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How Will Philadelphia Finance Climate Change?

December 26, 2023

Philadelphia downtown street with historic City Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Philadelphia downtown street with historic City Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Although cities will need $5.4 trillion annually through 2030 to combat climate change, they are currently receiving just 1% of those funds, writes Prof. Bill Burke-White.

Recently at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Professor of Law Bill Burke-White explored how cities like Philadelphia can marshal needed resources to finance investments to combat climate risks.

Burke-White co-authored the piece with Eugenie Birch, Nussdorf Professor and codirector of the Penn Institute of Urban Research and Mauricio Rodas, a visiting scholar at the Penn Institute of Urban Research, the former mayor of Quito, Ecuador, and the secretariat of the SDSN Global Commission on Urban SDG Finance.

The world has likely failed to achieve the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As nations have reported their efforts to limit greenhouse gas and to adapt to the effects of global warming, they have largely neglected to take cities into account, despite the fact that cities are responsible for 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and are home to more than half of the world’s population.

Bill Burke-White, Professor of Law But a bit of good news is emerging from COP28, the U.N. climate conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This glaring neglect of cities is on course to be remedied thanks to the work of such important mayoral advocacy groups as C-40, of which Philadelphia is a founding member, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and business groups including the Sustainable Markets Initiative, a coalition of major insurance companies.

One notable development is the launch of a new effort to support multilevel partnerships to address climate change that brings together national, regional, and local governments. The Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships encompasses over 60 nations’ commitments to a new reporting process that will account, for the first time, for cities’ contributions to climate adaptation and mitigation.

Second is a recognition of the scale of funding required to facilitate cities’ climate action and the first steps to bringing much-needed resources to local-level programs. The Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance — a coalition of more than 80 public and private finance institutions, governments, and research groups — announced its recent findings that across the globe, cities will need $5.4 trillion annually through 2030 to adapt to changing climate realities. Yet today they are receiving only 1% of those funds.

Philadelphia offers a telling example. The city has recognized the local impact of climate change and is developing integrated strategies and programs to adapt.

The 2021 “Philadelphia Climate Action Playbook” offers a series of plans to “reduce carbon pollution” and “prepare Philadelphia for a hotter, wetter future.”

Read the full piece at The Philadelphia Inquirer.