We need to do more than help our cities weather this economic storm. We need to rebuild them on a newer, firmer, stronger foundation for our future. That requires a new strategy for our cities and metropolitan areas that focuses on advancing opportunity through competitive, sustainable and inclusive growth.
–President Barack Obama
In March 2011, President Obama and President Rousseff launched the US-Brazil Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability (JIUS). The JIUS is a public-private partnership designed to catalyze private investment in sustainable urban infrastructure and expand markets for green technology, products and services. By leveraging planned event investments in Rio de Janeiro for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the goal of the JIUS is to demonstrate how a green economy can be a real driver for scaling-up infrastructure investment, promoting economic growth and fostering local job creation in cities around the world. Key JIUS participants include senior US and Brazilian federal, state, and local government officials; private sector leaders from the US-Brazil Commercial Dialogue, CEO Forum, and other fora, including CH2MHill, GE, Morgan Stanley among others; and NGOs, including the Rockefeller Foundation.
During President Rousseff’s recent (April 2012) return visit to the US, both leaders and the CEOs participating in the US-Brazil CEO Forum noted the JIUS as a key area for infrastructure cooperation.
Linking Policy, Finance and Project Development
Through broad public and private collaboration, the Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability has helped to identify new pathways for investing in urban sustainability, especially in poor and underserved areas. At Rio+20, the US and Brazil announced the launch of a new platform for communities, local officials, developers and investors to identify opportunities for generating greater economic, environmental and health benefits through sustainable infrastructure. The JIUS platform highlights key links between policy instruments, financial mechanisms, and on-the-ground projects with examples from Rio de Janeiro and Philadelphia to show the portfolio of actions available to cities around the world interested in scaling-up investment in urban sustainability.
Specifically, the platform will allow individuals to access basic information and identify key links between policy, finance, and projects that can help cities and communities to scale-up investment in urban sustainability.
For example, Stormwater Utility Rate Structuring is a policy approach that can transform a traditional urban pollutant (stormwater runoff) into a marketable commodity. The Philadelphia Stormwater Credit Program is a specific finance mechanism designed to drive the market through laws requiring property owners to reduce their stormwater runoff or purchase offset “credits.” Finally, the Big Green Block project is an example of an investment that generates stormwater “credits” in Philadelphia that could be available for purchase on the market.
In order to expand this platform to capture urban sustainability efforts happening in cities around the world, JIUS partners are collaborating with C40 Cities and various knowledge partners to share best practices and also working with implementing partners including the Tijuca Center for Applied Sustainability to mobilize additional finance for green infrastructure, while generating environmental, social and economic benefits for underserved urban communities.
Building on the success of the JIUS as a showcase of how local leadership can generate opportunities for investment and innovation in sustainable development, a global coalition of partners including C40 Cities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Tijuca Center for Applied Sustainability, US Green Building Council, and Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, among others, plan to announce new efforts during the Rio+20 conference to advance the work of the JIUS globally.
Matching Large-Scale Investors with Green Infrastructure Portfolios
In addition to supporting knowledge sharing among cities, JIUS participants have also worked to identify real opportunities for investment in sustainable infrastructure at large scales. Unlike traditional construction projects, sustainable infrastructure projects are typically small and diffuse, making project discovery, due diligence, and revenue generation difficult through traditional project financing. For example, large-scale energy efficiency retrofits typically involve collections of residential and commercial buildings. Similarly, green stormwater infrastructure projects consisting of hundreds of trees, roofs, roads and parking lots, are rated unfavorably compared to conventional utility-scale projects with fewer, larger, more expensive components, such as pipes or treatment plants.
By helping to aggregate projects into scalable portfolios, the JIUS demonstrates how to scale-up sustainable infrastructure investment and show how governments at federal, state and local levels can serve as catalysts for mobilizing investment in building the greener economies and smarter cities of the 21st century.