Empowering Cities: Financing the Climate Transformation

Cities are a major cause of greenhouse gas pollution. However, they are also the places driving change: From modernizing buildings to making mobility sustainable, cities have plenty of tools at their disposal to become climate-neutral. But the ecological transformation is expensive. So where does the money come from?

In this episode, Andreas Horchler talks to two experts in the field: Fritzi Köhler-Geib is chief economist at KfW Group, an important development finance bank. Gereon Uerz is Head of Sustainability at GROPYUS, a building company specializing in sustainable timber construction. Additional experts are Philipp Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities and associate professorial research fellow at the London School of Economics, and Oliver Weigel, head of the division for urban development at the German Ministry of the Interior. 

How can we finance the transformation to the zero carbon city?

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“The most costly scenario of all is doing nothing” – Gereon Uerz

The urban transformation is not going to be cheap.  According to a recent study by the KfW Group, Germany needs five trillion euros in order to become climate neutral by 2050. Instruments both old and new are on the table: From raising taxes to putting a price on carbon to issuing green bonds. The discussants weigh their pros and cons – while making clear: The costliest option would be to continue business as usual.  

The city as a challenge and opportunity

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“If we want to get anywhere, we need to find ways to mobilize larger parts of the society for the energy transitions” – Fritzi Köhler-Geib

“It’s the city, stupid” says Oliver Weigel, raising the point that cities are where we meet the challenges and profit from the opportunities offered by every transformation. Cities thus have the potential to serve as a blueprint for a sustainable future. But this requires bringing in civil society and renegotiating the use of public space, among other things. The transition to climate neutrality is feasible, Fritzi Köhler-Geib emphasizes. The necessary technologies exist. What now needs to be done is to set the right incentives, so that companies will choose climate-neutral technologies over conventional ones.

This episode was produced and first released by the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft, post-production and additional recordings done by Das Progressive Zentrum. 

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive Zentrum, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute. The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

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Democratizing the City

Three New Urban Progress fellows gave lightning talks at Innocracy, an annual conference about democratic innovation

Cities are dynamic networks brimming with social, economic and political life. Yet, how inclusive and reflective are these spaces of everyday people’s interests and needs? Several core aspects of modern urban life, specifically personal data, housing, and the effects of climate change can be improved by democratizing decision-making at the local and city level.

At Innocracy 2021, three New Urban Progress fellows gave “lightning talks” – short presentations of a key aspect of urban democratic practice. They gave concrete examples of how some of the most significant challenges to our societies can be met by cities – and the communities that reside in them. The session was moderated by New Urban Progress Steering Committee member Diego Rivas.

Rewatch the event:

About the speakers

  • Victoria BoeckResearch Associate for Open Data at the Technologiestiftung Berlin.
  • Julian St. Patrick ClaytonDeputy Director for Policy and Research at the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.
  • Richard Lawrence Jr., Principal Planner at the city of Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Diego Rivas (Moderator), Steering Committee Member, Project Manager at Das Progressive Zentrum.

About Innocracy 2021

This session was part of the Innocracy 2021. The annual conference assembles thinkers and doers who work on democratic innovations. This year’s edition, titled “Democratising Democracy”, focussed on identifying fields which are excluded or being removed from democratic control and on exploring whether and how (re-)democratising them could lead to a better future.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive Zentrum, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.
The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

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Mayors as Progressive Motors

At this year’s Progressive Governance Digital Summit 2021, the debate on cities, mayors and their international connectivity was a particular highlight. On 11 June, the conference organised by the think tank “Das Progressive Zentrum” brought together the cities of Budapest, Strasbourg, Berlin and Boston virtually to debate how urban areas can promote democracy and a sustainable environment within their city limits and beyond.

NUP Fellow Sanjay Seth was invited to give an insightful input on how cities can best implement efficient climate protection.

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Fellow Focus: Victoria, Sanjay and Alexander

We proudly introduce the last three fellows of the New Urban Progress programme: Sanjay Seth, Victoria Herrmann and Alexander Czeh. Sanjay works on the City of Boston’s Climate Resilience Program, Victoria leads the Arctic Institute, and Alex works on sustainable transportation for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and a shared cargo-bike provider. They all are passionate about cities and sustainability, and how urban environments offer the opportunity to experiment and try out new ideas for a sustainable future. 

Each Monday until the end of the year, we will be showcasing two of our fellows from the United States and Germany with a short video. Find last week’s Fellow Focus about Jamaal Glenn and Melanie Kryst hereTo catch the other videos and learn about our fellows, follow this space here, or @AHG_Berlin@DPZ_Berlin and @ppi on Twitter.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive ZentrumAlfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

 

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Fellow Focus: Jamaal and Melanie

This week’s Fellow Focus introduces you to Jamaal Glenn and Melanie Kryst, two of the New Urban Progress Fellows. Melanie works as a project lead for Transdisciplinary Urban Development at the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform in Berlin, Jamaal is a Professor at New York University teaching finance, entrepreneurship and marketing, and also leads Schmidt Futures’ entrepreneurship program and venture capital investing. Both Jamaal and Melanie believe that connecting cities globally can empower cities and people to rise to global challenges.

Each Monday until the end of the year, we will be showcasing two of our fellows from the United States and Germany with a short video. Find last week’s Fellow Focus about Alison Noehrbass and Julian St. Patrick Clayton hereTo catch the other videos and learn about our fellows, follow this space here, or @AHG_Berlin@DPZ_Berlin and @ppi on Twitter.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive ZentrumAlfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

 

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Fellow Focus: Alison and Julian

Alison Noehrbass and Julian St. Patrick Clayton are part of the New Urban Progress Fellowship Cohort. Alison works as a Business Development Executive at Commonplace in London on place-based engagement and consultation. Julian is the Deputy Director for Policy and Research at the Center for New York City Neighbourhoods. For both, cities are the perfect environment to support change and innovation, and to foster community between people from different cultures. Hear them introduce themselves and why they are passionate about urban connections: 

Each Monday until the end of the year, we will be showcasing two of our fellows from the United States and Germany with a short video. Find last week’s Fellow Focus about Maria Willett and Marc Lendermann hereTo catch the other videos and learn about our fellows, follow this space here, or @AHG_Berlin@DPZ_Berlin and @ppi on Twitter.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive ZentrumAlfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

 

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Metro Diplomacy and Working towards City-Centered Transatlantic Relations

Two weeks after the 2020 US Election, Almut Möller (State Secretary of Hamburg, Germany) and Stephen Benjamin (Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina) discussed how cities have been developing into transatlantic changemakers. The conversation illustrated how social and economic ties between cities have been able to complement, and at times replace, classical transatlantic relations between Germany and the United States. 

A Stronger Transatlantic Partnership

In a lively exchange, Secretary Möller and Mayor Benjamin laid out how cities are emerging as transatlantic actors. As cities on both sides of the Atlantic tackle issues ranging from the pandemic to the climate crisis, the city leaders looked back on lessons learned from the past years and forward to a new chapter under a Biden administration. 

Underlying the conversation was a comparative analysis on how metro areas can most effectively operate within their respective federal structure. With urban areas representing large portions of both countries’ population and economic output, the relationship between central governments and city leaders will be crucial to addressing society’s greatest challenges.

The panelists articulated that cities have inherent democratic qualities that qualify them as strong transatlantic actors. Fundamentally, they have the ability to cultivate sustainable economic, political and social networks that are representative of their communities. And cities are democratically robust as an administrative unit in close proximity to its citizens.

“Cities are born, they are living, breathing organisms, that almost compel you to focus on the needs of the whole body, not just particular political interests” – Mayor Benjamin

Columbia and Hamburg as Transatlantic Cities

The two city leaders detailed how Columbia and Hamburg have mediated international relations for years. Columbia is a major military hub, with more than half of the US military trained at bases in the region before heading off on deployment and one of its partner city’s is Kaiserslautern, a small city home to many US troops stationed in Germany. Columbia is the capital of South Carolina, the state with the highest amount of European direct investment and home to BMW and Michelin. The state capital also demonstrated its global commitment by pledging to work towards the goals of the Paris Climate Accord, even after President Trump’s withdrawal.

“It all starts with dialogue, particularly focused on one specific data point, for example economic investment from X country, or intellectuals or professors at universities or colleges. Every community has that with some other community abroad, and there is an opportunity there to start digging a little deeper and see where synchronicity exists” – Mayor Benjamin

Hamburg, as a city-state in the German Federation and with an international tradition as one of the major cities of the Hanseatic League, has a long history as an international actor. Almut Möller represents the city to the Federation of Germany, the European Union and international networks. Hamburg also works with nine partner cities, including Chicago in the United States. Secretary Möller stated that Hamburg places a large focus on developing wider networks of cities to address issues ranging from innovation to mobility.

Transitioning to the Biden Administration and the next Era of Transatlanticism

Urgently awaiting the next administration, the Secretary and Mayor gave examples on how they have filled the void of transatlantic cooperation at the national level the past several years. Mayor Benjamin met with the German Ambassador to the United States, Emily Haber, who was meeting with many local leaders to supplement her diplomatic work with the Federal Government. Secretary Möller emphasized how Hamburg engaged with US cities: she was in contact with Hamburg’s sister city Chicago and Mayor Lightfoot to exchange ideas and methods to address the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary Möller also named Mayor Tschentscher’s initiative to sign the 2018 Chicago Climate Charter in support of the Paris agreement. 

As the United States transitions to a Biden administration, Mayor Benjamin sees an urgency in improving the relationship between cities and the Federal Government when addressing the coronavirus. Large sources of funding and support to metro and city level governments have been withheld, forcing leaders like himself to turn to local partnerships and form networks that are able to sufficiently support the community during the economic downturn as well as limited space in the hospitals.

Federalism, Collaboration, and the Coronavirus

Secretary Möller described the political structure in Germany as collaborative federalism, meaning that not only the German States, but also the larger German cities collaborate with the Federal level. Additionally, especially during the pandemic, the EU has sought a closer connection to city-level decision-making. It has been important for Hamburg as a city-state to engage with the Federal government to garner access to health services and funds to alleviate covid damages. It will be important, however, to compare and reflect on how Federal systems can best address the looming post-crisis economic challenges.

“Cohesiveness brings peace, that is a very important idea and to strive towards that is also very important for a city like Hamburg: We can only be as strong as our regional environment, national environment, and European environment.” – Secretary Möller

On the other side of the Atlantic, Mayor Benjamin noted the difficulties of learning from and addressing the pandemic while at the same time fighting it and all of its repercussions. He argued for the importance of humanizing the data that informs the public health policy and for local leaders to invest in adequately explaining policy decisions. The biggest lesson has been that it is possible to form new networks in times of need – this was done out of necessity due to a lack of state and federal support. Moving forward, cities need support from the federal government and the space to implement their funding as their democratic leaders best see fit.

“The only way that we can get out of this, is if we do this together” – Mayor Benjamin

This conversation took place as part of the transatlantic dialogue New Urban Progress. The event began by launching Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers, a working paper based on the findings from the project’s kick-off conferences in the United States and Germany. After introducing the working paper, the panel discussion with Almut Möller and Stephen Benjamin, moderated by Will Marshall, began. This was followed by a Q&A session. The project New Urban Progress will now continue with the Fellows beginning to work and expand on the most pressing urban issues ahead of us.

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Live: Metro Diplomacy – Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers

Did you miss our panel discussion Metro Diplomacy: Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers with State Secretary Almut Möller, Plenipotentiary of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg to the Federation, the European Union and for Foreign Affairs and Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina? State Secretary Möller and Mayor Benjamin discussed the role of their cities in a global context, the future of transatlantic relations, strategies needed to address the current crisis and much more. 

Watch the discussion and the Q&A Session again here: 

During the event, Das Progressive Zentrum, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute also launched their working paper Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers that sets the scene for further activities within the New Urban Progress project, bringing together German and U.S. perspectives in a spirit of mutual understanding and the pursuit of a common goal: making German and U.S. cities transatlantic changemakers for a more prosperous future.

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Fellow Focus: Marc and Maria

Get to know Maria Willett and Marc Lendermann in this week’s Fellow Focus! Maria is the Chief of Staff for the City of Rochester Hills, Michigan and Marc works for the German Consulate General in San Francisco. Both are passionate about cities as incubators for innovation, hear them tell you about the impact metro cooperation can have in creating a better and more sustainable future: 

Each Monday until the end of the year, we will be showcasing two of our fellows from the United States and Germany with a short video. Find last week’s Fellow Focus about Friedrich Paulsen and Grace Levin hereTo catch the other videos and learn about our fellows, follow this space here, or @AHG_Berlin@DPZ_Berlin and @ppi on Twitter.

New Urban Progress is the joint metro initiative of Das Progressive ZentrumAlfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft and the Progressive Policy Institute.

The project is supported by the Transatlantic Program of the Federal Republic of Germany and funded by the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).

 

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Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers: Working Paper

Cities as Transatlantic Changemakers – Seeking Common Ground for a Progressive Future

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