Make no mistake, momentum is growing to ‘localize” climate finance

The evidence is overwhelming. Besides being the warmest year on record, 2016 saw an overwhelming number of “pollution peak” days in cities across the globe.

Paris, for instance, is regularly exposing more than 1.5 million inhabitants to pollution levels that do not respect European regulation. In Africa, imported fuel — low-cost but toxic — is poisoning those who live in Lagos, Dakar and elsewhere.

Article: Make no mistake, momentum is growing to ‘localize” climate finance | Citiscope by CHARLOTTE BOULANGER APRIL 10, 2017

Multiple concerns are tied up in these situations, of course, including around public health and the environment. Yet the broadest policy changes will be brought about in the fight against climate change — and as is becoming increasingly recognized, cities lay at the forefront of those solutions.

Even as cities continue to commit to reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions, however, local officials face a major challenge in piloting a shift to a low-carbon future: financing. And this is only exacerbated by national-level funding constraints that have limited public investment in recent years.

Over the past 12 months, then, mayors and other local authorities have increasingly mobilized on this issue. In November, local governments agreed on a Roadmap for Action aimed at “localizing” climate finance in response to the urgent need to fund sustainable urban services and infrastructure, particularly in areas that are seen as fragile or especially vulnerable to climate change.

[See: Cities unveil time frame for ‘localizing’ climate finance]

Today’s international climate-financing architecture is highly complex and suffers from division and chronic under-financing, in particular for adaptation. There is not nearly enough patient, long-term and innovative climate finance models and approaches that could pay for the massive infrastructure projects needed in coming years in developing countries.

That’s a particular problem in that these countries are where the needs for renewable energy and other sustainable infrastructure are greatest. Over the next 15 years, the world will have to invest around USD 90 trillion in sustainable infrastructure assets if it hopes for a breathable future, and much of that will be required in cities.

Much of the obstacle to greater financing is that risks abound, both real and perceived. Political, technological and other risks often are too high to attract investors and developers to finance low-carbon projects, especially in emerging markets.

[See: Initiative aims to make more green infrastructure projects ‘bankable’]

Furthermore, the global “smart” revolution has prompted a shift away from traditional business models around public services in cities. But new financial models still need to be experimented with and assessed according to their local value on a spectrum of issues — social, environmental, political and economic.

But we are seeing new trends — and new innovations. A host of solutions today are being put into action in cities across the globe as investors, practitioners and policymakers at the national and local levels recognize the urgency and opportunity of this gap. Many of these remain in an experimental phase, but several are gaining on-the-ground experience by the day.

Matchmaking and readiness

The most concerted effort to bolster mechanisms to localize climate finance is taking place through an initiative called the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (CCFLA). Launched under former U. N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in 2014, the alliance is made up of 48 NGOs, research centres, foundations, public and private banks, central governments, U. N. agencies, and networks of local and regional governments.

Core to its mandate is “matchmaking” — connecting demand and supply. But the group also supports overall readiness in order to empower local and regional governments to deliver low-carbon and resilient development plans and infrastructure. CCFLA plays a key role in identifying and helping to address gaps in knowledge, capacity, resources and working practices in cities and other subnational levels.

[See: Pension funds are key to Africa’s transformation — and city officials can help]

In 2015, the CCFLA released “The State of City Climate Finance” report, which highlighted this investment gap and emphasized the need for increasing capacities necessary to facilitate capital flows toward local low-emission, climate resilient infrastructure. Following that release, CCFLA members committed to support several key steps aimed at strengthening the international and domestic environments to allow for robust flows of climate finance to cities.

Among the solutions, alliance members and partners are experimenting with innovative financial instruments for city investments such as green bonds, climate insurance, sustainable and resilience standards and certifications, and project preparation facilities. Here are a few notable such initiatives:

The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance was developed by the Climate Policy Initiative as an international partnership to identify and pilot cutting-edge climate finance instruments. An example is the Energy Efficiency Enabling Initiative, which aims to increase the supply of risk capital (equity) by attracting private-sector capital for a new energy-efficiency equity fund.
Global Infrastructure Basel’s Standard for Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure (SuRe) is a voluntary global standard that integrates key criteria of sustainability and resilience into infrastructure development. SuRe states that it seeks to “leverage both public and private investments in infrastructure in a cost-effective way while strengthening resilience, maximizing social benefits and limiting the environmental footprint”.

[See: Lessons from Mexico City’s green bond, the first municipal issuance in Latin America]

The Long-Term Infrastructure Investors Association has co-developed a library of environmental, social and governance (ESG) indicators for infrastructure investments. The aim here is to help asset managers and institutional investors collect and manage information on ESG performance of their assets.
ICLEI’s Transformative Actions Programme (TAP) Project Pipeline serves as a project preparation and certification facility. It seeks to strengthen the capacity of local and subnational governments to access climate finance and attract investment.

Each of these initiatives aims to catalyze and improve capital flows to cities in developing and emerging economies for mitigation and adaptation measures. The Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance alone already has attracted USD 600 million in seed funding and will drive billions more in investment.

[See: Explainer: What are ‘green bonds’ and why are cities so excited about them?]

These initiatives are presented in the latest CCFLA report, “Localizing Climate Finance: Mapping Gaps and Opportunities, Designing Solutions”, released in November. The report details more than 80 projects, covering the entire financing chain of local climate actions, with a particular focus on early-stage project development.

In mapping members’ initiatives on climate finance for cities, the report confirms a key point: Global momentum is growing to address the financing gap for local investments.

Carbon pricing and more

Despite this growing momentum, major advances still need to be made in order to create incentives for investment in local resilience. First and foremost, national governments could dramatically help this cause by acting decisively around carbon pricing.

[See: As the Green Climate Fund meets, will it ensure climate finance reaches the local level?]

But others must play a role, too. Multilateral and regional development banks, for instance, need to dedicate funds to climate action and ensure that every policy and project funded is “climate-proof”.

Local financial institutions are key actors, as well. In the long run, they will need to be empowered to develop domestic, tailored-made financial solutions for cities, while channelling international climate funding to the local level.

Taking such steps can support local and other subnational governments in building fiscal autonomy, integrating and further adopting standards, operational and regulatory frameworks, and measurement tools for cross-cutting “climate smart” investments and urban services.

[See: Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities?]

In all of this, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that progress in this area ultimately will require fundamental changes in social relations and institutions to make them more inclusive and equitable. It will require leaving aside individual and organizational ego to collectively create a common culture of climate finance that can move toward transformative change. Indeed, this long-term strategic vision may well be the fundamental mission of an alliance such as CCFLA.

Article: Make no mistake, momentum is growing to ‘localize” climate finance | Citiscope by CHARLOTTE BOULANGER APRIL 10, 2017

Citiscope is a nonprofit news outlet that covers innovations in cities around the world. More at Citiscope. org.”

Cities Will Continue to Fight Climate Change if Washington Will Not | NLC

WASHINGTON — March 28, 2017 — Today, President Donald J. Trump signed the Energy Independence Executive Order, a measure that begins the process of undoing the Clean Power Plan, rescinds the moratorium on coal mining of federal lands and instructs agencies to review policies related to climate change. Earlier this month, during NLC’s Congressional City Conference, more than 70 local elected officials signed onto a climate action letter in anticipation of this executive action and a budget proposal to cut or eliminate clean energy and climate programs. In light of today’s action, NLC President Matt Zone, councilmember, Cleveland, released the following statement:

Source: Cities Will Continue to Fight Climate Change if Washington Will Not

“Cities and city leaders recognize how important it is to protect our environment, but we also recognize that this is not simply an environmental issue. Leading economists agree that climate change threatens our future prosperity. U.S. military officials agree that it threatens global security. Engineers agree that it threatens our critical infrastructure. And doctors agree that it threatens our public health.

“Cities have already taken bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare our communities for extreme weather events, and we stand ready to continue this work. Nonetheless, our efforts to promote resilient communities and enhance public health would only be complemented by a strong federal-local partnership. We believe today’s executive order undermines this partnership, imperils the health of our citizens and threatens our environment. Rolling back federal actions designed to protect the environment will have impacts to local economies, public health and public safety.”

“Local leaders are on the front lines of the fight against climate change every day, and we will continue to advocate for ambitious policies that address this global crisis, spur action at the local level and support our cities. Cities will continue to lead on fighting climate change, protecting public health and promoting a safer, cleaner planet — even if Washington will not.”

The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans. www.nlc.org

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Source: Cities Will Continue to Fight Climate Change if Washington Will Not

Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities? | Citiscope

The Paris climate change accord is one of several global agreements forged among nations in 2015-16 that will have implications for city leaders for years to come. But what exactly is the Paris Agreement, and how does it relate to the quest for building more sustainable cities?

Here’s an overview of the major questions and issues.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement on climate change is a voluntary accord among 197 countries to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. Specifically, the Paris Agreement aims to keep the world’s mean temperature from rising by more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100 — and ideally, contain rising temperatures to 1.5ºC. Scientists believe that keeping planetary warming below this level is necessary to avert the worst effects of global climate change, such as a rising sea level and more frequent extreme-weather events. (See the text of the Paris Agreement here.)

Article: Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities? | Citiscope By Gregory Scruggs March 30, 2017

Diplomats brokered the deal in December 2015 at the Paris Climate Conference, known in United Nations parlance as COP 21. To achieve the agreement’s long-term goals, countries prepared emissions-reduction plans that negotiators brought with them to Paris. Those plans go into effect in 2020. Every five years, nations are expected to “ratchet up” their plans with more ambitious pledges. That’s because the plans presented in 2015 were not sufficient to hit the 2ºC target. The U. N. Environmental Programme has estimated that if countries make do on their 2015 pledges — and it’s not clear that they will — it would still lead to a global mean temperature rise of 2.9°C to 3.4 °C.

When did the agreement take effect?

Once the agreement was reached, U. N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon went on a major diplomatic charm offensive to convince countries to ratify it. Under the terms of the agreement, 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions had to approve the deal in their national legislatures. At least one of the “big four” emitters — China, the European Union, Russia and the United States — had to sign on.

A special ceremony was held on Earth Day 2016 for countries to submit their so-called “instruments of ratification”. Less than six months later, the U. N. reached the magic number, making this ratification process one of the fastest in diplomatic history. The Paris Agreement formally “entered into force” on 4 November 2016. By that time, 73 countries had joined the agreement, including the U. S., China and the European Union. Today, just three countries have not signed it: Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Why are cities important to the Paris Agreement?

In many ways, cities are both the problem and the solution when it comes to greenhouse-gas emissions. And they have a lot to lose from flooding, drought and disease if climate change spirals out of control.

Cities are responsible for the bulk of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Private automobiles on city streets are a big culprit. So are buildings, and the energy consumed by lighting, heating and cooling them. According to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

At the same time, some of the most promising low-carbon innovations are happening in cities. From efforts aimed at boosting walking, biking and transit to promoting energy efficiency, many mayors have been aggressive about finding ways to squeeze carbon out of their cities.

What role did cities play in bringing the deal together?

None directly — the diplomats hashing out the details were all representatives of national governments. Cities had no formal “seat at the table” during the feverish two weeks of negotiations in Paris.

Indirectly, however, cities had a major impact. Mayors showed up in force in Paris, and were among the loudest voices in a global outcry demanding action. What made the Paris deal successful — after two decades of failed efforts to reach an agreement — was intense global pressure from every corner of the world. From indigenous communities to multinational corporations, some 10,000 players from 180 countries also made pledges to reduce their carbon emissions. They did so in an effort to show national governments that there is a global consensus on the need to halt climate change once and for all.

Mayors argued that cities are well positioned to act immediately — well before national commitments take effect in 2020. According to a U. N. database, cities have made more than 2,500 commitments to slash their greenhouse-gas emissions. That’s more than the number of commitments from the private sector.

So now that we have an agreement, what are cities actually doing?

Cities around the world are taking steps to promote renewable energy, support electric vehicles, change streetlights to energy-saving LEDs, increase transit use, slash emissions from buildings and a host of other measures. Just within the more than 80 megacities that make up the C40 cities, members have taken more than 10,000 climate actions, the organization reported in 2015.

Generally, there are three steps involved on the road to making measurable progress at the local level. First, to create an inventory of the jurisdiction’s emissions. Second, to set a reduction target. Third, to make a plan to get there.

More than 7,000 cities have publicly pledged to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions in the wake of the Paris Agreement. Their commitments are consolidated through a platform called the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. As of March 2017, 7,436 cities around the world, representing 678 million people — nearly 10 percent of the world’s population — were part of the Global Covenant.

How do city commitments fit into national commitments?

According to a study by UN-Habitat, 110 of the 163 national climate plans presented in Paris “show clear urban references and content”. The study reported that the role of cities in fighting climate change was highest priority in emerging economies and somewhat neglected in the plans by high-income countries. Most references to cities relate to how places will plan ahead to avoid suffering the worst impacts of climate change, rather than citing the role of cities in reducing emissions.

That emphasis on “adaptation” over “mitigation” may be a gross oversight. A C40 Cities report issued in late 2016 argued that the world’s megacities must see their emissions peak and begin declining by 2020, otherwise the planet will miss the 1.5ºC mark.

What are the next steps?

The Paris conference was called COP 21 because it was the 21st in an annual series of climate talks. Those will continue — COP 22 took place in Marrakech and COP 23 will take place in Bonn in November. Meanwhile, the Paris Agreement set out a timeline of what future COPs are to accomplish. At COPs in 2020, 2025 and 2030, countries will present their new climate pledges. In 2023 and 2028, they will also engage in “stocktakes”, or reviews of how progress on the agreement is coming along. The details of what, exactly, countries will take stock of was not defined in the agreement itself and is subject to ongoing follow-up negotiations.

Meanwhile, cities continue to meet at annual gatherings of mayors who tout their climate leadership. But they will also have a formal role within the U.N climate system for the first time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body that advises national governments on the issue, agreed to incorporate a specific urban lens into its research and reports after a successful lobbying campaign called #CitiesIPCC. In 2018, scientists will convene for the first #CitiesIPCC conference to prepare a research agenda for the panel.

What are the biggest outstanding issues?

Money is a big one — or rather a lack of money. Buying municipal electric vehicle fleets, building “green infrastructure” and opening new mass transit lines as an alternative to private automobiles all costs money.  C40 estimates that cities will have to invest USD 375 billion to hit the target of peaking their emissions by 2020.

They might have gotten some of fiscal help from the Green Climate Fund, a financial instrument set up in 2010 that many countries pledged to fund during the Paris talks. But U. S. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would zero out contributions to the fund, and other countries may follow. Moreover, existing Green Climate Fund projects don’t have much of an urban focus.

Trump’s election raises other questions. Trump campaigned on a promise to pull the U. S. out of the Paris Agreement — something the U. S. cannot technically do for four years. Whether Trump tries to scuttle the deal or not, he has taken steps to reverse the climate-change policies of former President Barack Obama. That makes it less likely that the U. S. will meet its Paris pledges, and could encourage other countries to backtrack as well.

Article: Explainer: What is the Paris Agreement on climate change and what does it mean for cities? | Citiscope By Gregory Scruggs March 30, 2017

 

Citiscope is a nonprofit news outlet that covers innovations in cities around the world. More at Citiscope. org.”

Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American

Source: Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American

Mayors WorldWide Will Act on Climate, Whatever Trump Does – Scientific American.

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, from left, speaks while Wong Kam-Sing, secretory of the environment for Hong Kong, and Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver, listen during a press conference at the C40 Mayors Summit in Mexico City, Mexico, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016.

Leaders from 90 world “megacities” meeting in Mexico City this week are sending a message that they plan to act on climate change—whatever national leaders do.

The sixth C40 Mayors Summit is occurring one year after the landmark conference in Paris, at which nearly 200 countries agreed to take steps to limit warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels. But it is also taking place in the shadow of last month’s election of President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to “cancel” U.S. participation in the agreement.

In a call with reporters ahead of the conference Monday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg acknowledged that the world has “a lot of concern” about the track Trump is likely to take on warming.

“But mayors, as we know, have never waited for Washington to act here in the United States,” said Bloomberg, who is also the United Nations’ special envoy for cities and climate change. “They’ve never waited for an international treaty to take steps to protect their citizens and improve public health. And whatever happens, mayors will continue leading by example.”

Bloomberg and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is the incoming chairwoman of the group, released a report this week showing that the world’s large cities would need to peak emissions by 2020 and then nearly halve carbon emissions for every citizen in a decade to avoid the worst impacts of warming. This compares with a business-as-usual trajectory of a 35 percent increase in emissions over the next four years.

The so-called Deadline 2020 analysis proposes that city governments focus on placing key sectors in building, transportation and urban development on a low-carbon pathway. It estimated a price tag of $375 billion over the next four years for new climate-friendly infrastructure in C40’s 90 cities.

It also set ambitious reduction targets for urban centers. While cities would take the same steps over the next 14 years to achieve either the 2 C target or Paris’ more aspirational goal of containing warming to 1.5 C, the difference between the two goals becomes more pronounced after 2030. The report found that the tighter goal would require cities to zero out their emissions on a net basis by midcentury and make them negative in the second half of the century.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and Realdania offered a joint pledge of $40 million toward supporting actions in cities. It’s part of a recent trend in private-sector support for initiatives on research, phasing out chemicals and other climate issues. But Bloomberg sidestepped a question about whether private dollars might replace some or all of the public commitments the Obama administration made to the Green Climate Fund if Trump withdraws U.S. support.

“Since we haven’t been getting a lot from the federal government, it’s hard to argue that they can cut back a lot,” he said.

“But in all fairness to Trump, we don’t know what he’s going to want to do,” Bloomberg added. The president-elect repeatedly said on the campaign trail that he would rescind all funding for climate programs, signaling out U.N. funds in particular as something he would eliminate.

‘Get on with it’

Today at the summit, Hidalgo will launch an initiative aimed at fostering female leadership on climate issues at the city level. Mayors, including Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., will participate in the rollout of the Women4Climate initiative, which will provide a platform for climate leaders to mentor younger women and provide networking and capacity-building opportunities.

Research has shown that women in low- and moderate-income countries are more at risk than men of suffering from natural disasters or water and food shortages linked to climate change. But data on how warming might affect women in urban environments are scarcer, and Hidalgo’s initiative will support research into that.

Hidalgo, who is the daughter of Spanish immigrants to France and became Paris’ mayor in 2014, has frequently discussed climate change as a social justice issue with gender implications. She’s not alone. The bench of female climate leaders is very deep, including U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change chief Patricia Espinosa and her predecessor, Christiana Figueres; national leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and a number of mayors.

“Women are a very determined lot,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore of Sydney, Australia, who will participate in the rollout. “I think we hang in there, notwithstanding misogyny and notwithstanding, as I have received, attacks from right-wing media in our city. And we do that because we believe that action is critical, and if we don’t take the action, the future could be disastrous.”

Moore offered her city as an example of how municipal governments can continue to make strides on climate action even as the federal government goes a different way. Australia repealed its carbon tax two years ago and has often been seen as a laggard in the international climate process, though it has ratified the Paris deal. Moore noted that Sydney has made climate action a priority.

With 80 percent of world emissions emanating from urban areas, action at the city level can add up to significant reductions, she said.

“I think the message to U.S. cities is that it’s more incumbent than ever that you get on with it, because it’s up to you, notwithstanding your federal leadership,” she said.

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.