Investing in a Decarbonized Urban Economy

Replay & Takeaways

We know that climate change poses the single greatest threat to our health, livelihoods, and cities. But how do we unravel the many pieces of our economies and industries that are deeply intertwined with unsustainable, carbon-heavy methods that brought us here in the first place? We sit down with leaders who focus on transforming infrastructure and accelerating the transition toward thriving, sustainable economies.

Investing in a Decarbonized Urban Economy brought together four leading experts in the fields of sustainable urban planning, renewable energy technology, and citizen-centered urban governance to discuss the path towards carbon neutrality in cities around the world. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Collaboration is key. Cities are very sophisticated ecosystems, where challenges cannot be siloed. Strategic partnerships and garnering trust between the public and private sectors is fundamental to maximizing value for all players. Cities can also utilize partnerships with universities and other research hubs to highlight best practices.  
2. New investment is an opportunity to place the wellbeing of citizens front and center. Increasing the resilience of communities towards incoming climate change can be addressed in concert with tech and economic challenges. Moving forward, solutions to reducing carbon emissions should also make our cities more equitable, resilient, and liveable.
3. Personal vehicle dependency is a major obstacle. At the root of the globe’s large carbon footprint is a reliance on cars that take up space, contribute substantially to emissions, and shape the built environment of cities. While transitioning to electric vehicles is a start, more substantial change involves integrating multiple forms of public and active transport into a cohesive system.
4. Land-use and zoning regulations must be updated. As infrastructure is renewed, cities can reimagine the way they are designed and planned to encourage mixed-use, density, and walkability. If we are going to think long-term, policy incentives and zoning updates should support the transition to new economies.

5. Investing in carbon-neutrality will save money in the long run. As cities generate major savings by prioritizing energy and transportation efficiency, they can reinvest those funds into future projects involving technology, development, and urban reinvigoration.  

We refer to cities as ‘systems of systems,’ because everything is connected to everything else. Historically, there has been a tendency to silo things: ‘I just worry about water,’ ‘I just worry about streets’… But that is not how cities work.    

James Moore | Global Solutions Director - Cities & Places, Jacobs 

There are certain drivers who think we’re ‘anti-car.’ But I’m quite proud of being anti-car, to be honest     

Sally Longford | Deputy Leader of the Council, Head of Energy, Environment and Waste Services, Nottingham, UK

Most of the funding [for creating carbon-neutral cities] will come from the savings we will generate quite rapidly if we all agree to change our behavior and the way we use transportation systems, the way we are lighting our buildings, and so on.  

Louis-Frederic Robin | Group Director in charge of Cities & Infrastructures, ENGIE