Climate change: Cities seek business backing

Cities around the world, including in developing nations, are increasingly grasping the economic opportunities generated by the need to tackle climate change and are pursuing concrete partnerships with business, a climate research group said.

In a report based on environmental data disclosed by 533 cities this year, London-based CDP said those cities had identified 720 climate change-related projects they hoped to work on with the private sector, worth a combined $26 billion.

They include South Africa’s Cape Town, which plans to expand a scheme for companies to buy wind-generated power via green energy certificates; and Quito in Ecuador, which is seeking $800 million to deliver a project to treat waste water using gravity rather than electric pumps, as well as producing hydropower.

Kolkata in India wants business backing for renewable energy projects including solar-powered heating and street lighting.

“Cities have a clear appetite for collaborating with the private sector on climate change, and they see it as an economic opportunity,” said Maia Kutner, head of cities at CDP.

Of the cities that reported on their climate change action to CDP, 299 said they were looking to grow new industries, such as clean tech.

Moving from sharing knowledge and ideas, many cities were looking to launch more tangible projects with the private sector and secure financial investment, she added.

The most popular areas for potential collaboration were in energy efficiency, retrofitting buildings, renewable energy and transport, the report said.

“What we’ll see is a shift towards more hands-on work on emissions reductions and joint work on financing for these projects,” Kutner said

The investment needed in cities for low-carbon transport, energy, water, waste and telecommunications infrastructure was estimated at $57 trillion between now and 2030, the CDP report said.

Interest was rising in “blended” models of finance, in which public sector institutions such as development banks could reduce investment risk for businesses, Kutner said.

“Cities and businesses working together are more likely to be able to attract private sector finance, because right now (it) just isn’t flowing into cities enough,” she added.

Another reason for working together more closely was that, even though the world’s cities were responsible for three-quarters of global climate change emissions, municipal operations produce just 3 percent of total city wide emissions. The rest comes from sources city authorities do not control or own directly, such as buildings and private transport.

“San Francisco would not have been able to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions without working collaboratively with numerous environmental partners including our business community,” said the city’s mayor, Ed Lee.

Cities that worked with the private sector were more likely to have an emissions reduction target, the report said. Of the 190 cities with a target, three-quarters partnered with business.

Conversely, the low proportion of cities in Africa and Latin America with an emissions-cutting goal could deter businesses from getting involved in municipal projects, the report said.

“In African and Latin American cities, they are less advanced in, for example, setting emissions reduction targets or reporting on their plans or providing comprehensive disclosures,” said Kutner. “So there is some work that needs to be done.” – Thomson Reuters Foundation

What cities are doing …

The number of cities reporting on their efforts to tackle global warming has jumped 70 percent to 533 across 89 countries since a new climate change agreement was adopted late last year.

London-based climate research group CDP said more cities were now doing an inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions with a view to managing them.

Four in 10 cities were measuring their emissions this year, compared with one in 10 five years ago, CDP said.

In December, 195 nations reached a deal to limit global temperature rise to “well below” 2°C by shifting away from fossil fuel use.

Here are some facts and figures from the report:

  • 190 cities have set emission reduction targets, and are taking more than 3 000 actions to limit emissions.
  • The activities set to generate the biggest reductions are improvements to energy efficiency, infrastructure for non-motorised transport, and producing low or zero-carbon energy supplies.
  • 44 percent of the cities disclosing data have an action plan to curb their emissions.
  • 89 percent of cities view climate change as a risk to their city, reporting nearly 1 500 actions to adapt to its impacts. Measures include educating communities, warning and evacuation systems, and flood mapping.
  • Climate-related hazards they face include extreme temperatures, storms, floods, water scarcity and insects.
  • Cities said climate hazards increased risks to vulnerable people, and boosted demand for public services, including health, as cases of disease rose.
  • In Africa, three of 46 cities report having an emissions reduction target and 17 percent have a plan to curb emissions. – Thomson Reuters Foundation
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