Climate Smart Cities

Climate-change risks require a global response, but urban areas in developing countries can be particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise, storm surge, and natural disasters. Urban areas produce the lion’s share of most countries’ non-extractive GDP, but the dense concentrations of people and infrastructure that make this possible have to be protected. The Climate Smart Cities initiative supports cities by helping identify key vulnerabilities, by generating data on climate risks, by helping find key vulnerabilities in urban infrastructure, by helping design projects to protect those vulnerable points, and by building capacity to manage and implement those projects.

The Climate Smart Cities initiative promotes adaptive strategies with strong co-benefits. Urban areas need physical resilience to survive immediate physical threats, but they also have to build social, economic, and ecosystem resilience in order to survive and thrive in the long term. The Climate Smart Cities initiative recognizes that investments to protect against short-term risk have to build long-term prosperity. The initiative focuses on projects with strong economic spillovers, particularly for the most vulnerable populations. This includes ecosystem restoration projects, physical barriers such as seawalls and groins, systemic resilience projects for water and power, and urban-development projects that build long-term capacity to reduce GHG emissions and create more economically vibrant human settlements.

The initiative uses an innovative capacity-building strategy, partnering government officials with international consultants during project design. This direct engagement helps officials fully own the resulting project, which contributes to political buy-in, funding, and eventual implementation. At the same time, the team in the field engages with a broad cross section of society—from shack dwellers in informal settlements to business owners—so that the final projects are truly representative of the needs of the city and the country.

This approach has been piloted in Grenada, with the support of the Green Climate Fund. The Climate Smart Cities: Grenada program has developed an integrated investment portfolio of nine climate projects, focused on the national capital of St. George’s and Grenada’s second city, Grenville. These projects have been endorsed at the highest level and are now a key part of the national development strategy for 2030. When implemented, they will help the Government of Grenada build resilience to the threats of climate change: Sea-level rise that will top two meters by 2080, storm surge that is already damaging coastal infrastructure, temperature increase that is harming crops, and precipitation changes that are leading to drought and flooding. The projects will also create thousands of jobs for local residents, improve the environmental resilience of peri-urban areas, create major new public spaces, reduce traffic congestion, and revitalize a historic center.

We are a committed long-term partner in this work. Now that project design is complete, the Marron Institute team is helping the government seek funds for implementation from the IMF, World Bank, and other partners. Our team will remain engaged as an implementing partner.

New programs in other countries are currently being discussed, along with a regional approach that would scale the methodology to the entire Caribbean.