21 October 2019

Cities in Europe and USA look to one another for financing and partnership solutions

Through its global network of regional secretariats, ICLEI brings together cities from various world regions who face similar challenges and opportunities, and provides them with the opportunity to work collaboratively to unlock new ideas and perspectives.

This month, ICLEI Europe and ICLEI USA worked with partners City & Port, City Facilitators, and Nowak Metro Finance Lab to bring representatives from cities in Europe together with those from the USA to discuss how partnership and financing models are used to forge more inclusive cities. Despite vastly different political and cultural contexts, attendees discovered replicable best practices, learned from one another, and found that their cities share more than some originally expected.

CEOs from development corporations in ICLEI Members Copenhagen (Denmark) and Hamburg (Germany), as well as in Cincinnati (Ohio, USA) shared insights on how public-private partnerships in various national contexts have been used to implement inclusive urban regeneration.

From the public perspective, local government representatives from ICLEI Members Hamburg, Lisbon (Portugal) and Santa Monica (California, USA) discussed innovative mechanisms to finance nature-based solutions. Despite vastly different contexts, Lisbon and Santa Monica are applying a similar technique. Namely, both are less-intensively managing urban natural areas. This is cheaper for the municipalities, healthier for the areas, and provides valuable resilience and ecosystem services such as flood and heatwave mitigation.

Winners of a “city story” competition that took place before the conference presented cases from the USA, Sweden, and Armenia that led to discussion about replicability. For example, Fort Collins uses a public-private partnership – based on the fact that they own their municipal utility – to support affordable energy retrofitting of homes. Cities in Europe that own their utilities can modify and apply the Epic Homes model.

Innovative financing mechanisms have been tried and tested around the world, and successes are ready for replication. Tools such as divesting pension funds from fossil fuels and investing instead in climate solutions; using crowd funding to empower communities to invest in local sustainability initiatives; and leveraging local taxes to fund inclusive urban regeneration have been implemented in New York City, Michigan, and Philadelphia (USA), respectively. An inspiring keynote address by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney drove home the need for cities to share and use these tools to better serve their communities.

Bringing together cities from across ICLEI regions serves to illuminate new areas for potential collaboration, as well as key distinctions that stem from different social safety net systems, taxation systems, and even different jargon for similar concepts.

Furthermore, the conference illuminated the extent to which participants are at times tempted to assume uniformity across Europe when, in fact, there are vast differences between countries and sub-regions, such as between western, southern, northern, and eastern European countries.

In a closing address, Anne Skovbro, CEO of City & Port, reflected on this critique and on the fruitful two-day discussion. She aptly concluded that many solutions depend on trust. In order to use innovative finance and partnership models we must trust both partners and decision-makers. As ‘city makers’ in various capacities, our mission is to ensure that we cultivate that trust. One way to do so is to learn from other cities’ experiences, and replicate their triumphs.

For more information on innovative partnership and financing mechanisms for forging inclusive cities, please click here.