Climate compatible development starts with finding the right partners

Alice Reil of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability rounds up lively discussions about ‘how to make climate compatible development happen’ at local and city level from the Resilient Cities 2016 congress and CDKN-ICLEI learning program. This blog post was originally published on CDKN website.

Identifying adaptation options for a more sustainable tourism along the vulnerable coast of Belize. Analyzing the potential for renewable energy for supplying reliable, clean power in one of Pakistan’s major industrial hubs. Understanding the politics of climate change at the city level in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Supporting the municipality in developing an inventory of its greenhouse gases to tackle congestion in the Indonesian city of Bogor.

These – with regards to geography and content – seemingly random snippets show the versatile forms that subnational climate compatible development can take. In this case, the ‘thread’ through all of them is the CDKN-ICLEI Subnational Learning Program. In this phase, the learning program includes a dozen projects from around the world.

In July 2016, this learning program took to the annual Resilient Cities conference in Bonn, Germany, to showcase the experience of the learning partners in planning and implementing these very diverse set of projects. The session revolved around the question of fostering public-private-community partnerships to develop cities and neighborhoods in a climate compatible way.

Speaking simple and convincingly – and using the ‘right’ language

In Belize, the project partners at WWF involved anyone with a stake in the marine environment – from tourism operators and resorts, to local communities and fishers as well as local, regional and national government departments. WWF used easy-to-understand visual resources to engage people, share information and raise awareness on the vulnerability of the beaches, mangroves and coral reefs to the economically important tourism sector: highlighting sea level rise, precipitation changes and erosion through climate change.

Making sure to use the ‘right’ language for each of the stakeholder groups helped in framing why these efforts are relevant for each of them. WWF and its partners were successful: the national government of Belize recently adopted an integrated coastal management policy, which is accompanied by sub-national action plans.

An Inside Story sketching out the project’s lessons is available here.

Highlighting the benefits for the private sector through building capacity – and letting them lead

If more than 11,000 small and medium enterprises operate at only 60% of their capacity, it does not only affect a city of close to one million inhabitants. It affects an entire country. Yet, the response at national level was not fast enough for Sialkot’s private sector.

Supported by Ecofys and PITCO, the Chamber of Commerce joined forces with local companies to take charge. The learning partners at Ecofys and PITCO provided insight into the wide variety of renewable energy options, analyzed the potential of solar energy in this arid region and came to a telling conclusion: the use of photovoltaic panels by Sialkot’s industry would reduce the emission of carbon dioxide by 377,000 tons and lead to an average savings of more than USD 27,000 per firm per year (average) in electricity costs. Now it is in the hands of the local and national government to partner up with these powerful and pro-active players in Sialkot, who led the way in a time the public sector could not, and support the development of a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA—a financing vehicle) accompanied by the necessary policy changes.

The Inside Story outlining the essence of the ongoing Sialkot project can be read here.

Institutionalizing climate action in municipal departments and policies – and making it last beyond electoral terms

Traffic is by far Bogor’s most pressing, yet daunting, urban development challenge. The immense number of cars not only regularly brings the city to a shutdown; it also turns the usually one hour long journey along the main connecting road to the country’s capital, Jakarta, into a two to three hour stop-and-go ride.

Supported by the Urban LEDS project, which until March 2016 supported cities in the emerging economies of Indonesia, India, South Africa and Brazil in developing low-emission strategies, Bogor municipality decided the first step would need to be a comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory of the city.

An intra-municipal working group representing a number of departments was the coordinating force of the endeavor. While challenging, this group together with a number of local partners and the support of ICLEI managed to collect all the necessary data.

This process was guided by the objective the city set itself: to integrate mitigation and adaptation into local development, on the basis of the greenhouse gas inventory. Being the ‘rain city’, the municipality chose to already consider rainfall as a future, more frequent climate risk.

Institutionalizing the initial commitment to climate compatible development in the form of a working group helped the municipal staff involved in the task – as well as the entire city government – to work together and gave them the necessary legitimacy to succeed.

Another CDKN-supported project, which looked at factors under which a local climate agenda could advance based on the experience of the capitals Buenos Aires, Quito and Mexico City, came to the conclusion that plans and strategies need to be designed to last beyond electoral cycles. While the preceding mayors of all three cities could be described as climate champions as they played a strong role in getting climate change onto the cities’ agendas and even into their policies, turning these plans into actions stalled.

The new administrations that followed these pro-active mayors did not reject these policies, but they also did not take them further. Building broader sociopolitical coalitions and partnerships beyond the environmental as well as the party constituencies needs to be at the core of any city efforts to make climate compatible development agendas last – and really happen on the ground. Framing these efforts and highlighting the benefits for other urban management sectors is also necessary.

The experience of both projects has been documented by CDKN and ICLEI. The Bogor case is downloadable here and the essential results of the Latin American study are available here.

Finding finance in cities for climate compatible development – by striking new paths

Identifying and accessing ways of financing action on climate compatible development is a struggle familiar to close to all municipalities around the world. Germanwatch, supported by CDKN, conducted an analysis of international, national and local financing mechanisms and programs that cities could use. The three most interesting and innovative financing models all involve partnering up with other subnational actors.

Tax increment financing stimulates private investment in small-scale derelict or damaged areas by freezing the property tax revenue for a decade or two. Once the municipality kick-starts the development by investing in basic infrastructural facilities, investors start developing the area. The property value increases. The annual tax surplus from the increasing property value is re-invested back into the area and accelerates the area’s development.

Another under-utilized financing mechanism is crowd funding. It means counting on citizens to invest in a project selected by them and/or proposed by the city. This financing model is also a ‘reality check’ to see whether the measure actually responds to the citizens’ needs. But it can also create ownership and strengthen ties between a local government and its citizens.

Finding financing through corporate social responsibility (CSR) measures is another way of funding climate compatible development actions, particularly in countries where companies are obliged to invest in CSR to a certain percent of their revenues. Often businesses are often not sure what to invest in, which provides local governments with the opportunity to negotiate with the local private sector how they could make a local impact with their efforts.

Bringing partnership experiences together – and creating a pool of the best of them

The experience presented by the CDKN-supported projects resonated with the audience who were also seasoned in fostering partnerships for climate compatible development. The themes dominating the discussion all linked to the need of ensuring transparency, creating long-term trust in policies, engaging the entire urban society and reaching out to other actors beyond the city government and territory – to make partnerships happen.

Partnering with private sector bodies is still a challenge. In many countries, policies change with the political administration in power. Companies tend not to invest knowing the policies may only be valid for four to five years.

To create such trust, in Uruguay, for example, the three largest parties signed an agreement that the policy related to promoting renewable energy is a national policy that is to last beyond electoral terms. Another example comes from the city of Valledupar in Colombia. There, the regional senator has become the local ‘champion’, pushing for climate change to be on the local and regional agenda. Yet, he has also been the city’s ‘champion’ at regional and national level, highlighting the needs of the city that require policy and financial support from the national government.

Working toward climate compatible development also means partnering up with marginalized and vulnerable citizens and making the process an inclusive one. It starts with making sure vulnerable people are not only recipients of all communication on climate compatible development, but are also heard.

Local governments need to be aware that ‘token gestures’ are not the sole answer to address the needs of less well-off citizens. Finding the right strategy to consider their demands and working towards climate compatible development entails entering into continuous dialogues, listening to perhaps many needs and not lumping all marginalized and vulnerable together in a group or two.

Building partnerships by knowing the audience – and being a great communicator

All speakers confirmed that – irrespective of any other external factors – one can only build lasting and effective partnerships, if one knows the partners well. That means it has to be clear what each side can or wants to take away from the collaboration.

In particular, the private sector is interested in stable and reliable framework conditions in a mid- and long-term perspective and needs to know very well what the benefits of their engagement are. They may range from creating new jobs, accessing new markets and customers to financial investment incentives and others. Showcasing why the endeavor can be turned into a ‘bankable’ project may also help in engaging the private sector as well as gaining access to funding sources. Framing climate compatible development in such a way to respond to local needs and challenges and highlight the benefits thereof is non-negotiable to bring the local community on board.

So where to start first, to foster partnerships? Lay the cards on the table, communicate as openly as possible, eliminate any ambiguity potential partners may have and co-create projects leading towards climate compatible development. And from then on it means: learning, learning, learning. Climate compatible development is only a means to an end and therefore each step – at best together – means one step further on the journey towards more resilient communities and cities around the world.

The learning experience of all learning partners from the CDKN-ICLEI subnational learning program on climate compatible development have just been published in the form of Inside Stories with the support of CDKN and ICLEI. Further insights from Madurai, West Nusa Tenggara, Nepal, Belize, Bolivia and many more regions can be found here.

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