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Nigel Jollands (left) and Sue Goeransson (right) spoke to us about the city-oriented approach of their work, Source: EBRD

EBRD's aim is to support increased climate ambition within cities

EBRD's aim is to support increased climate ambition within cities

An interview with Nigel Jollands and Sue Goeransson from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

We caught up with Nigel Jollands and Sue Goeransson from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to have a chat about EBRD Green Cities, the Bank’s flagship investment programme, and how it can be beneficial to European cities in their green transition efforts.

Nigel Jollands, PhD, is the Associate Director of the EBRD Green Cities Programme. He is a sustainable energy, climate finance and policy professional with 29 years of experience leading innovation across multiple sectors and levels of government. He has spent the last 15 years as a climate finance practitioner delivering investment and policy outcomes in 30+ countries.

Susan Goeransson is the Director for the Infrastructure Europe team in the Sustainable Infrastructure Group at the EBRD. In this capacity, she is responsible for delivering EBRD’s municipal and transport projects in Central Europe, the Baltics, Western Balkans and Ukraine.

Can you give us a brief rundown of the essence and aims of the Green Cities programme at EBRD?

SG: We recognize that more than 50% of the population live in cities, 70% of GHG are emitted in cities, 70% is in cities or so of the infrastructure that is vulnerable to climate change is in cities, and also many of the cities in our working region have old, outdated infrastructure that needs to be updated.

So, if we are going to have an impact, we need to work systematically with cities to address their climate change environmental challenges – and for this, we created EBRD Green Cities, which combines policy, finance and capacity-building. It’s all put together in the Green City Action Plan, which is the heart of the programme.

Through the Plan we work with all the city stakeholders – from the public and the private sectors to help the city identify, benchmark and prioritize their environmental challenges and then develop a series of actions both short-term and long-term. The programme has 56 cities now and we’ve provided over 1.6 billion euros of investments through the framework.

NJ: I’d pitch our aim as ‘support for increased climate ambition within cities’.

How long has the programme been in place and when did the EBRD adopt a green mentality, so to speak, as a financial institution?

NJ: It has been in place since 2016 and the first cities finished their Green Action Plans in 2017.

SG: The Bank has always had a green mentality, but I think what the programme does is it helps us work systematically with cities. Even previously, EBRD has always had a strong municipal focus. But by working with EBRD Green Cities and the methodology that is involved in the Action Plan, we are able to basically help our clients link up together all the various voices in the city and figure out what their priorities are.

This is very much in line with our ambitions as a bank, which has always had a strong focus on the green transition. Our strategic capital framework says that more than 50% of our projects would be green going forward and one way of doing that is by working with cities.

Here we’re looking at projects of urban transport, helping the modal shift, promoting e-mobility, working with water and wastewater to increase efficiencies, and also with heating. A lot of the cities we work with are still reliant on fossil fuels. So, we help them identify those problems, the projects they can do and the policy measures they could do to support them.

What are the requirements for a city to join the programme?

SG: The basic thing is – there has to be a trigger project. It has to be a country within the EBRD’s region of operation, it can be a city as small as 50,000 inhabitants, and it has to show its climate ambitions. The latter can be a 20% reduction in emissions or a 20% improvement in environmental pollution.

Does the Green City Action Plan (GCAP) come before the trigger project or vice versa?

SG: They run concurrently. Basically, we start the investment, and we start working with the city to sort of put in place the metrics for the GCAP. The GCAP is a very in-depth programme, I would say. It takes between a year, year and a half, to do the various measurements because there is a significant stakeholder engagement.

This requires leadership at the top. Meaning that the mayor has to bring in all the municipal companies, the utilities, as well as other government departments (at the state or regional level), so all of these can be part of the stakeholder engagement when the city is determining its environmental priorities.

TheMayor.EU focuses on the local transition within the EU. Cities from Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia are also some of your beneficiaries. What is your perspective on the successes and challenges of Southeast European cities when it comes to the green transition?

SG: Some of our EBRD Green Cities investments are basically investments that help cities (in that region) meet EU water and wastewater directives. But we also recognize that many of these cities have inherited infrastructure that’s old and inefficient, or there has been insufficient asset management.

A lot of the investments that we see in that region are linked to transport, decarbonization, energy efficient buildings. The latter is important as energy prices rise there is a recognition that there is a need to make buildings more energy efficient and we provide support to increase such efficiency in schools, kindergartens – buildings that are owned by the public sector.

NJ: A common theme among the cities in Southeast Europe is that air quality is a challenge. Also, the further east we go with our programme, we’ve noticed the fewer connections citizens have with climate change discussions. In the EU Member States, air quality is less of a problem and so they tend to be more focused on climate change issues.

SG: Air quality resonates really closely with the population in that region, and with EBRD Green Cities, the city gets to demonstrate to its constituents that it is doing something in that respect. It can identify what the causes of pollution are and how it can address them.

What about your Ukrainian beneficiaries? Do you have any action plan for financing postwar green reconstruction projects there?

SG: EBRD has always been very active in supporting municipalities in Ukraine. We’ve worked with 25 cities across the country, and I believe, 7 of them are Green Cities members. We’re there to support Ukraine under the EBRD Resilience and Livelihood programme to provide liquidity to municipalities.

NJ: In the short term, it’s hard for us to get on the ground in Ukraine. We’re focusing on the affected cities, and we’ve got a programme underway now called the Method Infrastructure Resilience Assessment and Action Plan.

So, we go into the city and work with the authorities for a period of a few weeks to identify what infrastructure they need in order to deal with either the internally-displaced people in Western Ukraine or with the refugees going across into Moldova and Poland. As such, it’s a reactive assistance programme to help cities with their infrastructure response.

Thank you for your time!

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