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Cities and regional government stepping up to lead resilient recoveries

Seth Schultz joined city policy leaders from around the world at the ICLEI Daring Cities Summit to examine how local government can help countries build back from the Covid crisis through collaborative climate action.

Tackling global challenges with local action

When it comes to taking action on enhancing resilience, it is often national governments which get most attention. Major headline events like the Paris Climate Agreement and the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) focus attention toward the role of national government(s). Yet subnational and local governments are often responsible for some of the most innovative policies to create resilience and tackle climate challenges. Support from national governments is vital in driving forward the changes we need to reduce emissions and increase resilience.

This was the theme at the Daring Cities 2020 Summit put on by Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), the international organisation of local and regional governments that have made a commitment to sustainable development.

In partnership with the Coalition for Urban Transitions, Seth Schultz joined national and regional government leaders and policy makers from across Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Africa and the OECD for a high-level discussion on collaborative climate action and the role of all tiers of government in embedding resilience to Covid recoveries.

Building back greener: building back more resilient

Focusing on the recently released ‘Economic Case for Greening the Global Recovery’ report published by the Coalition for Urban Transitions, speakers talked through how their cities or local government were taking practical action to embed resilience and tackle climate challenges and where the main challenges remained.

Aziza Akhmouch, Head of Division, Cities, Urban Policies & Sustainable Development at the OECD, a co-author of the paper, highlighted how the greatest opportunity for green, inclusive recovery strategies remain in urban areas and cities. Although cities are responsible for 75% of energy-related emissions and significant waste production, they possess vital opportunities for innovative policy decisions. However, new research finds that only 7 per cent of declared stimulus packages are directed toward green city measures.  Aziza also highlighted the need for policy options to be equitable to consumers and nature solutions to not be discarded in favour of building new infrastructure.

In Mexico, Camila Zepeda, the Director General of Global Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted how cities can be at the forefront of adaption efforts. In Mexico City, city-wide mobility measures have significant reduced health risks during Covid and are helping with a green transition. Camila emphasised that national governments still need to be engaged and can help cities bolster international collaboration and access finance.

One of the problems across countries is smaller and medium size cities not having capacity to access or identify green finance investment opportunities.

Subnational policies driving green recoveries

Across Germany, South Africa and Sweden, sustainable policies are being enacted by subnational governments. This includes the experimental Leipzig charter in Germany, municipalities in South Africa reversing top-down policy practices to lead Covid recoveries and in Sweden, wind-power being prioritised in South Sweden over traditional agriculture to create green recovery not just an economic recovery.

Bound forward, not back

Seth spoke of the need to completely rethink how we do urban recoveries. Avoid investing in ‘traditional’ infrastructure as has been done previously and apply whole-systems thinking to recovery spending. Highlighting resilience4ports and the City Waters Resilience programme in DC as examples of whole-systems thinking Seth emphasised the need for local government to have the instruments at their disposal to be able to meet the moment.

The event demonstrated how national government decision-makers and key urban stakeholders can shape stimulus packages for a green, resilient and inclusive economic recovery in the aftermath of the global health pandemic.

Further information

To see the ‘Economic Case for Greening the Global Recovery Through Cities’ paper: Link

To learn more about the Resilience Shift’s Whole Systems thinking approach, see here:

Full List of Speakers:
Karsten Sach, Director General at German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU)

Aziza Akhmouch, Head of Division, Cities, Urban Policies and Sustainable Development, OECD

Oliver Weigel, Head of Division, German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building, and Community (BMI)

Camila Zepeda, Director General of Global Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico

Seth Schultz, Executive Director, The Resilience Shift

Parks Tau, Deputy Minister, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, South Africa

Louise Eklund, Deputy Governor of Region Skåne, Sweden

Carmen Vogt, Head of the section Cities, GIZ, Germany

 

 

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