Supporting local initiatives

Michelle Wyman

Local governments around the world have laid the foundation for successful, collective action on the climate front. They have crafted solutions – whether it’s installing more energy-efficient lighting, retrofitting buildings, or adding hybrid vehicles to municipal fleets – when few existed and exhibited leadership when it was scarce. However, what they also need and frequently lack is the funding to implement important programmes. It’s to address this that ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability plans to launch a Climate Action Fund in the autumn of this year.

Established 15 years ago, ICLEI provides its members – cities, towns, counties, villages – with tools, services and expertise to help them plan and implement performance-based, results-oriented climate protection and sustainability programmes. According to a recent survey, members have cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 23 million tonnes each year (the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road) and saved $535 million annually in fuel and energy costs.

The success of its members is mirrored in the growth of the organization. Membership has risen by 40 per cent since 2006. In response to members’ calls for more direct assistance and regional networking opportunities, ICLEI has opened Regional Capacity Centres in Boston, Fort Collins and Seattle, with offices opening in Houston and Chicago later this year.

Its flagship campaign, Cities for Climate Protection, is based on a five-milestone process to help local governments mitigate, or curb, their greenhouse gas emissions. A companion programme, Climate Resilient Communities, will assist communities in preparing for and adapting to the impacts associated with climate change.

Although local governments may have the will to implement climate change initiatives in their communities, they often lack the means. Even the best-intentioned local governments often require initial capital to jump-start the measures and policies they identify in their Climate Action Plans. To address this, ICLEI plans to launch the Climate Action Fund in autumn 2007 to provide seed money in the form of low-to-zero interest loans to local governments to support their climate work. The targeted principal balance for the Fund is $100 million.

With ICLEI’s quantification and tracking software, donors will be able to track their return on investment through measurable, verifiable emissions reductions. Donations will be welcomed from individuals, foundations and corporations.

Just as the collective action of local governments is helping to solve a massive international challenge, the joint contributions from donors of all shapes and sizes will make a tremendous difference. By coupling the combined resources of funders with ICLEI’s robust network of local governments and mayoral champions, we can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a more sustainable future.

Michelle Wyman is Executive Director of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. Email

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