written by
Denise Jacobs

Stronger together: How cross-city collaboration benefits climate action 🤝

Climate Action 5 min read , November 30, 2020
  • Our cities are on the front lines in the fight against climate change but city climate teams are working alone with minimal support or collaboration.
  • We discuss the many benefits of cross-city collaboration on climate change actions in this article.
  • Connecting to a community of other city officials is now possible through FutureproofedCities.
Work together to fight against climate change as part of your climate action collaborative
Connect to a community of other city officials in the FutureproofedCities tool.

“The battle for the planet will be won or lost in cities”. Sounds like it could be the tagline for a ‘90’s blockbuster movie. 🎬 The reality? It’s a very real statement from the Coalition for Urban Transitions. Their 2019 report - Climate Emergency, Urban Opportunity – outlines how “governments can secure economic prosperity and avert climate catastrophe by transforming cities”. The report highlights the need for a strong collaborative on climate action across national, regional, and local governments. Cross-city collaboration is a key aspect of this which can bring many benefits to a city’s climate change response.

🌍 It’s a lonely world.

Covid forced offices to close and hopefully by now most of us have moved from the kitchen table. While there are many benefits, working from home leaves us much more isolated compared to the traditional office environment. No chats at the water cooler, no team catch ups over lunch…the list goes on. This will be new for most people. For city climate teams working on climate, however, they might be well used to this solitary working environment.

It’s usually just one person working behind the scenes to coordinate a city’s climate action plan. Getting support or collaborating internally isn’t common, especially in smaller cities, with limited resources. Collaboration has sometimes been a struggle for city teams and now COVID-19 has made it much harder. External conferences and meetings have been canceled which has taken away opportunities for different city teams to share best practices and learn from each other. The isolated nature of this work is unsustainable and ultimately hinders our collective response to climate change.

😀 Rewards of cross-city collaboration

Forming partnerships and collaborating with other cities on climate change makes sense. “Two heads are better than one” and a city that works with other cities is more likely to achieve greater results than working alone.

What benefits will collaboration bring?

  • 💡Knowledge Sharing – Cities can help each other with climate action best practices. For example, one city might have experience on housing retrofit projects, while another has more experience on sustainable transport. The two combined will have a greater wealth of experience in different areas that can complement each other’s climate actions.
  • 💰 Reduced Costs – There are many opportunities for a city to save on costs by working with other cities. For example, cities will often outsource work to sustainability advisors or consultants. Cities who group together will have more leverage negotiating the costs with consultants and can avoid a duplication of efforts.
  • ✊ Political Influence – A collective of cities that are aligned on goals have a much better chance of influencing national or state policies to help them achieve their goals.
  • 📈 Greater Investment – Cities that band together can have greater success in raising investment or grants for climate action projects. For example, an energy efficiency fund setup across a number of cities will have greater diversification, which should result in lower costs of capital.

Overall, a successful cross-city climate action collaborative contributes to larger city transformations and a greater impact across the world.

🏙️ Which cities are leading by example?

In Europe, a small number of cities are already realizing the benefits of cross-city collaboration. Not strictly a city perspective, but a good example of this would be when municipalities in the Halle-Vilvoorde district, Belgium got together to run a thermographic imaging project. The goal of the project was to map heat loss in their communities. This would then allow residents to make more informed decisions on energy use and retrofitting their homes.

The result was a successful collaboration of municipalities on climate action. Cost savings were made due to the commercial leverage that was achieved through group purchasing. The project was so successful that it was repeated the following year with four additional municipalities signing up.

🤝 A sense of community

One of our goals at FutureproofedCities is to break down communication barriers between cities—get them talking and sharing information with each other. We tackle this problem in a number of ways and to create a strong ‘community feel’ for our customers. How do we do this?

Well, the FutureproofedCities digital platform is the main route to creating this ‘sense of community’. In the tool, our customers can freely connect with one another, post questions they may have on climate action, receive advice on best practices, and so on. This is a peer-to-peer style sharing approach. To give an idea what this looks like – check out the screenshot below. 👇

FutureproofedCities, your digital climate action collaborative between cities
Collaborate with your peers in the FutureproofedCities tool.

The platform also allows for a more systematic approach to sharing information between cities. If someone is responsible for a group of cities, they can use the platform to quickly identify which cities would work well together. For example, if a city is struggling to roll out an EV infrastructure, the user can easily connect them with a city that has already led a successful EV implementation project in the tool.

Outside the platform, we also organize networking events for our customers. Twice a year we bring together all users during our FutureproofedCities Talks. These events have proven very popular even though they have now moved to a largely virtual setting. But we hope to be back at our usual locations soon!

😁 Remember the five ‘C’s

Cross-City Collaboration on Climate Change. Too much alliteration? Maybe… but the message is clear. To tackle climate change head-on, we need our cities to work together. Over three quarters of global carbon emissions originate in our cities. Reducing those emissions will be a huge task but the good news is global cities are all quite similar when it comes to emissions. This means that the climate actions that cities need to take are all similar too.

We need to stop reinventing the wheel and start transforming our cities. If a city comes up with a ‘silver bullet’ to reduce transport emissions, it should be shared, right? 🤔 Sharing best practices, innovations, and ideas will be a win-win for us all, with the prospect of cleaner, more prosperous, and livable cities, on the horizon. The only certainty is that no city will be successful on their own.

Denise is the lead of Customer Success at Futureproofed. She coaches cities and regions to reach more climate action with FutureproofedCities. When she's not hard at work supporting and inspiring cities to become more sustainable, she can be found cycling, dancing, or painting her cat.

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