Global cities call for collaborative action to combat climate change

A new report released by AECOM and the non-profit organisation CDP has highlighted that cities internationally are increasingly seeking greater public-private collaboration to tackle the impact of climate change.

More than half of respondents believe collaboration between city governments, companies, investors and regional governments to mitigate the impact of climate change will lead to opportunities for the development of new businesses or industries linked to climate change action. 

This is the fifth year that AECOM has partnered with CDP, a not-for-profit that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

The report, It takes a city: The case for collaborative climate action, reveals the challenges faced by global cities and the opportunities they see for collaboration. Nearly 300 global cities have called for collaborative action to combat the economic and environmental impact of the changing climate. The report estimates that the 720 climate change-related projects required by cities represented in the report are worth a combined $26bn.

The report examines the emerging business case for city governments to collaborate with companies, investors and regional governments to mitigate the impact of climate change. More than half of the respondents (56%) believe this will lead to opportunities for the development of new businesses or industries linked to climate change action. The key climate-related areas where cities are seeking private-sector collaboration are energy efficiency/retrofits, renewable energy and transport. Of the 190 cities with emissions reduction targets, 74% are already collaborating with business to achieve them.

Data from 533 cities in 89 countries is included in the report – a 70% increase over last year. The vast majority (89%) view climate change as a significant risk, 44% have a climate action plan, and 36% have city-wide emissions reduction targets. The top emission reduction activities reported by cities include energy efficiency/retrofit measures, infrastructure for non-motorised transport, low or zero-carbon energy generation, and waste prevention policies and programs.

“This data supports what we are seeing in our direct dealings with cities,” said Ben Smith, director of sustainable development at AECOM. “Cities the world over are identifying their priorities to reduce emissions, adapt to climate impacts and increase resilience, but more and more they are looking for partners to help them develop robust business cases and realise the solutions.”

“Our report shows that cities do not need to go it alone when it comes to responding to climate change,” said Maia Kutner, head of cities at CDP. “They are recognising there is power in numbers, which is why so many came together to form the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy this June. By partnering with the private sector, cities can not only spur the growth of new markets, they can deliver even greater emissions reductions.” 

Chris Pountney, principal consultant at AECOM, spoke to Infrastructure Intelligence about the report and what he hopes it will achieve.

What do you hope to achieve from this report?

We are focusing on and trying to understand the way in which cities are currently collaborating. There are quite a good proportion of cities where the city government is collaborating with other organisations in that city and this is encouraging as it shows that collaboration is possible.

We are also highlighting a whole range of actions and projects to address climate change that cities need help with. It’s a spur to begin to address these climate change challenges, particularly by working with the private sector.

We hear a lot of talk about collaboration and partnering, but what does this mean on the ground?

The most common form of collaboration we uncovered in the report was knowledge sharing. City governments are in quite a unique position to act as ‘convenors’ of knowledge sharing networks, bringing together different stakeholders, helping them work together, learning from each other and sharing best practice and innovative ideas. Some cities like London are providing particular financing and incentives, like the London Green Fund, to encourage the private sector to do different things.

Tell us about your partnership with CDP

We have been involved with CDP’s cities programme for five years, contributing our skills in data analysis and reporting. We work throughout the year with them on the report and this year we developed the collaboration theme of the 2016 report.

Are there any parts of the world that do collaboration better than others?

We have a good representation across the globe of different cities in the report. It is strong in the US and from a broad range, not just the mega cities. It’s growing across Africa as well – we had 46 cities from 22 different cities there and Asia and Europe are also good too. Latin America is also strong, especially in Brazil. This is all good news. Of course just because you are reporting on these issues, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are making changes but it is a step in the right direction, especially with those 44% of cities that have an action plan to deal with the effects of climate change.

How willing do you think that city authorities are to look for partners to work with to address climate change?

There are some good examples of cities in Latin America that are considering modifications to their planning policies or a permitting system to allow private sector initiatives to come through more quickly. There seems to be a good number of cities that are collaborating. Things are happening and the signs are encouraging that cities have many projects in mind to take forward.

The report says that the climate change-related projects required by cities are worth a combined $26bn. That’s a massive potential market for companies like yours isn’t it?

Yes indeed. Even in London a couple of years ago, the GLA published a report which highlighted that the low carbon and environmental services sector in the capital was worth £25.5m. There is massive potential out there and not insignificant effort is going to be needed to address the problems of climate change.

Click here to access the 2016 report and previous year's reports.

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