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"Advancing public-private sector collaborations for a green and just recovery", C40 looks at 2021

The writer is Milag San Jose-Ballesteros, Global South Diversity Lead &

Regional Director for East, Southeast Asia and Oceania at C40 Cities.

C40 Cities’ members are 97 of the world’s major cities committed to taking bold climate action, representing more than 700+ million people and a quarter of the global economy. Backed by climate science and data, C40 mayors are progressive political leaders committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level.

More than half of the world’s population live in cities and generate 85% of the global GDP, and this is set to rise to about two-thirds by mid-century. While cities are engines of growth and innovation, they are also major carbon emitters, contributing to 70% of global CO2 emissions. From increased flooding to droughts and devastating wildfires, at least 70% of C40 cities are already experiencing effects of climate change.

2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing health crisis with much wider social and economic implications, exposing the vulnerabilities and vast inequalities within global communities. With millions losing sources of income and increasing public reliance on government provision of basic necessities, the pandemic reinforced the need to overhaul economies for greater sustainability and equity. With the climate crisis looming over the world as well, there is greater urgency than ever to make drastic changes for a green and just recovery.

Cities are on the frontlines of both the COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis. Led by C40 mayors, the C40 Mayors Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery highlights how climate action in cities can help to reduce air pollution, accelerate economic recovery and enhance social equity through sustainable job creation, provision of fundamental public services, and creating livable, local communities by giving space back to people and nature. The world has an opportunity to recover in a way that makes cities a greener and more just place to live. We should not return to a ‘business as usual’, but instead, work towards ‘building back better’.

To work towards a green and just recovery and achieve ambitious climate goals, public-private sector collaboration is vital as the private sector works with cities by providing the expertise, innovation and ability to deliver climate projects at city scale. To facilitate this collaboration, C40 Cities actively works with its members to enhance engagements with the private sector, businesses and relevant industry associations as key stakeholders in the delivery of their Climate Action Plans that are aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Enabling collaborations through bespoke programmes

There are often specific challenges faced in public-private sector engagement. Some of the obstacles include project design for scalability, investment restrictions and regulations, lack of opportunities for private sector to showcase innovations, and insufficient access to finance for projects addressing the climate crisis. To address these barriers and facilitate private sector participation in city climate adaptation and mitigation plans, C40 runs four key initiatives:

  1. City-Business Climate Alliance

  2. Cities Solutions Platform

  3. Cities Finance Facility

  4. Reinventing Cities

With different urban and business contexts across different regions, there is no single model to build a local city-business partnership. To facilitate this, the City-Business Climate Alliance (CBCA)—a joint initiative by C40 Cities, CDP and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)—operates as a global two-tier network of cities and businesses, offering 3 years of in-kind direct support to selected cities to set up or develop local city-business partnerships.

At the global level, CBCA also serves as a peer-to-peer learning network for cities and business, with the aim of replicating best practices and accelerating and scaling climate action.

The Cities Solutions Platform facilitates early-stage public-private sector collaboration by providing access to high-quality global industry and research expertise in cleantech, creating a ‘safe space’ for industry and cities to collaborate and co-create city-specific solutions.

One of the critical barriers to sustainable urban development, particularly in the developing country contexts, is the insufficient access to finance for infrastructure projects in cities that address climate change. The C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF) facilitates access to finance for mitigation and resilience strategies by providing technical assistance to develop sustainability priorities in cities into bankable investment projects, thus bridging the gap between the cities and finance. The CFF is currently supporting 17 C40 cities, on projects in adaptation, energy, cycling and e-mobility. In Southeast Asia, CFF is providing support to Jakarta on its 100 electric bus fleet trial, and to Quezon City on deployment of solar PVs in 50 public schools. Both cities are looking at scaling these initiatives beyond the initial phase.

While programmes that address and provide solutions to specific barriers are crucial, it is also vital to identify opportunities to create partnerships that may sometimes be overlooked. To encourage new types of collaboration between the private and public sector, C40 initiated Reinventing Cities, an international competition that enables cities to identify and select the best projects for the redevelopment of underutilized sites.

Through the competition, multi-disciplinary teams of architects, planners, developers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, start-ups, neighborhood collectives, innovators and artists can submit proposals which deliver carbon neutral and resilient urban regeneration. In the latest edition, C40 will launch 25 new sites to be reinvented in 9 cities across the globe. In Singapore, the former Bukit Timah Fire Station has been identified for the Reinventing Cities competition. As the site is located close between two recreational green corridors, the city state intends to redevelop the site into a nature and heritage rich community space, using sustainable urban solutions that achieve zero energy or positive-energy goals beyond national standards.

Innovation and private sector partnerships are key to implementing and scaling up bold and ambitious climate action which also aligns with cities’ drive for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic. Urban centres will increasingly be the test sites for new sustainable solutions, and urban communities will be early adopters of these solutions. Cities thus have a critical role in responding to the climate crisis and the COVID-19 crisis, and the next decade is crucial to delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement with a green and just post-pandemic recovery at the core.

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