Speeches & Transcripts

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick Opening Remarks at the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit

June 1, 2011

President Robert B. Zoellick Sao Paulo, Brazil


Chairman Bloomberg, honorable Mayors; ladies, and gentlemen:

It’s a great pleasure to address you today at this important forum; in this great metropolis; on the critical role of cities in addressing climate change.

When the public imagines scenes of climate change, they probably call up visuals of shrinking glaciers, parched landscapes, rising seas, and dramatic shifts in weather patterns over wide expanses.  

Yet this may be ironic: Because cities will decide the future of climate change.

City residents are responsible for more than 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.  Just the cities in the C40 alone account for 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

At present, the vast majority of these emissions are in developed countries – but that is changing fast, as the cities of the emerging economies grow at a rapid pace.

The World Bank Group was established 65 years ago to work with national governments – and later the private sector in developing countries.  

Yet climate change highlights our need – through groups such as the C40 – to deepen our partnerships directly with cities.

These basic facts speak to the importance of the group, and why the World Bank Group and I have invested in the C40.   

Cities will pay a big price because of climate change, too: We believe 80 percent of the estimated $70 to 100 billion it will cost each year through 2050 to adapt to the changing climate are in sectors closely related to cities, including water supply, coastal zones, and infrastructure. 

More than 6,000 cities and local governments have announced greenhouse emissions reductions. 

When the world’s largest cities pledge to work together on energy efficiency, clean energy programs, adaptation, and mitigation strategies – they can be a powerful force for change.

I’d like to thank Mayor Gilberto Kassab for hosting this C40 Mayors Summit.  I understand that the municipality of São Paulo has established the target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 30 percent by 2012.  So we could not have a better host to spur action on  climate change. 

I’d also like to thank Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Bill Clinton for their leadership on cities and climate change. 

The partnership between the C40 and the Clinton Climate Initiative can be catalytic and dynamic.

By joining forces, these  two groups will be better able to make practical, measurable advances to address climate change, building on lessons the Clinton Climate Initiative has already learned through more than 100 pilot projects in several cities.

Take just one example:  The C40 cities generate about 440,000 tons of waste every day – about half of which is organic, generating methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.  The Clinton Climate Initiative’s composting projects in Lagos and New Delhi have been able to return waste material to agricultural lands, which have lost 30 to 70 percent of their carbon over past centuries.  Building on these pilot projects, C40 cities may be able to improve food security while reducing greenhouse emissions.

Mayor Bloomberg has also been a leader on Climate Change in New York City: His Plan NYC calls for a 30 percent reduction in green house gases emissions by 2030.  Mayor Bloomberg’s Greener, Greater Buildings legislation supports a City Energy Conservation Code, including energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits in city buildings. This legislation is expected to reduce New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 5 percent, save New Yorkers an estimated $700 million annually in energy costs, and create over 17,000 jobs in the coming years.


I am also delighted that the World Bank Group is expanding our existing cooperation with the C40, drawing on your ideas.

The Bank Group’s investment in urban development was over $5.5 billion in 2010.  We have 21 client cities that are members of the C40 – some of which, such as Jakarta, we have worked with for more than 50 years. 

We have more than $15 billion invested in the C40 cities. 

In Moscow, we are looking to advise on ‘green city’ programming and conversion from mono-cities; in Beijing and Shanghai, we are being asked to help finance infrastructure support; in Johannesburg, we are looking to bring investment to the South African Large Cities Support Program; and in Rio de Janeiro, we are developing support for a ‘green city’ assistance program that includes emissions trading and support on city metrics and capacity. 

So the C40 is a natural extension of our relationships with the C40 members. 

Later this morning, Mayor Bloomberg and I will sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the C40 and the World Bank Group. 

To simplify our ability to better serve you, the 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.

We hope the Memorandum of Understanding will help you draw on this more direct access in two particular areas:

First, the development of city climate action plans and strategies.  The Bank Group will help cities prepare standardized low carbon strategies; mitigation and adaptation strategies; and implementation plans, including through the provision of technical assistance.

And second, we need to develop standardized reporting of city greenhouse gas emissions

Mayor Bloomberg once gave me a great insight into his successful management of New York City: He tells his city executives, “It says on the back of a dollar bill, ‘In God We Trust’, so we will. But all others must bring data!”

He’s exactly right: How can we really tackle this problem if we don’t measure what we are doing?  How will we know what works – and what doesn’t?  How will we be able to get payments to cities for reducing carbon if we don’t know what they’ve accomplished?

The Bank Group has promoted an international standard for reporting greenhouse gas emissions with the United Nations Environment Program and UN-Habitat.

To take this project further, the Bank Group is now supporting  a broader agreement on standardized reporting of greenhouse emissions with the C40, ICLEI and other partners. 

Common international metrics will enable us 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.

Task Force’s Findings

The Bank Group has also been supporting the Mayors’ Task Force on Climate Change, Disaster Risk, and the Urban Poor.  The Task Force report includes case studies from Dar es Salaam, Jakarta, Mexico City, and São Paulo.  The Group’s recommendations provide important pointers:

First, cities need to integrate policies to reduce climate change and disaster risk for the poor into urban planning and city management. 

These can’t be separate, disconnected efforts.  It appears that better policies for land use planning and service delivery have the biggest effect.  Planners can also assist in making safe and affordable sites available for low-income residents, despite climate change and disastrous natural events, if they anticipate these risks.  

Jakarta’s plan for 2010 to 2030 offers a good example of incorporating risk reduction activities into long-term spatial planning.  Dar es Salaam has taken a similar approach to upgrading slums and providing for basic services. 

Second, the Task Force report points out that investments in building capacity for better urban planning and management can strengthen the resilience of cities.  

When cities mainstream climate change concerns within local government, they can improve delivery of basic services and reduce vulnerability to climate and disaster risk. 

Some cities have already taken important steps: Mexico City was the first city in Latin America to launch a local climate change strategy, and São Paulo has established one of the first inter-departmental municipal cabinets on climate change.  

Third, the report underscores that the best way to find local solutions is by involving the local community. 

For example, a participatory community-based approach was used to improve water and sanitation conditions in Quelimane, Mozambique, a city where a majority of the population lives in neighborhoods prone to flooding.  Iloilo province in the Philippines launched an innovative community-based project in 2009 to address the problem of disaster risk management at the local level.

Funding Climate Change – How the WBG Can Assist

These actions will require significant resources from a variety of sources, both public and private.

The Bank Group has considerable experience – both in leveraging new investments in cities as well as in sharing knowledge and learning across countries and continents. 

Three years ago, we launched the idea of new, concessionary Climate Investment Funds to help developing countries leverage other financing to address climate change priorities.  We were able to raise about $6.4 billion for the CIFs, and they have catalyzed about $50 billion in total climate finance.

Our Clean Technology Fund promotes scaled-up financing for demonstration, deployment, and transfer of low-carbon technologies with significant potential for long-term greenhouse gas emissions savings.  The Fund is supporting transitions to more efficient mass transit systems in major cities around the world, including Bogota, Cairo, Mexico City, Manila, Cebu, Bangkok, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City.

In Bangkok and Mexico City – and in Morocco and Tunisia – the World Bank Group used these Climate Investment Funds for major energy efficiency, renewable energy, and urban transportation projects that provide services to the poor while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  We are helping finance urban mass transit in Mexico City and Cairo; and solid waste management and retrofitted buildings for energy efficiency in Bangkok. 

In addition to the CIFs, we are learning how best to design Public Private Partnerships that can attract private finance for cities.  The Bank Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, or IFC, has been attracting private finance to cities while supporting renewable energy and other vanguard green technology. 

IFC has invested in more than 100 related projects, including wind power in Mexico and Azure power in New Delhi, where solar power is now being generated and added to the local grid. 

City-to-City emission trading and use of emission reductions offers another financing option. The World Bank is learning from Tokyo, which is rolling out a city-wide emission trading system. 

Our World Bank Institute has partnered with the C40 to build capacity to tap other sources of carbon finance for Dar es Salaam, Jakarta, Sao Paulo, and Quezon City.  Each city is developing a Clean Development Mechanism – or CDM – pilot project.  Dar es Salaam and Sao Paulo are working on waste management; Quezon City on energy efficient street lighting; and Jakarta on urban greening..  The Bank Group is supporting Amman, Jordan to pilot the newly developed city-wide approach to carbon finance. 

Tomorrow, we will present more examples of our practical experience.

We hope our Memorandum of Understanding with the C40 will enable us  to identify more opportunities for sources of concessional finance, carbon finance, innovative market and risk management instruments, and private sector investments.  We have also cooperated with UNDP to develop a website on Climate Finance Options, which is now customized to provide specific information for cities.

We know that cities learn best from each other.  The Bank Group will seek to foster the exchange, including through the development of an Urban Risk Assessment framework and by sharing new tools.

Our Urbanization Knowledge Platform is a new pilot, based on your feedback, to generate and share cutting-edge knowledge in critical areas such as urbanization, green growth, and ICT.  

We hope the Urbanization Knowledge Partnership will bring together cities, policymakers, researchers, and 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.  The key concept is to Convene, Connect, Create, and Customize knowledge.

These new platforms for information reflect a broader change in how the World Bank hopes to serve the public. Our new Open Data, Open Information, Open Solutions initiative opens to the world, free of charge, over 7,000 data sets, some dating back decades.

With the guidance of the C40, we can better tailor your access to our experience and the knowledge gained by other cities around the globe.


The threat of climate change has produced its own technical language.  But behind all the jargon – what does climate change really mean?

It can mean cities seizing the opportunity to become leaders in achieving a low carbon future.  

It can mean creativity and innovation to seek new ways to harness the power of markets.

It can mean reaching out to others and forming partnerships, to share experiences, learn from others, and push out the frontiers of our knowledge.

For centuries, cities have been the birthplace of some of mankind’s greatest ideas.  It is no stretch of the imagination to believe that cities will take the lead in overcoming climate change.

So I want to thank all of you again for your leadership and your commitment.  The World Bank Group will be a strong partner as we go forward together.

Thank you.