How Mexico City is fighting climate change and creating bankable opportunities

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Cities are the engines of economic growth—creating jobs and connecting people to global markets. They are often bedrocks of political power, centers of excellence and innovation, and the epicenters of a country’s rich cultural and historical identity. Cities are also where the interconnectedness of infrastructure challenges and opportunities are most on display. However, with their massive demands on infrastructure, cities are also where “the climate change battle will be won or lost,” as UN Secretary General António Guterres recently stated on World Cities Day.

Statistics show that cities consume more than two-thirds of the world’s energy, and account for more than 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions Most of the world’s population now live in urban areas and, by 2050, two-thirds will do so. Indeed, cities are on the frontlines of the climate change battle.

Mexico City is no exception. Our capital is a megacity home to 22 million people and is projected to be the 10th largest city in the world by 2030.

To accommodate a growing population, the increased demand for transport, energy, and water must be carefully managed to meet the needs of our inhabitants. We also need to take under consideration that our high population density and vulnerable geographic location mean more people are at risk when natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes hit.

Bottom line? We need to create climate-resilient infrastructure that continues to advance the social and economic needs of our people, shields us from increasing environmental threats, and reduces the global impact of climate change.  But we can’t do this alone. We need significant public and private investment to meet our sustainable infrastructure goals.

Adapting with innovation

While the challenges may seem daunting, building sustainable and climate-resilient cities through innovation can turn risks into opportunities.  I spoke about these opportunities recently at the Global Infrastructure Facility’s (GIF) Advisory Council meeting, which focused on sustainable cities and opportunities to increase private sector investment into low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure at the subnational level.

On the Climate Action in Cities panel, which included representatives from Citi, EBRD, and Meridiam, I presented our city’s ambitious “inclusive, innovative, and sustainable” program, which is designed to address our massive infrastructure challenges, while also promoting economic growth, inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

We have seven areas we are focusing on in environmental sustainability: greening urban and rural areas, recovering rivers and water bodies, sustainable water management, zero trash, integrated and sustainable mobilities, air quality, and creating a solar city. Some of our ambitious targets include planting 20 million trees, reducing emissions by 30 percent, introducing zero emissions corridors for metrobuses, building a new clean energy transportation system (cablebus), expanding the use of solar energy in hospitals and public buildings, and retrofitting new building codes.

Currently, we have a memorandum of understanding with the IFC to develop bankable projects that include a solar energy project in the largest city market, the review of alternative technologies for waste management, support on the development of the Integrated Mobility System, energy efficiency projects, and water treatment plants.

Turning challenges into bankable opportunities

The Mexico City Government has increased investment in green infrastructure at a historically high level, but this isn’t enough. Building a sustainable future and improving services for people requires additional investments. Well-structured climate-resilient infrastructure projects will provide real, bankable opportunities for the private sector to make good returns, invest in alignment with their environment, social, and governance (ESG) values, and contribute to a sustainable future for all.

The IFC’s Climate Investment Opportunities in Cities analysis estimates that cities in emerging markets around the globe have the potential to attract more than $29.4 trillion in cumulative climate-related investments in six key sectors by 2030. According to the report, the private sector can play a central role in supporting cities through a combination of innovation, know-how, financing, and new service delivery models. 

To successfully implement our ambitious innovation and sustainability plan, we call upon our partners in government, multilateral development banks, and the private sector to work with us in building a portfolio of bankable projects to attract investments into sustainable infrastructure for water and sanitation, clean energy and energy efficiency, waste management and integrated transportation, among many others. We count on your creativity, expertise, and resources to help us on the journey of sustainability. And we look forward to leveraging global collaboration platforms such as the GIF to build new partnerships.

We are one city among many around the world, but if we can achieve our goal, we can demonstrate that the battle against climate change can be won, one city at a time.   

Disclaimer: The content of this blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the World Bank Group, its Board of Executive Directors, staff or the governments it represents. The World Bank Group does not guarantee the accuracy of the data, findings, or analysis in this post.)

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This blog is managed by the Infrastructure Finance, PPPs & Guarantees Group of the World Bank. Learn more about our work here.



Diana Alarcón González

Chief of Policy Development, Mexico City Government

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