The need for African cities to lead the global fight against climate change

By James Alexander, City Finance Programme Director, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

Africa is the world’s second most populous and fastest-growing continent, home to an estimated 1.2 billion people. Over half of global population growth is expected to take place on the continent between now and 2050.1 With increasing concentrations of people and infrastructure, African cities are particularly vulnerable to problems caused by the impacts of climate change, such as extreme heat or flooding.

African cities have been driving innovative and impactful sustainability solutions. In order to further their status as leaders in the fight against climate change, it is time for African cities to be more proactively supported, particularly financially. 

Taking decisive action now will help limit the most severe impacts of climate change in these cities and support the potential of an energised and ambitious population in decades to come. That is why C40 Cities is hosting the first ever Financing Sustainable African Cities Forum in South Africa this month, supported by the Citi Foundation. 

Africa’s urban investment opportunities 

Recent analysis by the IFC found over $1.5 trillion in climate investment opportunities in Sub-Saharan African cities, with the highest share in green buildings ($768 billion), electric vehicles ($344 billion), and public transportation ($159 billion).2  

Cities across the continent are already taking action across these sectors. Ambitious initiatives include the City of Johannesburg issuing the first green bond ever from a C40 city; the City of Dakar’s innovative Vivre avec l’eau investment in infrastructure and partnerships to address flash flooding; and 11 C40 African cities committing to produce climate action plans that are compliant with the Paris Agreement by the end of 2020.

Securing adequate finance will be key to supporting city efforts in unlocking their transformational potential to lead the global effort for sustainability. 

The Financing Sustainable African Cities Forum, hosted in Johannesburg, will showcase bold sustainable urban solutions from across the continent and present the exciting opportunities that are available to the wider investment community. The event will connect local city officials and leaders with those who are seeking to back innovative, sustainable city solutions and technologies, with an aim to ultimately share experiences and solutions to accelerate climate action with a greater sense of urgency. 

Ongoing support for this global fight

C40 and Citi Foundation are bringing together investors and ambitious African city officials who are committed to making their cities more resilient for the wellbeing of residents and future generations. Establishing access to such conversations and forging these relationships now is the first step towards securing the financial backing needed to facilitate more future-proof solutions. 

Our upcoming Forum in Johannesburg will see a range of local experts demonstrating the level of commitment of African cities to extensive climate action. Financiers and mayors from across the region will be sharing their thoughts on the power of collaboration to unlock financial opportunities and discuss the important role of local representatives in protecting the most vulnerable from the effects of climate change. To culminate, the city officials in attendance will draw up an action plan to ensure the Forum translates into action, rather than just conversation. C40 is committed to supporting continued action through comprehensive climate action planning support and technical assistance to finance these efforts.

Last year’s IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC made it clear that even a small temperature increase would significantly increase water and food shortages, threaten livelihoods and social equity, and endanger urban and economic development across the world. This fight is a truly global affair, and we have a shared responsibility to address it on an international scale. With open minds and the right support from the investment community, cities in Africa and across the world will lead the way towards achieving a healthier, more sustainable future for all. 

1. United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/population/ 
2. IFC: https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/bffd2386-ff4c-454d-8366-8d801bf3b9c5/201811-CIOC-IFC-Analysis.pdf?MOD=AJPERES