Green infrastructure is no longer out-of-reach for cities in developing countries thanks to the launch of the C40 Cities Finance Facility, a major project by C40 Cities, Germany and Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) to provide the skills, technical assistance and connections to funding opportunities needed to unlock up to $1 billion worth of sustainable infrastructure in cities across low and middle-income countries by 2020.
This transformative partnership between C40, Germany and IADB, launched today at the C40 Forum, reinforces the joint commitment to bring practical solutions to unlock the potential of all cities to deliver action on climate change.
Also announced today is funding from the British philanthropy, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, to ensure take up of a new system for transparently measuring and reporting city emissions.
The C40 Cities Finance Facility, with €3.5 million (US$3.7m) funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and $2 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), will provide technical assistance to cities within the C40 network to help them prepare sustainable infrastructure projects for investment.
“The C40 Cities Finance Facility represents a massive opportunity for cities, particularly those in the Global South,” said C40 Chair and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes. “The project represents a significant step forward in delivering one of my strategic aims as C40 chair, and will allow cities to leverage significant public and private financing for green infrastructure projects, enabling cities to accelerate their ambitious emissions reductions.”
The German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dr Gerd Müller said, “Cities will play a vital role in efforts to achieve our climate and development goals. And the German government wants to ensure that they are able to play that role. Part of that is ensuring they have the necessary funding. That is why, together with the C40 network and the Inter-American Development Bank, we have developed the C40 Cities Finance Facility. The aim is to advise cities on issues of financing.”
“We’ve worked with mayors in more than 50 Latin American and Caribbean cities, helping them manage urban growth more sustainably. We need to develop pipelines of climate-smart projects where social, environmental, legal, regulatory, and exchange risks are adequately addressed. Even the best ideas won’t get financed if we don’t address risks properly,” said IADB President, Luis Alberto Moreno. “The C40 Cities Finance Facility will help our cities bridge exactly this problem. The IADB is proud to join this initiative to help our cities do what they need to do.”
The first step towards $1billion of green infrastructure
The first round of funding for the C40 Cities Finance Facility was announced at the C40 Forum held today in Paris alongside the COP21 climate negotiations. The initial $5.7 million is expected to ultimately reach as much as $20 million in technical assistance for cities, unlocking up to $1 billion worth of green projects worldwide within four years.
The C40 Cities Finance Facility will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions – sustainable infrastructure investment will also improve urban life, public health and economic growth, targeted at cities in the Global South.
Lima’s highly popular bus rapid transit (BRT) system was developed after the city received support from international experts, which in turn led to loans from Spanish bank BBVA and Banco del Credito de Peru. The Cities Finance Fund Facility will provide support to cities looking to develop similar projects that will help reduce their emissions and increase their resilience to climate change.
New resources to measure and report city emissions
C40 also announced at the Forum new funding from the British philanthropy the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), who will provide $5.3 million to help a minimum of 30 C40 cities in the Global South to conduct accurate inventories of their greenhouse gas emissions, set targets and develop action plans. The aim of the investment is to create a critical mass of cities across the world quantifying their urban emissions and setting robust reduction targets using an international gold standard – Global Protocol for Community Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories (GPC) — and thereby supporting the implementation of the Compact of Mayors.
“To protect and secure a healthy and sustainable future for children, we support the urgent global transition to a low carbon economy,” said Graeme Sweeney, a CIFF trustee and chairman of its climate investment committee. ” We are supporting the adoption of a new global system for transparently measuring and reporting greenhouse gases emissions, which will allow mayors to identify and seek finance for the most cost-effective opportunities for climate action. ”
The funding will increase the number of cities in every region of the world that are measuring and reporting their emissions on a consistent basis. This will enable comparison between regions and provide examples for other cities to follow.
If 30 cities identified as eligible for this support were to act in three areas – building energy, transport and planning – this has the potential to decrease global GHG cumulative emissions by around 4.8 GtCO2e by 2030 – improving the chances of keeping temperature rises below the 2°C target.
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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