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Halfway to 2030 – showtime for city climate financing?

Karolina Eklöw Mon, 16 January 2023

An important deadline is approaching. In 2023 we are closer to 2030 than to 2015, the year when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda were adopted in New York. Today, eight of those years have passed. Have they been invested in the most impactful way possible?

Considering that less than half the time remains and the world is not halfway to achieving the SDGs, the answer is no. What lever can accelerate their implementation?

The clock is ticking – SDG progress is not 

National governments and companies are not on track to reach the 17 SDGs, according to the annual reports to the UN’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF). 

Let’s take a telling example: SDG13. Major attempts are being made with the EU recently sharpening its energy ambitions, accelerating the take-up of renewables to cut emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This is good, but in reality only 16.6% of energy consumption from the top 20 energy consuming countries comes from renewables. The emissions’ dip during the pandemic was only a blip on the radar.

For the global labor market however, the pandemic was more than a blip – and many people still lack decent work and income (SDG8). It’s a strong and unfortunate trend that requires local long-term strategies and investments. ”Climate goals, social inequality - those things are solved in cities,”  comments Helsinki Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki.

And Deputy Mayor Sinnemäki is onto something. While the majority of SDGs show an overall downward trend, SDG11 (Cities) is generally moving upward. In 2020, an SDG report on Europe showed that the only SDG that is on track is SDG11, proving that cities deliver on their targets.



Image: source. 


Why does city climate financing matter for the 2030 Agenda? 

Let’s see. Cities are essentially a microcosm of the world – where most of the SDGs can be advanced. This puts them at the forefront of dealing with climate change. Research by C40 cities in 2022 shows that investing in urban climate action will: 

  • Halve emissions
  • Reduce air pollution by up to a third
  • A third more jobs than continuing with business as usual 
  • Deliver $280 billion health-related economic benefits in C40 cities alone 

So, investing in city climate action not only helps to reduce emissions, but also has co-benefits in air and water quality, increases access to public spaces, lowers healthcare costs, creates jobs and builds a sense of community. No wonder city climate financing appears to be a lever for exponential SDG impact.

By financing climate initiatives, cities can make progress on multiple SDGs at once, from improving health and well-being to promoting sustainable economic growth.

What’s more, local administrations are best placed to offer a bottom-up view of a communities' needs and design solutions that hit the mark. They are not only in a position to provide value for investments right at the heart of 55% percent of the global populations’ daily lives, but also the place where sustainable impact is both governed and enjoyed for the majority of people.

What’s next?
Back in 2015, an ocean of time seemed to be ahead of the diplomats buzzing with optimism. But we are already halfway. At this year’s annual review of the SDGs at the UN Headquarters in July, SDG11 (Cities) is one of the five goals that will be reported in-depth. The other highlighted goals are SDG6 (Water), SDG7 (Energy), SDG9 (Innovation) and SDG17 (Partnerships) that countries will present their progress on in 2023. 

This year is an opportunity to put innovative city climate financing front and center. Not only is it clear that climate financing has ripple effects on all other SDGs, but 8 years into the process we know that cities are scoring high on delivering the SDGs. 

Ambitious cities with enough budget have shown that they are able to succeed. Cities deserve political leeway and access to climate financing to run the mile. Let’s focus political will on municipal financing as the SDGs depend on it, shall we? 




Keep track of the city-SDG nexus

Ps. This blog's header is part of a campaign by Project Everyone. Cool, right?