Sharm El Sheikh – R-Cities. In his remarks at COP27, US President Biden warned that the climate crisis is striking vulnerable populations the most. He said: “So many disasters — the climate crisis is hitting hardest those countries and communities that have the fewest resources to respond and to recover.”
The official motto of COP27 is “Together for Implementation”, specifically working together to mitigate the causes of the climate crisis. While reducing carbon emissions remains the top priority, global world leaders and scientists are warning that the Paris Climate accord target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius is now slipping out of reach. For cities, this means developing and implementing resilience strategies has become a necessity as they are already experiencing the effects of climate change.
Resilient Cities Network (R-Cities) is working directly with almost 100 cities around the world to support those communities. At COP27, R-Cities and its member cities are working on forming partnerships to bolster resilience of the most vulnerable communities. R-Cities has long favored a strategy in response to the climate crisis which focuses on “pre-covery” as opposed to a disaster management approach.
Investing in developing cities in Africa
Cities in Africa are particularly affected, and as COP27 enters its second week, R-Cities is working to emphasize the goals and challenges of cities across the continent.
Emerging economies face imminent and disastrous impacts of climate change despite being the least responsible for carbon emissions. Simultaneously, emerging economies face large challenges in accessing climate finance. According to the World Economic Forum, Africa has attracted just 2% of the total clean energy investment in the last 20 years. To ensure equity in adapting to a changing climate, adaptation funding must be directed towards emerging economies.
More than half of the urban population in Africa lives in informal settlements, which have little to no access to basic services like safe running water or electricity. The impact of climate change is most acutely felt in these areas, which also receive little investment to adapt. The physical location of these informal settlements, the high levels of poverty and the political marginalization of the communities living within these settlements make them more vulnerable to climate change and means there are fewer plans in place for climate adaptation. Cities in this region need support to navigate this complexity so that they can uplift vulnerable communities as they build a more resilient future.
One of the key topics on the agenda of COP27 is compensation for loss and damages by wealthier, high-emitting countries to help poorer nations.
“We are heartened to see Loss and Damage as part of the official agenda at COP27 but note that as a global community we have a long way to go until we reach a consensus on how this should be managed”, says Dana Omran, R-Cities’ Regional Director for Africa and Global Director for Operations and Strategy. “It is estimated that USD 50 billion will be needed annually to help Africa meet its climate adaptation needs. However, African cities face major financial, institutional, and political barriers to unlock climate finance. They need more support to access finance, develop innovative and bankable projects, and create investment-friendly environments for climate finance to flow to the local level. As R-Cities, one of our objectives at COP27 is to ensure that the international community and the private sector in particular, understand the critical financing needs around climate adaptation and infrastructure in the region and commit to helping cities to solve and deliver.”
Note: Dana Omran is currently in Sharm el-Sheikh and is available for interviews locally and remote.
Resilient Community Impact Funds
Financing and the economy of resilience is moving into the center of COP27. As the costs of recovery and rebuilding are sky rocking, prevention and resilience simply also becomes an economic benefit. New financing models are being developed particularly for cities to gain access to financing outside traditional municipal revenue streams like taxes. Private-Public Partnerships take on an ever more important role with tangible benefits for both the public and the private sector. But as much as such funding is needed, it is important to ensure that such funding is equitably distributed and benefits the most vulnerable communities.
The Resilient Community Impact Funds (RCIFunds) that R-Cities has established together with private partners is one example of how this can work.
“The Resilient Community Impact Funds”, explains Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy, Global Director, Policy and Investments at R-Cities, “is a catalytic grant that pulls together funding from private funders and local funders to implement projects on the ground for our cities. The idea is that we’re matching our funding at the global level, but also catalyzing local funders to join us as we implement projects with our cities. This reacts to the demand that the cities and the chief resilience officers face and that helps them filling the financing gap of projects in our cities.”
Note: Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy is currently in Sharm el-Sheikh and is available for interviews locally and remotely.
The RCIFunds also responds to the fact that only 10% of climate investments reach the local level and it supports projects delivering co-benefits such as equity, creating green jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
At COP27 R-Cities is working together with funders from the private sector to ensure that cities will have access to financing for specific projects
“We will often hear from funders that there’s not enough projects and we hear from the cities and others that they’ve got projects and there’s no funding. Interestingly, both statements are true depending on from a context standpoint you look at it,” says Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy. “What we need to do is meet in the middle. R-Cities’ role is to be this intermediary and help cities prepare projects for financing, working together with the chief resilience officers. There are more and more and better financing vehicles, for example versions of environmental impact bonds, social impact bonds, blue bonds, green bonds, all of that is necessary and all of those exist within a larger sphere of financing.”
Photo Caption: R-Cities’ Dana Omran at a panel session at COP27, ‘Building urban water resilience in Africa: Accelerating Investment and Collaboration for Impact’. The session launched the African Cities Water Adaptation Platform (ACWA Platform), the African Cities Water Adaptation Fund (ACWA Fund), and pan-African initiatives aimed at catalyzing water resilient African cities.
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