa and the Middle East. She holds an M.Phil from Oxford University, UK, Masters from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and a Bachelors from Lady Sri Rama College, Delhi University.