Business-led collaboration key to delivering climate action in cities, says Aecom

The private sector must step up collaboration efforts with city and regional governments to create more robust solutions to combat the economic and environmental impacts of climate change in major cities, the co-author of a new report on the subject has told edie.

Chris Pountney, a principal consultant for multinational engineering firm Aecom, believes there is an emerging business case for value networks – consisting of companies, city policymakers and investors – to deliver cost-effective climate actions such as energy efficiency retrofits, renewable energy systems and transport infrastructure.

“There are plenty of cities that would like to do something but just don’t have the capacity to do it – there is a clear case where the private sector can be collaborating with cities in order to deliver their action plans,” said Pountney.

Risk to resilience

The report – It Takes a City: The Case for Collaborative Climate Action – was released this week by Aecom in partnership with disclosure organisation CDP; analysing city commitments to tackling climate change. Based on the data of 533 cities in 89 countries, the report discovered that city governments have ambitions to invest more than $26bn in 720 climate-related projects, but are increasingly looking towards the private sector for support in delivering those projects.

The vast majority (89%) of the cities surveyed – which includes the likes of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff in the UK – now view climate change as a ‘significant risk’, but just 44% have climate action plans in place, showing a clear gap between awareness and action.

There is therefore a “substantial” business opportunity to collaborate, the report claims, with more than half (56%) of the cities having identified opportunities to develop new industries or businesses specifically linked to climate change action. Of the 190 cities in the report that have clearly-stated emissions targets, 74% are currently working with businesses to help achieve those targets.

“There are cities all over the world that are identifying that climate change poses a risk and the call, then, to the private sector is to be able to partner with them in developing robust solutions and actions that can be implemented and address those risks,” said Pountney. “That’s something that we can see clearly coming out in this report – there is more to do and it will be something that will need to be delivered together” 

UK cities

Globally, the Paris Agreement – which is now less than a month away from becoming legally binding – has also seemingly acted as a catalyst in climate action from cities in recent month, with the report revealing that the number of cities disclosing climate data to the CDP has increased by as much as 70% in the wake of the UN’s COP21 talks at the end of 2015.

In the UK, some cities have been leading the way on collaboration with the private sector through specific climate funds and programmes, according to the report. London – which was recently rated the fifth most sustainable city in the world – and Manchester stand out among global cities in tackling climate change through business action, according to Pountney.

“One of the ways London stood out was that through the London Green Fund,” he said. “£120m has been set aside to invest into carbon reduction and wider green programmes. That is the way London is leading the way – they have delivered a financing programme that will help solve some of those actions that they identified.

“Manchester has disclosed a low-carbon sector development business support programme, seeking to increase the growth in environmental tech companies – another example in which cities can be working together with the private sector.”

Aecom recently developed the CURB – a decision-making framework to help cities prioritise cost-effective climate actions. The firm is also working to develop resiliency strategies with cities around the world as part of the 100 Resilient Cities programme.

Alex Baldwin

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