WBI Global Dialogues on Climate Change: Scaling up Mitigation Actions in Cities | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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  • Cities are a major source of carbon emissions. But they are also commercial and technological hubs that can drive a low carbon economy.
  • Scaling up climate change mitigation actions in cities is needed to achieve the necessary emission reduction targets.
  • In a session on July 28, 2011, the WBI Global Dialogue Series on Climate Change discussed how the cities can scale up their mitigation actions, what the main challenges are, and how they can be tackled based on the lessons learned from successful projects from the cities from around the globe.


August 16, 2011―Each week 3 million people around the world move to towns and cities. Cities are responsible for almost 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions–particularly in developing countries and economies in transition. Integrating climate change concerns into urban planning is a significant challenge for cities worldwide. 

“Cities are where the Climate Change battle will be won or lost over the next decades,” said Marco Scuriatti, Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank at a global dialogue event on July 28. The World Bank Institute (WBI) hosted a global dialogue on Scaling up Mitigation Actions in Cities using video-conferencing, online chat, and live web-streaming technologies to bring together international experts and practitioners. 

What Can Cities Do?

Participants at the dialogue discussed how efforts to scale up mitigation actions are held back by obstacles, including lack of legal and constitutional mandates, regulatory constraints especially for energy distribution, external factors such as global economic instabilities, poor financial management, limited resources, the lack of capacity and awareness, as well as inadequate buy in from key stakeholders.

Cities have also been less successful when leveraging carbon finance mechanisms, with landfill projects being a notable exception, as such projects are very small in terms of the volume of emission reductions.

However, as the international climate change community faces uncertainty regarding the future of carbon market mechanisms, cities are leveraging their role as innovative commercial and technological centers. Success stories are already a reality–such as a tree planting initiative in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, “We currently plant 400,000 trees every year, and have the target to plant about one million trees every year,” said Didas Massaburi, Lord Mayor of Dar es Salaam.

As much as cities differ in terms of their location, landscape, size and capacity–common approaches they all can use are entrepreneurship, analysis, and creativity. Yunus Arikan, Manager of the Cities Climate Center at ICLEI, said that all cities can collect “low-hanging fruits” for mitigation such as scaling actions that include non-motorized transport, integrating waste management, and technological applications for energy demand management.

Experience and Knowledge Sharing

Collecting these low hanging fruits and sharing lessons learned are important starting points in scaling up cities’ climate change mitigation actions at the global level. The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group leads a data-driven approach to scale up climate change action such as identifying and implementing priorities once data is collected. Best practices are then shared with partner cities–an effort that has already led to replication of concepts.

open-quotesCities are where the Climate Change battle will be won or lost over the next decades. close-quotesMarco Scuriatti, Senior Operations Officer at the World Bank

“Cycling is one of the most popular urban mobility solutions being developed in C40 cities. Following the success of the Paris cycle hire scheme there have been five other new cycle hire schemes, and two more cities have pilot projects underway. But the opportunity is still much bigger to scale this up–a further twelve cities are following suit, and with cycling being the lowest-carbon urban mobility solution it is something that the C40 is considering to undertake and provide resources and technical support to,” said Rishi Desai, Advisor with C40.

Cities on the “Road to Durban”

Many cities have undertaken concrete initiatives, made political commitments, established mechanisms to report on and showcase actions and actively share knowledge. However, cities still need to be actively supported in global climate change mitigation efforts. This requires national and international mechanisms for finance, regulatory, technical, and capacity support to unlock obstacles currently holding cities back from taking mitigation actions to scale.

“We need to creatively start to combine different sources of financing. From a city’s own resources to national budgets, donor support, and very importantly private investment in innovation,” said Crispian Olver, Director from Linkd.

Learn more about the event, watch a video summary and download materials.