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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.”

After Brexit and Trump: don’t demonise; localise! – The Ecologist

Both Trump and Brexit can be explained by the failure of mainstream political elites to address the pain inflicted on ordinary citizens in the neoliberal era, write Helena Norberg-Hodge & Rupert Read. In the US and the UK, working class voters rightly rejected the corporate globalisation that has created so much poverty and insecurity. But the real solutions lie not in hatred, but relocalisation.

Localisation means reducing the scale of economic activity – and bringing the economy home. That doesn’t mean retreating into isolationism. Nor does it mean an end to trade, even international trade. But it does mean a fundamental change of emphasis.

The election of Donald Trump was a rude awakening from which many people in the US have still not recovered.

Their shock is similar to that felt by UK progressives, Greens, and those on the Left following the Brexit referendum.

Continue reading at the original location: After Brexit and Trump: don’t demonise; localise! – The Ecologist

In both cases, the visceral reaction was heightened by the barely-disguised racist and xenophobic messaging underpinning these campaigns.

Before these sentiments grow even more extreme, it’s vital that we understand their root cause. If we simply react in horror and outrage, if we only protest and denounce, then we fail to grasp the deeper ramifications of their votes.

For the defeat of both the Clinton campaign in the US and the Remain campaign in the UK can be explained by their inability to address the pain endured by ordinary citizens in the era of globalisation.

By failing to focus on the reckless profiteers driving the global economy, they allowed their opponents to offer a less truthful and more hateful explanation for voters’ social and economic distress.

In order to move forward, we need to give those who voted for Trump and Brexit something better to believe in. And we can. Because in both countries, voters emphatically rejected the system that has inflicted so much social and economic insecurity: pro-corporate globalisation. And that is the silver lining to the dark storm clouds we see.

Late lessons from early warnings

Before the Brexit vote, we warned that the gigantist, pro-growth rhetoric of most of the Remain side was utterly alienating to many small-c conservatives and to people who have been harmed by the uncontrolled movement of capital, goods, services and workers.

And we pointed out that neither side was painting a big picture that corresponded to the brutal reality of successive trade treaties, including those within the EU itself, that have put ordinary people in permanent competition with each other. It was against that system – and against the elites that alone have benefitted from it – that many millions in Britain voted, in some desperation and anger, to Leave.

Much the same applies to the US election. While many voters saw Hillary Clinton as capable, they did not see her as an alternative to the neoliberal status quo. Bernie Sanders would probably have beaten Trump, precisely because he firmly and explicitly rejected the pro-free-trade, pro-corporate ‘consensus’.

We need to learn from the Brexit and Trump votes that the far-Right thrives because it has a populist answer to the vicious impacts of globalisation. Voters want fundamental change, and the ‘reforms’ sought by mainstream progressives, Greens and those on the Left – like job training programs for displaced workers or voluntary safety standards for Third World factories – are simply inadequate.

Instead, we need to offer an alternative to globalisation itself.

How globalisation drives racial tension

Globalisation and market-driven centralisation actually drive the increase in xenophobia and racism that we have seen, by forcing people from every part of the world to compete against each other in a vicious economic race that only a handful can win.

One of the authors (Helena Norberg-Hodge) was a first-hand witness to this process in Ladakh, a region of India in the western Himalayas known as ‘Little Tibet’. For more than 600 years, Ladakhi Buddhists and Muslims lived side by side with no recorded instance of group conflict. They helped one another at harvest time, attended one another’s religious festivals, and sometimes intermarried.

But over a period of about 15 years starting in 1975, when the region was first opened to the global economy, tensions between Buddhists and Muslims escalated rapidly: by 1989 they were bombing each other’s homes. One mild-mannered Buddhist grandmother, who a decade earlier had been drinking tea and laughing with her Muslim neighbor, told me, “We have to kill all the Muslims or they will finish us off.”

How did relations between these two ethnic groups change so quickly and completely? The transformation is unfathomable, unless one understands the complex interrelated effects of globalisation on individuals and communities worldwide. These included

  • the undermining of Ladakh’s local economy through the import of ‘cheap’ but heavily subsidized products;
  • the centripetal pull of urban areas where jobs and political power became centralised;
  • the consequent breakdown of village-scale cultural and governance structures;
  • and the creation of unemployment and real poverty (problems that were preciously unknown in Ladakh).

In combination, these factors led to rising hostility against ‘the other’. (Norberg-Hodge has described these connections more fully in her book Ancient Futures, and in the documentary film The Economics of Happiness.)

Ladakh’s experience is not unique: all over the Global South, cultures have been impacted in a similar manner beginning with the era of conquest and colonialism; so have the UK and Europe starting with the Enclosures. But in recent decades, during the modern era of globalisation, the process has accelerated dramatically.

Destroying jobs, reducing wages, undermining conditions of work

By allowing corporations to move unfettered around the globe, ‘free trade’ treaties put workers throughout the industrialised world in competition with those who will accept a fraction of a dollar per hour.

For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resulted in a net loss of 680,000 American jobs, and the Permanent Normal Trade Relations deal with China led to a net loss of another 2.7 million jobs. And it’s not only the disappearance of jobs that leads to impoverishment, but the threat that jobs can be easily taken elsewhere if workers don’t accept lower wages or fewer benefits.

At the same time, the infiltration of big business throughout the global South – most often with the support of national governments and backed by international financial institutions – has eliminated many of the livelihoods that local economies in those countries once provided.

With locally-adapted ways of life systematically undermined by economic policies geared towards the big and the global, millions of desperate people in the South find themselves with just two options: to accept minimal wages and appalling working conditions in industrial metropolises, or to migrate.

It is estimated that, as a direct result of heavily subsidized corn flooding the Mexican market under NAFTA, 2.4 million small farmers were displaced, and subsequently funneled into crowded urban centers or across the border to the US. So the loss of jobs in the North and the migrant crisis in the South are two sides of the same coin. But people have been steered away from looking at the flawed rules of the global economy that are behind both problems.

Although philosophically opposed to government regulation, the Right is now exploiting a situation – the cultural, economic, and psychological insecurity of vast swaths of the population – that is a product of the systematic deregulation of big business. Rather than allowing them to pull this sleight of hand, Left and Green voices must present a cogent critique of globalisation, and a coherent alternative.

We must show that it is not real progress to force every culture to commodify their commons, to subject every policy decision to the ‘discipline’ of monopolistic markets, to transform citizens into mindless consumers, and to lengthen supply-lines endlessly. The world has become dominated by a neoliberal ideology that makes all of this seem natural, desirable, unavoidable. It is none of those things.

In fact, voters are telling us that the age of David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and Francois Hollande is already over. The question now is: will it be succeeded by the age of Farage, Trump and le Pen. Or will we instead offer a viable green set of alternatives to globalization. If it is to be the latter, then our best option is localisation.

The solution: going local

Essentially, localisation means reducing the scale of economic activity – it’s about bringing the economy home. That doesn’t mean pulling up the drawbridges and retreating into isolationism. Nor does it mean an end to trade, even international trade.

But it does mean a fundamental change of emphasis: away from monoculture for export towards diversification for local needs. In a time of human-induced climate chaos and dwindling energy supplies, we need to reject out of hand the absurdities of the global marketplace, in which countries across the world routinely import and export identical products in almost identical quantities. The subsidies and other supports that currently make such practices ‘efficient’ and ‘profitable’ need to be reversed.

By reducing the scale of the economy, the environmental impacts of economic activity shrink as well. But the argument for localisation goes beyond the environment. Among other things, localisation allows us to live more ethically as citizens and consumers.

In the global economy, it’s as though our arms have grown so long that we can no longer see what our hands are doing. By contrast, when the economy operates on a smaller scale, everything is necessarily more transparent. We can see if the apples we are buying from the neighbouring farm are being sprayed with pesticides; we can see if workers’ rights are being abused.

We can already catch glimpses of localisation in action. Across the world, literally millions of initiatives are springing up-often in isolation one from another, but sharing the same underlying principles. The most important of these initiatives relate to food – which is important since food is the only thing humans produce that we all require every day.

From farmers’ markets to community supported agriculture, from ‘edible schoolyards’ to permaculture, a local food movement is sweeping the planet. But there are also projects underway to localise business, energy sources, banking and finance, and other needs.

Seeing the big picture

The UK decision to leave the EU is a risk, in that it might lead this country to seek to race even faster to the bottom, in particular by abandoning hard-won environmental protections. But it is also a great opportunity. We could choose, now, to disentangle ourselves from a fragile, resource-intensive and utterly-destructive global economy, in favour of re-embedding ourselves back into the Earth and our localities.

Similarly, President Trump is likely to serve up an incoherent mélange of protectionism on the one hand and deregulatory, pro-corporate policies on the other. Localisation, by contrast, represents a coherent and comprehensive shift in direction – it protects not only our countries and workforces but also the Earth, future generations, and the poor.

Relocalising would radically reign in the invisible Right of corporate domination, and would reverse the rising tide of the more visible Far-Right. But this can only happen if we see the bigger picture. It isn’t enough to defend immigrants against bad treatment if we fail to act against the system that drives the breakdown of community and of civility, that pulls people out of their own cultures and economies.

If we do not relocalise – if we continue to throw people into ruthless competition with each other while making local communities unviable – then we are watering the seeds of further anti-immigrant sentiment, and worse. But if we embrace localisation, then we sow new seeds of cooperation and international understanding.

Relocalising won’t be easy. The forces that promote globalisation control most of the avenues of information to which people have access, and their propaganda saturates the media, including the Internet.

It is going to take a linking of hands internationally – among labour and environmental groups, small businesses and family farmers, educators and students, religious groups and peace activists – to put new political leaders in place who do not ratify treaties that devastate our present and our future.

Instead, they need to collaborate to create treaties that protect the local, everywhere. And it will take determined effort in localities everywhere to restore local food and energy systems, and to rebuild local knowledge and local democracy.

Perhaps you are already part of that determined effort. If you are not, we hope you decide to join us in this vital work. 

 Helena Norberg-Hodge is author of ‘Ancient Futures’ and a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award.

Rupert Read is co-author of The post-growth project‘.

Source: After Brexit and Trump: don’t demonise; localise! – The Ecologist