Water is crucial in building our new sustainable economy, and urban centers around the world are being put to the test.
Cities need ample sources of clean water to keep people and the surrounding environment healthy and continue economic growth.
Cleveland, Ohio brought the U.S. to a turning point 50 years ago, when the final Cuyahoga River fire garnered nationwide attention that sparked the birth of the Clean Water Act. In this semicentennial month, CDP is putting a spotlight on our work bridging water security and cities through in-person workshops; new data points; and a pipeline of green infrastructure projects vital to water-secure cities.
As the impacts of climate change manifest, water is often how citizens, municipalities, and companies experience its effects. We see this through snowpack levels declining, precipitation patterns shifting, more extreme weather events occurring, and flooding events intensifying.
But since many cities face the challenges of limited resources and insufficient capital to prepare for the worst that climate change will bring, how can they protect their citizens from these dangers?
Disclosure: Matchmaking cities with investors
In the words of CDP’s Chairman, Paul Dickinson: “if climate change is a shark, then water is its teeth.” Cities must mitigate the risks associated with those sharp teeth. CDP can help: we provide a platform to share climate and water projects in need of financing through our cities disclosure.
Called Matchmaker, the platform plays an instrumental role in collecting, standardizing and mainstreaming climate resiliency and adaptation projects reported through this annual questionnaire. The pipeline of sustainable municipal projects in need of finance is then shared with subscribing investors that can unleash the capital desperately needed for water infrastructure.
As we’ve seen in our ten years of collecting water information from companies, measuring and reporting on water actions fosters accountability and positive change. CDP has expanded this water focus to our city work, asking municipalities new questions about water management and hosting a series of workshops focused on accelerating green infrastructure investments.
Green infrastructure—such as increased urban tree canopy, riverfront parks, stream buffers, and green roofs—plays a critical role in reducing stress on combined sewer systems, recharging groundwater, dampening flood violence, and protecting vulnerable properties from storm surges. City disclosure to CDP of relevant projects underpins the drive to finance and build water-secure municipalities across the globe.
Data on cities, water and fundable projects
In 2018, 391 cities disclosed over 1,115 sustainable infrastructure and climate adaptation projects through the Matchmaker platform in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and water management. This includes over 125 projects focused on water and green infrastructure.
Of the 161 reporting cities in the United States, 60% reported exposure to water risk. The questions asked by CDP prompt action on the ground; reporting on if a city has a publicly available Water Resource Management strategy may prompt the creation of such a plan if not yet in place. In CDP’s 2019 cities questionnaire, we’ve introduced new questions focused on water such as water supply sources and actions underway to reduce risks to those key sources.
By delving deeper into water in the questions asked, we anticipate a broader selection of water-focused projects coming into our Matchmaker platform. Corporate anecdotes, for example from Alcoa, tell us that “when we first responded to CDP Water, some of the questions prompted us to incorporate new concepts into our water strategy, in turn increasing its relevance to our business strategy”. Cities can experience similar benefits, using CDP’s water questions as a best-practice framework to identify, manage and mitigate risk and capitalize on opportunities.
The questions asked by CDP prompt the right kinds of actions and allow for flow of beneficial information to key stakeholders, including investors.
The workshops: Accelerating green infrastructure investments in cities
As part of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation/Wells Fargo Resilient Communities Program, CDP has launched a series of workshops to support financing of green infrastructure projects in the United States. CDP’s ability to convene a variety of stakeholders – ranging from corporates to local government to investors – is a unique and crucial aspect of this work.
On the 50th anniversary of the last Cuyahoga River fire that spurred groundbreaking water protection policies, CDP will participate in the Cuyahoga50 in Cleveland, Ohio celebrating this seminal event. We are hosting a workshop on June 25, Accelerating Green Infrastructure Investments in Cities, to convene key practitioners to overcome the barriers to financing green projects and discuss the community impacts of these projects on socio-economic structural deficits.
Calling together cities, companies, community organizations, and investors to discuss shared water challenges and financing for green infrastructure solutions is a critical piece of the path towards urban water security. Disclosure shines a light on information that is vital not only to advancing project finance but also illuminating the risks and opportunities facing cities and companies as we plan for a warmer and wetter world. CDP is the connective tissue in all of this: bringing the right information to the right people, and then bringing those people together.