Spotlight on the C40 Finance and Economic Development Initiative

In this post, James Alexander, Director, C40 Finance and Economic Development Initiative, highlights the various challenges and opportunities found within the green growth and infrastructure finance sectors.

C40 has many effective networks addressing the most pertinent issues facing C40 Cities in their shared ambition to reduce emissions and adapt to climate risks. C40 networks focus on transport, energy, waste, sustainable communities and adaptation, and each shares a common challenge – how can sustainable infrastructure be financed, and at the same time create opportunities for green economic growth and business clusters in C40 Cities? This is the principal question facing the participants in the Finance and Economic Development Initiative, which I am proud to coordinate as the newly appointed Director.

The Finance and Economic Development Networks

The Initiative is currently organised into two networks; the Green Growth Network is chaired by the city of Copenhagen, and the Sustainable Infrastructure Finance Network is chaired by the city of Chicago and co-chaired by Basel. Like other content-specific C40 networks, these efforts seek to coordinate and open new lines of communication between cities with common challenges and opportunities, and to provide access to resources that offer solutions for local climate action, such as technical expertise, research and analytical tools. Within each network, C40 facilitates peer-to-peer exchange to connect individual city staff members responsible for the implementation of programs, policies and projects.

Green Growth

Participants in the Green Growth network recognise the projects and policies that will make cities more sustainable also have many additional benefits, including economic, social and quality-of-life enhancements. When launching the Green Growth Network, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Frank Jensen said, 

“cities are beginning to observe the economic rationale in implementing smart, sustainable solutions. Taking the wider socio-economic effects of these solutions into account, the effects can go way beyond ‘green’.”

As an example of this approach, the city of Copenhagen calculates a net social gain of DKK 1.22 for each kilometre cycled in the city. Likewise Portland has found that planting trees in the city has led to an increase in surrounding home values of approximately US$14,500 per tree . Quantifying the economic benefits of sustainable programmes from city governments can help mayors win the political arguments for making these investments.

Cyclists At Red 2

Cycling in Copenhagen has a net social gain of DKK 1.22 per kilometre

Similarly, cities across the world have found their engagement in sustainability has led to a significant increase in the size of their green economies, particularly through city support to create clusters of green companies. Working with the private sector, particularly on clustering, and determining the size and scale of the green economies in C40 Cities is a key part of the work of this network.

Sustainable Infrastructure Finance

The Sustainable Infrastructure Finance Network supports the efforts of C40 Cities to fund and implement critical infrastructure needed – across the transportation, buildings, energy, water and waste sectors as well as climate adaptation – to become more sustainable and resilient. Working with expert partners, the network seeks to find optimal financing solutions for different infrastructure challenges – including functionality, efficiency and resiliency – taking into account ease of implementation, the powers available to city mayors, the potential impact the infrastructure could have on a global level and the degree to which the financing mechanism can be replicated across C40 Cities.

Where optimal financing mechanisms for particular types of projects do not exist, the network will work with partners to develop new and innovative sources of finance, having the potential to transform city infrastructure development.

Earlier this year, C40 Cities convened during a C40 event during Global Infrastructure Basel’s annual summit. In-person interaction provided a valuable opportunity for C40 city officials to share their most urgent infrastructure financing challenges, interests, and potential solutions and present innovative projects to an audience of potential investors and capital providers.

World Bank Partnership

In 2011, C40 and the World Bank announced a groundbreaking partnership to enable megacities to expand mitigation and adaptation actions whilst also strengthening economies, reducing poverty and protecting vulnerable populations. It aims to address structural issues that make it difficult for cities to finance key climate actions. One year on, the two organizations launched, as envisioned, the first phase of a “one window process” through which C40 Cities in developing regions can access World Bank climate change-related capacity-building and technical assistance programs, as well as climate finance initiatives.


C40 understands that different cities face different challenges when it comes to green growth and infrastructure finance. The networks are designed to be inclusive to all interested cities, whilst also responding to the specific needs of individual groups of cities.

C40 Cities recognise the huge potential waiting to be unlocked with this Initiative. We look forward to working with our cities to deliver on our shared and transformative aspirations.

James Alexander is Director of the Finance and Economic Development Initiative for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. Prior to joining C40, James served as Senior Policy Manager and Head of the London office for the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, where he advised the Scottish Government and other key stakeholders on the actions and priorities needed to create sustainable economic prosperity for Scotland. As a major part of this role, James worked with the Leaders of Scotland’s cities to develop the Cities Strategy for Scotland and setup and lead a new Scottish Cities Alliance focused on creating the conditions for and delivering additional investment into Scotland’s cities, building economic growth and creating new jobs. James has also led international trade missions to the Middle East, including Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi, and also very recently to Istanbul, one of the C40 cities.

As well as experience in economic development and sustainability, James also has considerable experience in the skills sector, including two years as President of the National Union of Students in Scotland.