By David Miller, Regional Director for North America

Urban citizens account for over half of the world's population. Analysis for the C40 Climate Leadership Group shows that by mid-century, climate change will likely pose an existential threat to some of the world’s greatest cities. The need to finance sustainable urban infrastructure in response to this threat is undeniably a defining global challenge of our time. Both the capital and innovative projects exist; now more than ever, all sectors need to play their part in bringing them together.


It was my pleasure to represent C40 at the third C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum in New York City on April 10th, hosted by C40 and the City of New York with the support of the Citi Foundation. This dynamic annual event brings together leaders in the field – city officials, investors, business leaders, international organization partners – to tackle these very challenges. Key stakeholders shared insights on successful business models and innovative financing strategies for cities and investors alike to capitalize on critical sustainable infrastructure development.  

Themes of the conference included:

  • Financing sustainable, inclusive cities – exploring sustainable urban solutions from the perspective of cities and investors to highlight existing opportunities and help both sides see eye-to-eye on what is needed to unlock new investment opportunities.     
  • Innovation in business models – a closer look at new financial products, funding sources, and private sector engagement models in the areas of sustainable mobility, energy, land use and climate adaptation.
  • Bridging the gap between projects and investors – defining “bankable” projects from the perspective of different investors and improving project preparation to generate a pipeline of bankable, sustainable infrastructure projects.

“We’re already seeing how the Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative is helping cities turn their innovative ideas into a reality, to help improve the quality of life for residents while also meeting shared sustainability goals.”  

– Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship at Citi

This year’s Forum also emphasized the critical role that women can play in collaboration between cities, investors and the private sector that will support cities to accelerate and scale up investments in sustainable urban solutions.  

Panelists in the Women4Financing Sustainable Cities session pointed out that increasing greater diversity will not only help companies with their bottom lines, but also expedite investment in more resilient, prosperous, and sustainable cities.

The Women4Financing Sustainable Cities panel featured Eleni Myrivili, Deputy Mayor of Urban Nature and Climate Change Resilience, City of Athens (not pictured); Barbara Buchner, Executive Director for Climate Finance, Climate Policy Initiative; Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation; Director of Corporate Citizenship at Citi; and Emily Chasan, Sustainable Finance Editor, Bloomberg News.

The Forum featured C40’s release of Electric Buses in Cities: Driving Towards Cleaner Air and Lower CO2, a new report that shows that electric buses can be cheaper than conventional buses over their lifetime. The report, which was funded by the Citi Foundation as part of the Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative, was authored on behalf of C40 by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The total cost of ownership of electric buses has not only reached parity with diesel, but it is now often lower, and generates significant savings to cities. This is absolutely crucial and will shape transport policies around the world."

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

Finally, the Citi Foundation announced a $5 million grant to support the continued efforts of the Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative, a partnership between WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group funded by the Citi Foundation since 2015. As the result of this grant, C40 and WRI will continue to help cities around the world better understand business models and financing options for sustainable infrastructure projects.

Over the last two years, the FSCI team has supported more than 100 cities in advancing clean energy and transportation projects. This new grant will allow the team to increase the scope of their work to support more cities in these areas and broaden the program to new areas like climate change adaptation financing.

"Our work with FSCI supports cities throughout the challenging last mile of converting finance into sustainable infrastructure and services by identifying winning business models – pricing and funding streams, service provision and other elements that create both immediate results and are designed to last."

– Jessica Seddon, Director of Integrated Urban Strategy, WRI Ross Center For Sustainable Cities


For more information and to watch videos from the Forum, click here.
For more information about the Financing Sustainable Cities Initiative, click here.

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