Collaborating for change: Yokohama shares innovative solutions to advance the SDGs


By Isabelle Ward

Achieving the SDGs will not only help mitigate the climate crisis, it will bring positive economic and social change.

However, the UN Summit in 2019 and SDG High Level Political Forum in 2020 both stressed that we are behind in terms of meeting the SDG targets. Effective knowledge sharing between cities is vital. The successes and setbacks of each city can help others learn the most effective actions to achieve the SDGs. Through its Yokohama Partnership of Resources and Technologies (Y-PORT) scheme, Yokohama is at the forefront of effective collaboration. With the latest IPCC report last week again emphasizing the need for urgent global action, the experience of Yokohama and how they are helping cities to follow in their footsteps can provide an example of how leading actors can help increase action in other places.

Each participating city in the SDG Leadership Cities Network hopes that sharing innovations towards the achievement of the SDGs – including climate action – will both inspire and practically help other cities. The ‘City Playbook for Advancing the SDGs’ is a compilation of briefs authored by local officials, each covering a specific topic or theme. Rather than just writing about the achievements of these leading cities, the briefs focus on the process and mechanisms of the SDG-aligned city initiatives. In July 2021, Yokohama contributed a brief the under the theme of Governance and Partnerships. In it, Toru Hashimoto, Director General of the International Affairs Bureau, explained how public-private partnerships have helped Yokohama accelerate its climate action, thus advancing the SDGs.

Since 2011, the Y-PORT program has helped city officials collaborate with private sector actors, revise their actions, and share the lessons they have learned. It is delivered in partnership with aid agencies such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. The Program’s action areas include waste management, energy saving, waste water treatment, energy saving, public transport and disaster risk reduction. Y-PORT’s activities include private companies right from the start, ensuring they are involved in the developmental of these initiatives. This early involvement makes use of their technical expertise when finding solutions to specific challenges.

The co-creation mindset has been expanded when Yokohama collaborates beyond Japan. Unlike traditional aid which might focus exclusively on government-to-government assistance, Yokohama has worked on projects in cities across Asia by partnering with both city officials and private businesses. Projects have been delivered in cities that are currently facing similar challenges to those faced in Yokohama, where the population has increased rapidly since the 1970s. Yokohama officials can share their decades of experience with these challenges with peers in similar cities. The Y-PORT program hopes to help these cities leapfrog directly to sustainable initiatives through innovative solutions.

The SDG Leadership Cities Network mirrors the ideals of Yokohama’s Y-PORT program. The success of the Y-PORT program is through the teamwork of diverse actors inside and outside the city. Though problems may be similar in cities across Asia, each city has its own unique context. Working with businesses and officials allows for each city’s context to be taken into account and more effective solutions to be found. The SDG Leadership Cities Network holds multiple discussions on the challenges each city faces. It hopes to develop better policies for achieving the SDGs according to each member cities’ current practices. As the Playbook is developed, each city can continue to learn and share from the others.

The Yokohama brief for the City Playbook for Advancing the SDGs can be accessed here.