With rising sea levels, the Maldives is building a floating city

With rising sea levels, the Maldives is building a floating city

This article is part of the the Virtual Ocean Dialogues and is by Natalie Marchant, Writer, Formative Content, gives us a good picture of this conjecture, i.e. what is going on at the periphery of the MENA region. Here it is with rising sea levels, and the Maldives is building a floating city.

Threatened by rising sea levels, the Maldives is building a floating city

19 May 2021

  • The waterfront residences will float on a flexible grid across a 200-hectare lagoon.
  • Such innovative developments could prove vital in helping atoll nations, such as the Maldives, fight the impact of climate change.
  • A Dutch company is also testing the technology in the Netherlands.

The atoll nation of Maldives is creating an innovative floating city that mitigates the effects of climate change and stays on top of rising sea levels.

The Maldives Floating City is designed by Netherlands-based Dutch Docklands and will feature thousands of waterfront residences and services floating along a flexible, functional grid across a 200-hectare lagoon.

Such a development is particularly vital for countries such as Maldives – an archipelago of 25 low-lying coral atolls in the Indian Ocean that is also the lowest-lying nation in the world.

More than 80% of the country’s land area lies at less than one metre above sea level – meaning rising sea levels and coastal erosion pose a threat to its very existence.

With rising sea levels, the Maldives is building a floating city
Image of the Maldives Floating City
Inspired by nature.Image: Maldives Floating City (gallery)

Sustainable design

Developed with the Maldives government, the first-of-its kind “island city” will be based in a warm-water lagoon just 10 minutes by boat from the capital Male and its international airport.

Dutch Docklands worked with urban planning and architecture firm Waterstudio, which is developing floating social housing in the Netherlands, to create a water-based urban grid built to evolve with the changing needs of the country.

Maldives thrives on tourism and the same coral reefs that attract holiday makers also provide the inspiration for much of the development. The hexagon-shaped floating segments are, in part, modelled on the distinctive geometry of local coral.

These are connected to a ring of barrier islands, which act as breakers below the water, thereby lessening the impact of lagoon waves and stabilizing structures on the surface.

“The Maldives Floating City does not require any land reclamation, therefore has a minimal impact on the coral reefs,” says Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives, speaker of parliament and Climate Vulnerable Forum Ambassador for Ambition.

“What’s more, giant new reefs will be grown to act as water breakers. Our adaptation to climate change mustn’t destroy nature but work with it, as the Maldives Floating City proposes. In the Maldives, we cannot stop the waves, but we can rise with them.”

With rising sea levels, the Maldives is building a floating city
Image of how the Maldives floating city is expected to look
Construction on the floating city is expected to start next year.Image: Maldives Floating City (gallery)

Affordable homes

The islands’ seafaring past also influenced the design of the buildings, which will all be low-rise and face the sea.

A network of bridges, canals and docks will provide access across the various segments and connect shops, homes and services across the lagoon.

Construction is due to start in 2022 and the development will be completed in phases over the next five years – with a hospital and school eventually being built.

Renewable energy will power the city through a smart grid and homes will be priced from $250,000 in a bid to attract a wide range of buyers including local fishermen, who have called the area home for centuries.

Rising sea levels

In March, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned that oceans were under threat like never before and emphasized the increasing risk of rising sea levels.

Around 40% of the global population live within 100 kilometres of the coast.

WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas said there was an “urgent need” to protect communities from coastal hazards, such as waves, storm surge and sea level rise via multi-hazard warning systems and forecasting.

Atoll nations are even more at risk than other island-based countries, with the Maldives one of just a handful – alongside Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific – that have built societies on the coral-and-sand rims of sunken volcanoes.

So-called king tides – which can wash over parts of habitable land – and the storms that drive them are getting higher and more intense due to climate change.

Connecting communities for ocean resilience

The World Economic Forum, Friends of Ocean Action and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean will explore how to take bold action for a healthy, resilient and thriving seas during the Virtual Ocean Dialogues 2021 on 25-27 May.

The online event will focus on the vital importance of mainstreaming the ocean in global environment-focused forums and summits – from climate and biodiversity, to food and science.

My Say: Sustainable finance a lever for growth

My Say: Sustainable finance a lever for growth

Arina Kok of The Edge Malaysia in My Say: Sustainable finance a lever for growth, demonstrates how sustainability should be omnipresent in all development plans thinking as well as implementation.

Recent studies show that future years will be hotter than ever, and growing pressure from all sides to go beyond beautifully designed sustainability reports would be a must.
Consumers and suppliers ought not to just value sustainability; they should prepare to pay for it. For instance, assets in dedicated sustainable investment strategies went over $1 trillion by June 2020.

In January, the country was badly hit by floods that displaced nearly 50,000 people. This exacerbated the impact of Covid-19 on struggling businesses, livelihoods, the healthcare system and the economy.


My Say: Sustainable finance a lever for growth

The pandemic aside, the Malaysian economy had suffered RM8 billion worth of damages, owing to climate-related events between 1998 and 2018. Given the rising magnitude and frequency of climate risks and their impact on businesses and society, the call to action is clear — strong cooperation between financial institutions and policymakers, businesses and society will be critical to drive the coordinated transition to a resilient and low-carbon economy.

To accelerate the transition, increased mobilisation of sustainable finance is needed to fund mitigation initiatives such as clean energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport, and adaptation initiatives such as disaster management, infrastructure upgrade and sustainable land use.

Sustainable finance can be defined as any form of financial service that incentivises the integration of long-term environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into business decisions, with the goal of providing more equitable, sustainable and inclusive benefits to companies, communities and society.

While negative screening, such as absolute avoidance of activities, and thematic investing in selected sectors, such as clean energy, are commonly practised in sustainable finance, there is also a growing focus on diversifying sustainable financial practices into three other areas:

  •     ESG integration — incorporating ESG information and analysis into investment decisions with the objective of enhancing risk-adjusted returns;
  •      Impact investing — targeting positive measurable ESG impact alongside financial returns; and
  •      Norm-based screening and best-in-class (positive) screening according to defined ESG criteria.

Risk aside, climate change also presents opportunities to increase the range of financial products and services for renewable energy, green buildings and climate-smart agriculture and cities. The International Energy Agency projects the need for US$3.5 trillion (RM14.4 trillion) in annual global investments to build the infrastructure for a green economy.

Our World in Data, publisher of research and date of the world’s largest problems, found that the cost of solar and wind power plummeted at a staggering rate between 2009 and 2019, with the price of new solar falling by 89% and the price of onshore wind by 70%. It is now cheaper to invest in new renewables than in new coal power in every major energy market in the world, and soon it will be cheaper to build new renewables than to continue operating existing coal plants.

As markets advance in factoring ESG into risk-adjusted returns and more sustainable funds build competitive performance records, the lingering doubts about sustainable finance will diminish. According to S&P Global Trucost, over the past six years, the Standard & Poor’s 500 SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) portfolio increased by 136.2%. This compares with the S&P 500 portfolio, which generated a return of 125.8%. The research also indicated that companies with a higher proportion of their revenues coming from SDG-related products and services tend to outperform those with a lower proportion of their revenues.

Challenges

The challenges in driving sustainable finance lie in having a clear direction and incentives to pivot from traditional investing strategies. The availability of quality ESG information is also an ongoing challenge, as most businesses are at different maturity levels in managing and reporting on ESG practices. While regulatory and market standards continue to be developed, a coordinated transition requires a system-wide engagement and effective reporting policies to be implemented.

In response to the need for common industry standards and frameworks, Bank Negara Malaysia is collaborating with the local financial industry to issue Value-based Intermediation Financing and Investment Impact Assessment Framework (VBIAF) guides for the different sectors.

The sectoral guides will facilitate the practical implementation measures pursued by the Joint Committee on Climate Change, including the Climate Change and Principle-Based Taxonomy that will be finalised soon. The first set of VBIAF sectoral guides on palm oil, renewable energy and energy efficiency was issued on March 31, while the second set for the oil and gas, manufacturing, construction and infrastructure industries will be issued by year end.

The right strategy

With increasing pressure from the regulators, investors, organisations and society need to clearly define their sustainable finance strategies, resilience to emerging risks and their role in the global transition to the green economy. Successful sustainable finance strategies will be those that are actionable.

Setting the right strategy starts with defining just where and how organisations should engage in sustainability. It is not just a matter of figuring out the right policies, but of identifying the right actions to make sustainable finance a lever for growth. The board and senior management will have to think about the organisation’s purpose and mission. The right answers will help define sustainability goals that suit the organisation — those that are measurable, authentic, achievable, meaningful and aligned with stakeholders’ needs.

The right strategy is essential because greening the economy has huge potential upsides and may be the greatest commercial opportunity of our age.

This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly of 10 to 16 May 2021.


Arina Kok is a director of Ernst & Young Advisory Services Sdn Bhd’s climate change and sustainability services (CCaSS) practice. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms. This is the second of a three-part series on sustainability in conjunction with Earth Day 2021.

Geospatial technology indispensable for building a sustainable world

Geospatial technology indispensable for building a sustainable world

GIS has a role everywhere, whether it is an understanding change in crop patterns, assessing water availability, or implementing climate models. Geospatial technology indispensable for building a sustainable world.

Thus wrote Pushpendra Johari in the Financial Express. But shouldn’t we need to accelerate digital adoption in line with the SDGs In any case and without further ado, here is the story.

Geospatial technology indispensable for building a sustainable world

By Pushpendra Johari

The application of geospatial technologies for sustainable development is emerging fast. (The image above is by NITI Aayog)

We all are aware of the earth’s constantly changing landscape. Humans are selfishly moving ahead to grow themselves at the cost of nature, causing overpopulation, deforestation, rapid urbanisation, and industrialization. These activities have been exhausting our natural resources and changing climate by pushing pollutants into the environment. Sadly, climate change is happening faster than we can even imagine. It’s making the earth more vulnerable to disasters and affecting our very existence. It is time we think about building a sustainable world to cater to these changing geological dynamics.

Building a sustainable world entails effective planning that every human action should ascertain its impact on the environment before any implementation. Policies should drive this thinking. Only if we take care of our planet, the planet will take care of us.

Environmental issues are spatial in nature that drive “what” might happen, “where”, “when”, and “how much”. So, we need to align our thinking to these criteria and do our planning considering them. This is where technologies like ‘’geospatial’’ come to our rescue. Geospatial technologies provide us tools to capture information about any location on the earth’s surface, whether historical, real-time, geological, or climate-related.

The application of geospatial technologies for sustainable development is emerging fast. It is helping us in getting solutions to the issues revolving around climate change, natural calamities, food security, and human habitation.

Tracing “where” element for food security and addressing climate induced changes

Climate change is impacting the entire food system by affecting its availability, accessibility, quality, and utilization. It’s influencing the weather patterns and changing the suitability of the crops that are currently grown in certain areas, impacting the crop yields because of hydro-meteorological events, and causing soil erosion.

So, how do we tackle such issues? Here, the “where” element is of high significance. GIS enables comprehensive assessment and monitoring of environmental conditions related to sustainable agriculture development and food security.

GIS helps answer some of the toughest agri-related questions such as developing smart agri systems for crop diversification/shifting, development of an application for climate-resilient seeds, irrigation planning, groundwater storage, fertilizers and pesticides based on climatic conditions, yield forecasting, crop acreage, mapping crop vulnerability, etc.,

Availability of water has a strong bearing on food security. Climate projections reveal that water is going to be scarce in the future. So, it is becoming important to understand water availability to address food security issues. For instance, to understand the crop shifts, GIS-based water availability modelling is applied to evaluate the current situation of a crop and where it can be grown in the future.

GIS has a role everywhere, whether it is an understanding change in crop patterns, assessing water availability, or implementing climate models. It is required to ascertain everything on the surface of the earth.

Assessing natural disasters

As a result of climate change, the rainfall patterns have changed from longer spans of milder rains to very short span of high-intensity rainfall, rising temperature on land and ocean, and melting glaciers. All this is driving the severity of floods, cyclones, droughts, and potential of sea-level rise. The severity and frequency of flood and cyclone events in India have increased in recent years. For instance, the recurring flood like conditions in Mumbai every year, Hyderabad floods (October 2020), Assam Floods (July 2020), Cyclone Amphan (May 2020), Cyclone Fani (May 2019), Chennai Floods (December 2015), and J&K Flood (March 2015).

Since the rainfall pattern has changed, mechanisms needs to be developed to store excessive water effectively for future. Using GIS, we can identify locations to harvest the excessive rain/flood water and create ponds, lakes, and reservoirs.

Geospatial technology is helping create flood forecasting models and early warning systems. A flood forecasting system is an automated software that monitors real-time rainfall and water levels and combines it with forecasted rainfall to generate flood extents and depths to identify potential risk areas.

Additionally, cyclone is another hazard experienced by our country. GIS based scientific cyclone models can estimate cyclone events related parameters such as from where they originated, speed of the wind, surge height, likely landfall points and areas at risk. Thus, helping enhance the Government’s preparedness, recovery and response to the events, safeguarding human life and infrastructure.

Building resilient infrastructure

Estimates reveal that by 2050, 7 out of 10 people across the globe will be living in urban areas. To manage rising urbanization, it is essential to design and implement programs based on understanding the frequency and magnitude of climate events and how they are likely to change in the future. For instance, the extremely severe cyclonic storm ‘FANI’ in 2019 caused massive infrastructural damage in Odisha. It took nearly 40 days to restore power.

Disaster mitigation, prevention, preparedness, and emergency response can be planned with a prior risk assessment. But how do we assess these risks? The primary information is to know where our infrastructure elements are and relate their key characteristics to the potential hazard intensities. GIS help us to build detailed repository of all infrastructure elements along with key attributes. Understanding of the hazard intensities developed using GIS based techniques when applied to the infrastructure attributes helps to understand their risk better and plan for actions that can reduce those risks.

Mapping renewable energy

As human civilisation is growing, our energy needs are also growing at a phenomenal pace. With excessive energy consumption, it’s time we switch to renewable energy and use what’s naturally available to us in the form of sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, biomass, and thermal energy. But where do we find these resources in abundance? How do we harness that resource in a specific area? GIS technology helps in making this decision quicker and simpler. It aids policymakers and decision-makers in identifying the right location for renewable energy based power generation.

For instance, to establish a renewable energy plant in any area, GIS techniques can derive insights on the wind and solar potential, distance from cities, and socio-economic impact. This analysis shares a clear picture of which location would be ideal for implementing a renewable energy power plant. For resilient consumption, GIS plays an effective role by determining where to focus and how to manage these resources. Geospatial technology showcases the potential for sustainable energy resources.

Deregulating use of geospatial data – What the future holds

With so many technological interventions in store for building a better and sustainable future, the recent policy on deregulation of geospatial data has unlocked socio-economic opportunities necessary for sustainable development. The new policy will not only spur innovation but open several avenues for sustainable developmental initiatives. The changes in the deregulation will help in generation of high-resolution data sets like digital terrain models, bathymetry, soil maps, street view maps etc. that will play a very critical role in taking this sustainable development charter forward.

A highly accurate digital data infrastructure will provide a much-needed thrust in terms of availability and enhancement of high-resolution location data for the country, enabling several Indian companies to create world-class maps and mapping technologies.

In addition, the high-quality location data will help improve the accuracy of real-time measures to safeguard the public from disasters and climate change crisis. This is likely to accelerate scientific research and innovative practices to plan better disaster assessment and mitigation strategies.

This open access to geospatial data will ensure informed decision-making and help accomplish Sustainable Development Goals by boosting environment informed development of resilient infrastructure, public sector services, and food security in the country.

(The author is Senior VP – Sustainability at RMSI. Views expressed are personal.)

How to build sustainable cities

How to build sustainable cities

Construction Kenya’s INSIGHTS advises as to how to build sustainable cities for the good of all. Still, in an era of rapid urbanisation, we witness increasing demand for additional housing, infrastructure, transport and green spaces. We can only agree on how all around the world thinkers can help tackle these challenges.

How to build sustainable cities

More than 66% of humanity projected to live in urban areas by 2050.

By Jane Mwangasha

In the next thirty years, more than two thirds of humanity is projected to live in urban areas with most of the urban population growth expected to happen in lower income nations.

With that in mind, there is an urgent need for planners to ensure that urban areas are inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient enough to meet the anticipated population growth.

But what makes a city liveable? While there is no single magical bullet, cities can make themselves more habitable by adopting a range of social and technological measures.

Here are 10 ways to build more sustainable cities:

1. Clean energy

Although most cities can generate clean energy, their high level of power consumption means the metropolises are unlikely to be self-sufficient in terms of energy production. 

However, cities can lower their carbon footprints by, among other things, converting sunshine into electricity; using timber from local forests to produce low-carbon energy for heating and electricity generation; and using solar to heat buildings and water.

Converting waste into energy is also a great step towards improving a city. The Indonesian city of Sodong, for example, has implemented an air-filled waste disposal system that uses pipes to suck trash from homes into processing centres that automatically sort the material to recycle and turn it into renewable energy.

London Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, uses “springy” tiles to harness the kinetic energy in foot traffic and convert it into electricity.

Such innovations can help cities to become more sustainable.

2. Efficient buildings

Buildings consume most of a city’s energy intake while emitting large quantities of carbon. Cities should encourage the design and construction of efficient buildings – which are often more cost-effective and functional compared to installation of costly devices for clean energy production.

Creating efficient buildings involves the insulation of walls, windows, and roofs, and operating energy-efficient lighting and heating systems.

Passive House in Darmstadt, Germany, is a great example of energy efficient building. The ultra-low energy house is so highly insulated that it requires no heating or cooling.

Singapore and New York have shown the world how small initiatives such as painting roofs white and planting trees can reduce city temperatures by up to 2°C – thereby cutting a city’s energy consumption.

In Scandinavian and eastern European countries, hot water for heating is distributed to buildings through insulated pipes underneath the streets. The water is heated using energy generated from extremely efficient power stations that generate both heat and electricity.

3. Efficient transportation

While vehicles, trains and aeroplanes facilitate the smooth running of a city, the transport systems can cause traffic congestion, poor air quality and gas emissions. 

To minimise the number of cars on the road, some cities have formulated ideas that can be adopted in other parts of the world.

The Scottish city of Edinburgh, for example, has developed one of the largest car-sharing clubs in the UK, which allows members to use cars only when they need to.

Singapore and London have designed high-quality bus and underground rail systems, as well as low-emission areas where only electric vehicles are permitted.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, cycle commuting is highly encouraged with cyclists given priority at traffic lights throughout the city.

4. Urban agriculture

The food we eat comes with a carbon footprint, which is worse if the produce travels hundreds of miles to reach us. It is therefore a great idea to encourage urban farming to ensure local sourcing of foodstuffs.

Urban farmers such as US-based Aero Farms are already embracing vertical farming solutions to produce food in cities. Vertical farming produces crops on stacked layers, often on skyscrapers, instead of on a single layer in either an open field or a greenhouse.

Advances in lighting and automation, as well as other factors such as reduced use of pesticides, enable vertical farmers to make higher profits than traditional farmers.

5. Sharing spaces

City residents around the world are reducing the carbon footprint of consumption through sharing of resources. It is increasingly common to find inhabitants engaging in carpooling, lodging rental and shared ownership of facilities such as gyms and lounges.

6. Design for social integration

Once considered the world’s most dangerous city, Colombian city of Medellin has transformed itself by focusing on architecture and design.

The city has adopted the use of shared spaces and improved public transport to blur economic boundaries and create a sense of connection among its residents.

7. Mobility on demand

Smartphone-assisted traffic management and car routing can reduce time and fuel wasted trying to navigate through congested cities.

Likewise, self-driving vehicles and carpooling can increase efficiency by maximising use of vehicles and reducing the need for space to park idle cars.

8. Nature-based solutions

Nature-based solutions to urban problems can help cities to tackle climate change while reducing disaster risks.

New York City’s greened rooftops and streets that can better manage storm water runoff and improve urban climate are a great example of natured-based solutions.

Another great example is China’s introduction of the concept of ‘sponge cities’, cities with open spaces that can soak up floodwater and prevent disaster in ecologically friendly ways.

9. Pocket parks

In densely populated cities such as San Francisco, local authorities have put in place small green spaces that help to increase green cover while providing recreation space to residents.

Most pocket parks re-use spaces that previously served other purposes — for example, rehabilitated street parking spaces or a public right-of-way that was earlier used for transportation.

10. Pervious concrete

Pervious concrete is a mixture of cement, coarse aggregate, water and admixture, with little or no fine aggregates. It is designed to allow water to penetrate the asphalt for absorption by the earth. This can help cities to tackle flash floods and worsening quality of water in river courses and so on.

Hailed as one of the most promising sustainable material today, pervious concrete has outstanding potential to counteract these adverse impacts while providing necessary structural integrity, thus supporting continued urbanization.

Cities look to climate-friendly greenbacks to fund smart projects

Cities look to climate-friendly greenbacks to fund smart projects

Special Reports in Cities look to climate-friendly greenbacks to fund smart projects by Sue Weekes, News editor, Smart Cities World, is more and more evident all over the developed world. It is like a salvation tendency aimed at the assurance of a viable future. It is how the world chooses to respond in the coming years to avoid human activity-induced climate change that has massive repercussions for generations yet to be born.

The idea has already been covered in our Green and Climate Resilient Development but will it be implemented. Let us see the details of what is proposed.

Cities look to climate-friendly greenbacks to fund smart projects 

With technology set to play a key part in the global recovery from the pandemic, we explore evolving funding methods that are helping cash-strapped cities get smart.

Cities look to climate-friendly greenbacks to fund smart projects
Green finance options will increasingly become part of the funding mix

There is a certain irony in the situation that having stalled many smart city projects around the world in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to prove the catalyst for accelerating programmes via stimulus and recovery packages.

While technology doesn’t hold all the answers when it comes to helping cities recover and build back better, world leaders clearly recognise the important part it must play.

Recovery packages

US president Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan outlined in March has been the most notable stimulus package to date and ticks many boxes when it comes to core to smart city areas: $100bn for broadband internet; $100bn for electric grid and clean energy; $174bn for electric vehicle incentives, $85bn for public transit, $50bn for disaster resilience of infrastructure; and $20bn for road safety.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) pledged a similarly unprecedented package worth €1.8 trillion to help the continent recover, with the centrepiece of NextGenerationEU funding the Recovery and Resilience Facility. This will provide €672.5 billion in loans and grants available to support reforms and investments undertaken by EU countries. Its ultimate goal is to make European economies and societies “more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions”.

“Covid has slowed down many projects due to the paralysis in procurement processes,” says Alicia Asín, CEO of Libelium, which develops and deploys Internet of Things (IoT) sensors for a range of smart city applications. “Now we expect that NextGenEUrope funds to help incentivise and accelerate projects again. Those funds are a great tool to make a difference moving forward from proof-of-concept phase to production.”

These sentiments are echoed by Murali Krishnan, senior industry analyst at growth strategy and research firm, Frost & Sullivan, who also witnessed the abrupt halting of smart city infrastructure development as economic growth dwindled in several economies and governments were forced to reduce spending. “Government financing will continue to be the leading funding model globally as government stimulus programmes across major economies have been initiated to drive economic growth,” he says. “Such stimulus programmes include digitisation and technological spending complementing the rise of smart cities.

Government financing is ideal for projects that have low economic viability but strong social need

“For instance, China rejuvenated its ‘new infrastructure initiative’ post Covid, with announcements to increase investments across 5G, smart grids, data centres, and other smart city initiatives.”

Technology has come to many cities’ aid during the global pandemic and will be key to their recovery, but critical challenges that existed before the pandemic such as digital divides, climate change, congestion and poor air quality, haven’t gone away. As Michael Huerta, former acting US secretary of transportation and administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, who recently joined the board of directors of mobility analytics company StreetLight Data, points out proper consideration must now be given to how best to channel this money.

 “In the transportation arena, the [United States] administration has talked about making smarter investments that not only address mobility needs, but at the same time help advance our climate and social equity goals,” he says. “This presents an opportunity to reimagine what we invest in and to talk about how smart city projects can address all three of these goals.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand for mobility, and I do expect an acceleration of projects overall.  The key will be to address needs in ways that have broad support.”

Green funding

 Alongside stimulus funding, green banks and other more sustainable funding models are likely to become part of the mix. A green bank is a public, semi-public or not-for-profit institution that offers a variety of financial products focusing specifically on climate mitigation projects, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes.

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is among those calling for a “green and just” recovery. In November last year, it urged leaders to explore the use of city green banks as a mechanism to deliver a Covid-19 recovery plan that prioritises the environment and local communities. Its step-by-step guide, Establishing a City Green Bank, is based on the experiences of major locally operating green banks.

 “City-level green banks have the potential to deliver low-cost investment through a self-sustaining mechanism, offering long-term environmental, social and economic benefits for people,” said Claire Markgraf, head of financing of C40 Cities’ Sustainable Cities Initiative.

 Banks are also launching greener and more socially responsible funding initiatives that aim to help the private sector fund smart city technologies. At the end of 2020, the United Overseas Bank in Asia launched the UOB Smart City Sustainable Finance Framework  to make sustainable financing more accessible to companies that are helping to create smart cities.

 The framework is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is supported through the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s green and sustainability-linked loan grant scheme.

Covid has slowed down many projects due to the paralysis in procurement processes

It sets out the criteria that the bank’s corporate and institutional clients must meet when accessing a range of products, from green- or sustainability-linked loans and trade finance facilities to other sustainable banking products. Under the framework, businesses must also be able to demonstrate how their activities promote a better quality of life for residents through renewable energy, green building construction, improved energy efficiency, green transportation, sustainable water and waste management and/or climate change adaptation.

 Meanwhile, cities in developing countries around the world have seen the benefits of support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), set up in 2010. A critical element of the historic Paris Agreement and the world’s largest climate fund. it is mandated to support developing countries raise and realise their ambitions towards low-emissions, climate-resilient pathways. The GCF’s current portfolio features 173 projects around the world with a funding commitment of more than $8.3bn.

According to the Saigon Times, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is proposing a major $67.3m smart city project in Can Tho, a city located in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in which the GCF is involved. The report says finance will be sourced from an official development assistance loan of $32.9m from ADB, another loan from the GCF of $7.07m and the city’s reciprocal capital of $20.2m.

The report explains that Can Tho City, the investor of the project, will borrow the money while the Ministry of Finance will sign agreements for borrowing and using the ADB and GCF support on behalf of the government.

Switching mechanisms

Smart city projects can, of course, be funded from multiple sources. Krishnan explains that these can be chosen during different phases of the project depending on a number of factors. “Project initiators must carefully choose funding mechanisms depending on risk appetite and return on investment expectations,” he says, adding: “Direct financing through government allocation or international grants is popular in developing regions, whereas more developed economies often rely more aggressively on revenue-based financing models to build infrastructure.

“Government financing is ideal for projects that have low economic viability but strong social need.

“Public and private partnership (P3) models vary in terms of agreement though they are found commonly in developing and developed regions as a means of financing.”

Huerta is a “big fan” of public-private partnerships and despite recent announcements about federal funding, believes it is important to continue to explore opportunities in this area: “This requires a lot of discussion between cities, investment partners and the larger community about shared goals and objectives, and being willing to hold everyone accountable for meeting them.”

 Transit Wireless, a 5G, neutral host infrastructure provider of wireless, wireline and data-driven solutions to transit operations, has a long-standing public-private partnership with the New York City Metropolitan Transport Authority. In its recently launched white paper Infrastructure in Crisis: How P3 can save critical projects in a post-Covid World, it says P3s “fill budget holes” where cities have limited options to raise revenue. It contends that the P3s that work most successfully today are those that allow a win for all parties – the government entities, private partners and citizens – at a cost and risk model that is sustainable even during the worst fiscal times.

Technology has come to many cities’ aid during the global pandemic and will be key to their recovery

Typically, this sees burden of much of the financing shifting to the private partner. The P3 provides revenue opportunities to municipalities, for instance, advertising on free public wifi or generating revenue from a road toll. The provider also carries the responsibility for the performance of the infrastructure throughout its lifecycle.

The white paper highlights, though, that success of the P3 is reliant on the right mindset and behaviours, as well as a collaborative plan and understanding of the required outcome. “It is imperative that when entering a successful PPP, the public entity and the private entity view each other not as parties on opposite sides of the negotiating table, but as partners who work to achieve the overall goals,” says Melinda White, CEO of Transit Wireless. “The right plan accounts for contingencies should obstacles arise.  When approaching a PPP, it is essential that the company truly understand and deeply connect with the needs of the agency and its operations.”

Going forward, White believes that federal support actually strengthens existing and future and create more opportunities for collaboration. “It will incentivise cities to move ahead with network infrastructure, partner with private companies, and commence the work to build connected communities.”