Closing Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the 4th OECD Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers
Chicago, March 8th, 2012
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A day of intensive discussions is coming to an end. Before I summarise the outcomes, I would like to take this opportunity to thank again Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago for your wonderful hospitality; the co-chairs for preparing this roundtable and all the participants, ministers and mayors for their important contributions. I am confident that today’s exchanges will help us move closer to our goal of sustainable cities.
The outcome of this Fourth Roundtable of Ministers and Mayors can be summed up in five main points:
1. Policy Action by central governments is not enough to green our economies.
Regions and Cities can, and must, take a leading role in greening our economies and achieving urban sustainability.
This Roundtable has provided a unique opportunity for city leaders and representatives of national governments, international organisations, businesses and major foundations to define a new partnership in support of urban sustainability, bringing together public and private actors at all levels.
2. Sustainable cities generate prosperity.
Our discussions have shown that addressing sustainability in cities can be a powerful source of economic development, by enhancing productivity, fostering innovation and opening new markets.
Concerted action by cities can therefore generate prosperity and jobs while mitigating environmental risks, making our cities more equitable and resilient.
3. Effective policies require accessible finance.
Effective policies for sustainable cities will depend on a combination of political will, technological capacity and accessible finance.
Cities will have to work hard on “greening” their finances, while leveraging new sources of funding. We have circulated a draft of the Chicago Proposal for ‘Financing Sustainable Cities’ to guide these efforts.
Let me just highlight the proposal’s three broad areas of focus:
- First, getting the national framework right is critical. Changes in urban finance need to be undertaken in tandem with policies aimed at greening national economies. This includes putting a price on carbon by introducing carbon taxes or carbon markets and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies – both in developed and developing countries.
- Secondly, much more can be done to make existing sources of urban finance more environmentally sensitive. There is scope for reforming taxes, service fees and inter-governmental grants. There is also room for introducing more sophisticated environmentally targeted instruments, for example congestion charges.
- Thirdly, we have a lot to do when it comes to tapping into new sources of finance. It is still too difficult for cities to take advantage of carbon finance programmes like the Clean Development Mechanism or Joint Implementation. It is important that cities and governments work together to make the most of instruments to align private investors’ incentives with environmental policy goals.
4. The challenge is global, the solutions are local.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” model for implementing urban sustainability.
Our discussions have shown that strategies differ across cities as they do across countries, according to urban conditions, economic and institutional settings, resource endowments and particular environmental pressure points.
Yet there is still a lot we can – and must – learn from each other. For all the differences in our specific circumstances, we stand to gain a lot by sharing ideas, instruments, technologies, institutions and policies.
5. And, last but not least, policy learning and adjustment will be critical on the long road to a more sustainable future.
Making cities greener and more sustainable is a complex challenge that we will have to tackle over many years. Assessing progress along the way, correcting mistakes and building on success will be crucial.
This Roundtable has underlined the need to develop reliable, timely indicators that will allow cities to measure the tangible impacts of investments and policy interventions – and to adjust their course accordingly.
The Roundtable therefore calls upon the OECD to:
- establish benchmarks for monitoring progress in partnership with cities, including the C40 group;
- develop recommendations on how to finance sustainable cities; and
- present these outcomes at the fifth roundtable of Mayors and Ministers that will take place in 2013 .
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your ongoing efforts towards making our cities more sustainable and for your active participation today. This roundtable has been fruitful, full of innovative suggestions and promising outcomes.
We have drawn many key messages, which we will actively disseminate through multilateral channels such as Rio+20 and the G20.
Of course, the road ahead is still long, but I am confident that, if we keep working together, we can make swift progress towards achieving cleaner and more prosperous environments for today’s 3.5 billion city dwellers worldwide.
4th OECD Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers (opening remarks)