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COP28 – Thoughts from 3Ci’s Director, Steve Turner

So, COP28 finally delivered. Nobody got everything they wanted, they never do, but there was just enough to give us hope. At one point things appeared more than a little desperate. The final deal on the phasing out of fossil fuels IS a major step forward. The final texts are far from perfect, and the lobbyists came in their droves, but lobbyists only turn up when they are scared. 

There is still a lot of work to do. We need renewed effort to crack the financial challenges. Our current financial systems mean that for capital to flow we need projects of investable credibility with risk adjusted returns that provide opportunities for profit, but at borrowing rates which cites can actually afford. 

An inability to break through this barrier will result in all those Hollywood dystopian scenarios becoming true; collapse of global agriculture and food systems; mass migration from drought ridden regions; subsequent rise of populist far right governments; increased conflicts around the world and the subsequent collapse of organised civic society. However, there’s a Wall of Sound coming out of COP28, the collective voice of city mayors, who will of course be on the frontline in dealing with these climate impacts. 

Cities cannot do this on their own however, governments must play their role, pledging commitment to the right policies and programmes that enable cities to get on with the complex aspects of delivery. There is a sense however, that the trust between central and local government across the world has been eroded and needs rebuilding. Cities are the powerhouses of green growth and if governments can give them the right policy instruments, they can unleash the huge social and economic dividends on offer.  

This is why it’s been pleasing to hear the growing momentum around the role of cities and mobilising private finance at COP, some of the themes emerging included; 

  • The first Local Climate Action Summit hosted by Bloomberg and the COP28 UAE Presidency, the Urbanisation Ministerial for a second year running and the launch of CHAMP – Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships. These welcome initiatives included a focus on mobilising public and private sector investment into cities. 
  • A significant ramping up of the number of activities convening investors and cities with a growing appetite amongst the former to forge early stage engagement and meaningful partnerships with cities, including agreement to develop an investment blueprint based on Govanhill in Glasgow. 
  • Recognition that investment also needs to be made on the social side of the just transition not just physical infrastructure in order that citizens benefit through increased jobs and skills. 
  • Increased demand for proven examples of local climate action from cities that demonstrate successful collaborative partnerships with investors, including Bristol’s City Leap 
  • Growing interest from the UK and internationally in the 3Ci model for convening cities and investors around development finance, including its deployment through the Urban SDG on Finance. 

All of this provides a platform for 3Ci to continue developing its pioneering approach, one that convenes city leaders and investors to unlock the barriers that hold back the flow of capital; 

  • Firstly, developing new innovative financial models grounded in place that allows for the deployment of blended financial models. The launch of our Net Zero Investment Prospectus and the work of our Net Zero Investment Task Force will help create a network of credible investable neighbourhoods. 
  • Secondly, aggregating projects to provide scale provides investors with a greater rate of return, which is why we have developed the National Net Zero Project Pipeline and our work on developing sub-regional approaches, including that in South Yorkshire 
  • Thirdly, our work to design and establish a technical assistance facility that allows local authorities to access the right mix of support to enable them to develop more robust investable propositions. 

There is much to look forward to in 2024 and 3Ci already has an exciting array of events and initiatives planned. We will further strengthen our city relationships and grow our networks with investors, because the battle against climate change will ultimately be won or lost on the streets of cities. 

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