Billions More Needed to Meet Climate Infrastructure Needs for US Cities: Report


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Dive Brief: A new report from the nonprofit CDP has identified more than 300 sustainable infrastructure projects across 97 US cities, with a crowdfunding and funding gap of at least $10.6 billion. The report, based on 2020 data from the CDP-ICLEI Common Reporting System, found a total of $25.6 billion in sustainable infrastructure funding, from climate adaptation and clean transportation to energy efficiency and water system upgrades. The true national scale of infrastructure needs across the country is likely to be much greater, said Katie Walsh, CDP’s President of Cities, States and Districts for North America. Walsh said the findings should make clear to federal policymakers and investors the scale of infrastructure financing needs in cities. “We want to show how these projects can have an impact on emissions…but also on developing local economies, job creation and racial and social equality,” Walsh said. Dive Insight: The report provided a snapshot of the types of climate infrastructure projects that cities are interested in. Wednesday, the Senate voted to advance a bipartisan infrastructure package, which will include $550 billion in spending on new federal infrastructure. It will now enter into the process of discussions and amendments. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats are pushing a separate $3.5 trillion budget bill that includes more clean energy and climate funding and can pass without any Republican vote under Senate rules. In a letter to Congressional leadership, the 146 mayors of the Climate Mayors group called for an infrastructure package to prioritize programs that allow money to go directly to cities, prioritize disadvantaged communities and include workforce standards that prioritize quality jobs and fair access. “We can tackle climate change, create economic opportunity, and confront injustice all at once with the American Jobs Plan,” the letter reads. “Cities are ready to face this moment and build an inclusive, strong and sustainable economy.” Details are still emerging about what will be funded in each of the federal packages, but the report makes clear that cities have a variety of needs. For example, 24 Midwestern cities in the report disclosed $5.6 billion in water infrastructure projects, including pumping and pipe repair in Cincinnati and a $100 million rain and flood mitigation network in Evanston, Illinois. A separate survey from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSLCI) found that Great Lakes cities will need $2 billion in the next five years to deal with coastal damage. Elsewhere, the CDP study found that cities plan to spend significantly on retrofitting or adding flexibility to existing buildings. In the Northeast, 19 cities reported more than 20 building-related projects, of which nearly half of all sustainability projects were disclosed. “There is no place in the country that will not be affected by climate change and its effects,” Walsh said. “Cities understand the risks and also the kinds of projects that can provide resilience and adaptability. That’s why you see them in all aspects and all sectors.” A CDP report released in May found that 43% of global cities and 40% of 169 US cities that reported the data to the nonprofit organization had no plan to adapt to climate change issues. A quarter of reporting cities said budget constraints are a major barrier to promoting climate adaptation. However, Walsh said, without the Adaptation and Resilience Plan, cities may overlook ways in which climate action can boost their economies or fail to identify infrastructure at risk. CDP offers cities a platform to disclose, measure and manage environmental impact, something the nonprofit says makes local governments more vulnerable to taking action on sustainability and infrastructure. “If you haven’t been benchmarked or developed a risk assessment, you don’t know the kinds of projects that can help you become more resilient and adaptable,” Walsh said. “The question to ask is what about all the cities that are not reporting and identifying these projects.”


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