Since its inception in 2020, the focus of Daring Cities has been to catalyze and accelerate local climate emergency action. And certainly, with well over 2,000 jurisdictions from around the world having formally declared a climate emergency, there is no shortage of projects that cities are seeking to launch tied to the overarching goals of mitigating global warming and creating more resilient communities.
However contrary to common perception, projects aren’t being held up “because the funds aren’t available,” said Eszter Mogyorósy, Head of Innovative Finance at the ICLEI World Secretariat, “but because the funds are not accessible… particularly for the Global South.” Inaccessible, she says, due to a combination of lack of local technical expertise and the current system of finance which she describes as “just so slow… and not in emergency mode.” It can take 12-18 months just to access the expertise needed to conduct a technical study or prepare a business model, she says, “not even an investment in the project… but just the technical assistance needed [to assess the merit and feasibility of a project].”
Consistent with Daring Cities’ modus operandi of accelerating climate emergency response, Mogyorósy says the focus of this year’s virtual conference, held October 3-7, will be on finance “and what kind of systematic change we need to speed things up… what kind of tools do we need to bring in and what are the modalities out there which maybe at the moment are not being considered.”
A high-level session on October 6 will address these challenges head on, says Mogyorósy, serving to “kickstart discussion on what does it mean financing climate emergency and how is it different from a regular finance business model” as well as “what could and should be done around the scale and speed of financing that’s available. So, it’s really going to be a call to action to put financing into an accelerated mode.”
As with many of the sessions in the conference, multiple perspectives will be brought to the table. There will be panelists from the European Commission, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the UN Capital Development Fund, and city representatives, including from Makati, the Philippines, and Monterrey, Mexico.
Yunus Arikan, ICLEI Director of Global Advocacy, cites Makati and Monterrey as two prime examples of “pioneering local governments” that are already helping to drive the fight against climate change in their cities and will be actively involved in workshops that focus on scaling up action through the implementation of various financial instruments. Monterrey, which is a major economic hub, has been hit hard with a cruel drought and has boldly responded to this by aiming to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
Just as Africa was a focal point of the last Daring Cities, this year much of the attention will center on challenges and opportunities in Central and South America. “We’re really excited to see some new faces,” says Arikan. “Latin America has gone through some major changes and one of them is the new president of Columbia [Gustavo Petro], the former mayor of Bogotá and who was previously actively involved on ICLEI’s global committee.”
Petro is an urban leader who clearly “gets” climate change, with an agenda that includes exploring new and innovative ways to protect the Amazon rainforest, including a debt-for-nature swap whereby developing countries such as Colombia would have their debts reduced or cancelled in return for commitments to finance green projects.
Despite the heavy focus on finance, ICLEI’s Mogyorósy emphasizes that virtually all of the sessions will be hands on and conducted in layman’s terms, more focused on process and strategy rather than actual number crunching. There will be a unique mix of multi-level, public and private input with sessions geared for a variety of interests, depending on one’s hot buttons.
Mogyorósy says she is most excited about the opening day session on digital finance solutions “because most of the Global South countries we work together with, they don’t necessarily have again all the infrastructure you would need for digital finance solutions… so it will be a great learning lesson.”
Mark Wessel is an urban journalist and public speaker who profiles unique city initiatives tied to sustainability, resiliency and quality of living that other communities can learn from. His work has appeared in Child in the City, TheCityFix, Next City, Municipal World, Cities Today and the Urban Future ‘City Changers’ blog. He also writes a regular Green Living column for Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper chain.