Experts have identified a number of key pathways to transform African cities towards a low emission and sustainable urban future. At the African Carbon Forum held recently in Cotonou, Benin Republic, they stressed that unplanned and rapid urbanisation can lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions, urban poverty, and inequality.
Consequently, participants focused discussions on innovative solutions such as integrated urban planning, including sustainable building design, comprehensive solid waste management systems, and paradigm shifts in transport and energy sectors.
The expert meetings are a part of the technical examination process under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to explore high potential emission reduction policies, practices, and technologies with significant sustainable development benefits.
At the meeting, which held June 28 to 30, 2017, delegates tried to match theory with practical examples, underlining also that access to ready finance remained a critical requirement for progress.
For example, Vincent Kitio, Chief of the Urban Energy Unit at the Human Settlements Programme in UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme), said that urban planning must strike a balance between streets and public spaces, as well as how to combine land use for both economic and residential activities. Housing development, added, should consider holistic building approaches to ensure overall efficiency, and strive for performance certification.
Waste is another area where better management would focus on encouraging reduction, re-use, and recycling. Private sector engagement in integrated waste management activities can be incentivised through users’ fees, taxes or revenue generated from the selling of energy or other by-products, he noted.
Omobolanle Olowu, Business Development Manager at Wecyclers Lagos in Nigeria, then shared an innovative approach adopted for municipal solid waste management. Wecyclers offers a convenient household recycling service to low-income neighborhoods using a fleet of low-cost cargo bikes, she noted, adding that they motivate families to recycle through an SMS-based incentive programme. Families receive points, which they can then redeem for food, cell phone minutes, or household goods.
Cities also need to collectively shift focus from energy intensive to low-carbon modes of transport, such as walking, cycling and mass public transport. This can be accomplished by creating pedestrian friendly pathways and improving energy efficiency of vehicles, and through overall coordination with ministries and departments to align on policies and attract investments.
Fanuel O.S. Kalugendo, Transport Planning Engineer at Dar Rapid Transit Agency in Tanzania, led the discussion on how Dar es Salaam city leaders are focusing attention in this area, specifically in response to intense traffic congestion and associated greenhouse gas emissions. The city is among the first in Africa to implement a Bus Rapid Transit system, which integrated a roadway dedicated to buses into the transportation system, and gives priority to buses at intersections. The initiative overall provides an efficient, reliable, affordable and climate-friendly solution.
Innovative and adequate financial investment remains key to scaling up and replicating emission reduction actions in the urban environment. Understanding that access to funding is often an obstacle, Ash Sharma of NAMA Facility provided insights on overcoming financing, technical and institutional barriers through, deployment of innovative financial instruments and enhanced engagement with the private sector.
Cities and local governments must take on an important role in identifying and mobilising new sustainable sources of funding, such as public budget allocations, taxes, and guarantees. Dedicated funding sources such as these complemented by conducive policy framework and regulations will incentivise private sector investment.
Stressing that mobilisation of the private sector is key to tap available capital, Mr. Sharma outlined the importance of using de-risking instruments and avoiding market distortion to build confidence in the private sector. There is also the need to strengthen the capacity of local governments in financial management, he stated.
The meeting was organised jointly by the UNFCCC Secretariat, UN-Habitat, and ICLEI-Local Government for Sustainability. The meeting built on the successful event on cross cutting issues in urban environments and land use, which took place during the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.