Investments in sustainable urban infrastructure made today will play a key role in limiting the impact of climate change, and in the creation of liveable and sustainable cities. Designing and financing well planned urbanization is an investment in our present and future that enables progress towards achieving the SDGs. In the UNECE region, the urban population is increasing, and many cities are expanding rapidly. Many cities have been unable to develop the required supporting infrastructure to keep pace with sustainable, climate resilient urban growth. As a result, the potential for urbanisation to unlock further economic development, social progress and sustainability for cities is partially lost.
Cities face common challenges to scale-up sustainable urban infrastructure delivery, from inadequate enabling environments and policy frameworks, human and financial capacity constraints and low creditworthiness, among others. As cities delay progress on key infrastructure projects such as sanitation, public transport, affordable housing and green spaces, among others, urban quality of life and the environment are impacted. At present, there is an estimated annual financing gap of USD 1.8-2.4 trillion for low-emission and climate-resilient infrastructure globally. Most of the financing gap needs to be filled in urban areas, which is problematic since cities have also been hard-hit by COVID-19 and urgently need to deliver key social and economic benefits to recover from the pandemic.
Cities need to accelerate in the development of bankable, sustainable and inclusive infrastructure projects. Going forward, it will be essential to optimise the use of traditional funding sources, as well as non-traditional mechanisms. In this context, Project Preparation Facilities (PPFs), have proven successful in mobilizing financing for low-carbon projects from both public and private sources, as well as in delivering social, economic, environmental and governance co-benefits.
The UN Development Account funded project on innovative financing for sustainable smart cities that is led by UNECE supports the cities in prioritising key urban infrastructure needs and priorities, while also providing tangible support in the preparation of projects. With a view to supporting countries in achieving SDG 11 and other urban related SDGs, this side event to the Forum of Mayors will support sharing lessons learned and disseminate best practices generated within the project and beyond.
The side event includes two panel discussions where the first panel seeks to showcase tangible experiences and approaches to successful urban infrastructure projects in the UNECE region, specifically from the perspective of PPFs. The second panel brings together a range of key stakeholders, from city departments, city networks, international organisations and experts, to discuss common challenges and opportunities from their own perspectives.