By Martin Christiansen
With climate action being just one of the 17 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, one would think that climate actions – as any other goal – would be put in jeopardy over more seemingly pressing goals to reach. Based on experience from working with nearly 100 cities globally, this is often the case says C40 Cities backed by number from the World Bank.
But what if climate actions would in fact advance the realization of numerous other goals? Research from Ramboll and C40 proves that the connection between climate action and many other global goals is not just make-believe.
According to Henrik Stener Pedersen, Director and socio-economic expert in Ramboll Management Consulting, the working group wanted to make sure the impacts were grouped all the way to the global goals to help build a coherent and strong case for urban climate actions. He explains:
"For good reason the UN SDG’s are the new reference point for leaders and policy-makers. Even if climate actions and sustainable cities are just two of 17 goals, it has become very evident through our work that the climate actions taken in cities for the most part influence significantly on other goals. We hope the framework will lead to more holistic approaches in cities; this is needed to build strong business cases to fund more climate actions."
For instance; what has a bus rapid transit programme to do with SDG 3 on good health and well-being? Following one of the many pathways, this type of programme (frequent buses – often electrified – in designated driving lanes) leads to increased attractiveness of public transport. One additional outcome is lowered personal vehicle use which then leads to reduced fuel use. This impacts positively the air quality which reduces exposure to harmful particulates thus reducing risk of diseases for citizens, i.e. better health situation.
This were just a few of the 15 possible impacts listed in the framework.
Using the framework, cities, experts and other stakeholders will be able to explore and provide evidence on how urban climate action translates into wider impacts for society, health, the economy and the environment. The Framework can be used from top to bottom, or from bottom to top: a user can choose an action and trace its pathway down to its impacts or start from the bottom with impacts and find the actions that can lead to it. At the end, each of the impacts are listed according to UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“This tool is really a conversation starter that allow you to access other pockets of funding by broadening the scope”, one participant said at the workshop in San Francisco.
Several of the participating cities were on the verge of updating their sustainability plans in which case the framework could be of use. And plans are vital if you ask C40 Director, Kevin Austin, who was one of the key note speakers:
"Across the board, we see that cities are three times more likely to take climate actions if they have specific plans in place."
As stated by the framework authors, climate actions are not implemented in a vacuum, and their outcomes naturally depend on a range of local factors. Often, different cities will implement the same action which results in different impacts. This point cannot be stressed enough says Henrik Stener Pedersen:
"When we do a framework like this one where the real exercise is to establish clear links between one action at an overall level and the positive - or negative – side-effects, it is like looking into one of these old, long binocular; it gives you clarity and the needed line-of-sight but you also run the risk of closing your eye to something important. That is why we stress that climate actions are multifaceted and very contextual. You need to make good use of tools like our framework or global best practices but at the same time consider how much can be implemented locally and what characterizes local communities, administrations, funding opportunities and so on to determine the wider impacts at a local level."
Later this month Ramboll and city stakeholders will meet again to discuss climate actions when New York Climate Week kicks-off. Ramboll takes part in a number of events.
Below you can see pictures from lecture and workshops around Ramboll’s Climate Action Impacts Framework at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.