Cities on the Frontline for Climate Action

June 2, 2011

  • World Bank, C40 group of mayors launch a partnership to establish city climate action plans and standardize reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Bank study finds one billion people living in urban slums are at especially
  • Cities are responsible for more than 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

"Cities are at the frontline of the struggle to adapt to climate change and reduce disaster risk. When the world’s largest cities pledge to work together on energy efficiency, clean energy, and adaptation and mitigation strategies – this can be a powerful force for change."

Speaking at the global C40 summit of mayors in Sao Paulo, Brazil, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick highlighted findings of a new World Bank study entitled Climate Change, Disaster Risk and the Urban Poor. The study found that one billion poor people living in slums are at especially high risk from the impacts of climate change and natural hazards, because they live on the most vulnerable lands within cities.

“Many cities are already building climate change risks into urban planning and city management,” Zoellick said. “But this is a mammoth task that's going to take local, national and international collaboration as well as strong financial support for local governments around the world.”

Today, cities are responsible for more than 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The group of 40 mayors, known as C40, brings together large cities committed to tackling climate change. Together they account for 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Cities are growing at a faster rate than ever before and producing the majority of carbon emissions. We are already facing rising sea levels and more extreme hurricanes, droughts, and cyclones,” said President Clinton who heads the Clinton Climate Initiative which partners with the C40 and now with the World Bank.

Cities Already Acting on Climate Issues

The C40 cities are already acting to combat climate change and have pledged to work together on energy efficiency, clean energy programs, adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Sao Paulo, the host city of the C40 summit, wants to reduce greenhouse emissions by 30 percent by 2012 and has started an ambitious waste management program. “The city produces daily 16,000 tons of waste," explained Mayor Gilberto Kassab. "We capture the methane gas produced by the waste and turn it into power.”

Other cities are taking similar action. Mexico City was the first city in Latin America to launch a local climate change strategy and Jakarta has started incorporating risk reduction into long-term spatial planning for the city. Dar es Salaam is upgrading slums and providing basic services to poor neighborhoods.

Often, the best way to find local solutions is through community participation. That’s how Quelimane in Mozambique, a city prone to flooding, improved water and sanitation conditions for poor residential neighborhoods. In Iliolo province in the Philippines, a community-based project addresses disaster risk management the local level.

Bank, C40 Form Partnership

A new agreement between the World Bank and the C40, signed during the Sao Paulo summit, will strengthen cooperation between the two organizations focusing on city climate action plans and standardized reporting of city greenhouse gas emissions. Common international metrics will help to better track progress against targets. Equally important, metrics will facilitate cities’ access to private finance that pays for carbon mitigation or supports climate adaptation.
“This unique partnership with the World Bank will give C40 cities access to World Bank Group resources, knowledge and capacity building support. In turn this support will help drive local emission cutting actions that will have a significant global impact,” said New York City Mayor and C40 Chair Michael R. Bloomberg.

“It is a natural extension of our long-standing relationships with the C40 members, and our commitment to sharing knowledge and learning, as well as combating climate change, that we are deepening our partnership with the C40,” added Zoellick.

“Our partnership with the World Bank will provide essential tools to help cities become more sustainable, grow their economies, create jobs, promote energy independence, and ensure a stable future for generations to come," stressed President Clinton.

Underpinning this partnership, the World Bank Group plans to establish a “one-window access” for cities to the Bank’s climate-related capacity building, technical assistance, and available funding programs.

Pilot Projects Show Results

Working through the World Bank Institute the Bank Group has already partnered with the C40 on carbon finance capacity building in Dar es Salaam, Jakarta, Sao Paulo, and Quezon City. Each city is making progress on developing a Clean Development Mechanism – or CDM – pilot project, for example: waste management in Dar es Salaam, and street lighting in Quezon City.

In an effort to better generate and share cutting-edge knowledge in critical areas such as urbanization, green growth, and ICT, the Bank has launched an Urbanization Knowledge Platform which brings together cities, policymakers, researchers, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) around transformative issues through knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer learning with climate change and sustainable development as a core pillar of the partnership

In Cairo, Morocco, Tunisia, Mexico City, and Bangkok the World Bank Group has helped target and leverage Climate Investment Funds for major energy efficiency, renewable energy, and urban transportation infrastructure that provide services to the poor while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These include urban mass transit in Mexico City and Cairo and solid waste management and retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency in Bangkok.

The C40 summit highlighted cities that are already leading in climate adaptation and mitigation. But, partipants said, cities need help to better understand the sources of available climate finance and other critical support to strengthen their capacity for better planning and to lead frontline action.

Contributed by Alexandra Humme, Communications Officer, World Bank Institute