Clever cities collaborate

The Compact of Mayors is the world’s largest collaborative effort to measure and reduce carbon emissions. 230 cities have already joined and Danish philanthropist Realdania is striving to get all 98 of Denmark’s municipalities on board. CEO Jesper Nygård explains how cities, big or small, can learn from each other – if they are brave enough to collaborate, that is.

Jesper Nygaard

By Jesper Toft Madsen, November 2015

How and where can cities gain inspiration from each other?

Climate changes are not restricted by administrative barriers between municipalities or geographical borders. Networks like C40 represent a great opportunity for cities to exchange ideas, facilitate knowledge and copy solutions – from finance, economic development and planning to climate adaptation and water, energy, waste management and transport.

How can the world’s megacities learn from small Danish communities?

The Compact of Mayors initiative has created a common platform for cities and municipalities to measure and report on emissions. For the first time, decision makers will have access to a comprehensive overview of highly comparable climate data and very detailed information about city emissions and efforts. By following the development over time, a city official in a small Danish town can learn how a project works in an Asian city with a multimillion population and vice-versa, because they report by the same protocol and principles.

Denmark is a small country, and we will never have megacities. But knowledge is our raw material, and Danish communities are among the global frontrunners in reporting emissions and setting clear climate goals. This new platform enables them to export their expertise and experiences to cities that have only just begun their carbon reduction journey.

How can cities break down funding barriers?

Our experience is that financing takes relatively little effort as long as you consider carefully how to bring different sectors together in a creative fashion and have the courage to think holistically across disciplines. In a partnership with the Danish Nature Agency and the Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities, we’ve mobilised the necessary funding and brought four municipalities, utility companies, engineers, architects and urban planners together in climate adaptation projects that are better and cheaper than what they could have achieved on their own. The projects do not just make the four cities more resilient – they also serve recreational purposes that make the cities more joyful to live in.

What is your key message to cities that aim to invest in climate solutions?

Being concerned about sustainability is not reserved for 70s activists and green hippies. We’re discussing it at UN level, and it’s great bottom-line business. The time when nation states and cities solved their challenges separately has long passed. We can only develop sustainable solutions for complex problems if everyone is represented at the table, and cities play an essential role in making our world sustainable in the long-term.

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