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For Thriving Cities, People vs. Nature Is a False Choice

Health and environment - Fri, 2018-06-22 13:13

Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York. Photo credit: © Kevin Arnold

Municipal leaders face hundreds of difficult choices every day. With so many needs and worthy programs, how does one choose where to invest limited funding? In the face of pressing human needs, cities too often decide that funding for environmental programs will have to wait.

But pitting people against nature in this way offers a false choice.

We need not decide between supporting people in cities and protecting the natural systems that we all need to survive. Rather, by bringing more nature to cities and managing our collective resources well, we can help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and meet The Nature Conservancy’s ambition to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, aims to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” It is not only the engineered urban development solutions that will help the world achieve this goal – natural systems have a critical role to play. In fact, by protecting and enhancing biodiversity, we can actually better serve the needs of the billions of people around the world who live in cities.

Nature has a clear and significant role to play in SDG 11, and a path to success is laid out in the New Urban Agenda, a global declaration of “cities for all,” that was codified at the 2016 Habitat III conference in Ecuador. The New Urban Agenda acknowledges and articulates the connections between greener cities and healthier, more resilient cities, and calls for the benefits of nature to be equally accessible to all residents.

This collective vision for “well-planned urbanization” that accounts for how the built and natural environments work in tandem, not in opposition, to make our cities more livable will be key as cities around the world swell to adapt to growing human populations. Creating and protecting safe, inclusive and accessible green spaces can bring myriad benefits to cities.

But nature can do even more. As cities grow and resources are strained, nature can improve human health and well-being by reducing particulate matter in the air we breathe (SDG 3); it can contribute to clean water and sanitation by protecting source water (SDG 6); and when plans incorporate the needs of local residents, access to nature can help address some of the impacts of inequality (SDG 10).

Urban conservation doesn’t have to be a separate goal for city leaders to add onto their already busy agendas. It’s an approach that can help city leaders meet their existing goals across many sectors – economic growth, public health, waste management, thriving neighborhoods that attract residents and businesses.

Cities need nature. And cities can lead the world.

Working collaboratively, cities can drive policy on biodiversity protection, climate adaptation and mitigation and wastewater management to solve national and global challenges.

Together, we can make life in cities better for all of us.

Joel Paque is Global Cities Program Director at The Nature Conservancy.

For Thriving Cities, People vs. Nature Is a False Choice

Latest from Cityfix - Fri, 2018-06-22 13:13
Municipal leaders face hundreds of difficult choices every day. With so many needs and worthy programs, how does one choose where to invest limited funding? In the face of pressing human needs, cities too often decide that funding for environmental ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

Kate Logan on How Data Transparency and Social Media Are Cleaning Up China’s Air: Fighting for Blue Skies Part 2/3

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-06-20 13:13
In 2010, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing began reporting data on local air quality from a monitoring station on its roof. Once the dismal numbers were shared on Twitter, a storm of public outcry was unleashed that would culminate in ...

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Raahgiri 2.0: Re-Engineering Car-Free Days for Smaller Cities in India

Active Transport - Mon, 2018-06-18 13:13

Raahgiri Day in Jhajjar not only celebrates road safety, but also includes social messages, encouraging women and girls of all ages to participate. Photo by Deputy Commissioners Office, Jhajjar, India

If you drive out of New Delhi west along National Highway 48, you will find yourself reaching a small district in Haryana state named Jhajjar. Just 50 miles from the national capital, its demographic contrast is unmistakable. The bustle and density of New Delhi fades, replaced by agriculture and scattered industry. The population of the district is just 1 million. Jhajjar city has about 50,000 residents.

Jhajjar also has one of the lowest sex ratios in India – 825 females for every 1,000 males, according to the 2015 census. So when Raahgiri Day came to Jhajjar earlier this year in a first attempt to adapt the car-free day concept to a smaller urban area, the question of who participated was just as important as what they did.

On January 14, about 7,000 people took part in Jhajjar’s Raahgiri Day in a re-engineered event backed by Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar. Thirty percent of participants were below the age of 18 and 50 percent were women or girls.

We saw Raahgiri transform into a new phenomenon, where citizens not only saw it as a car-free initiative but also took it as an opportunity for community participation.

Streets for All

Inspired by Ciclovía in Bogotá and beginning in Gurgaon in November 2013, Raahgiri is India’s first sustained car-free initiative. Once a week or month, roads where pedestrians and cyclists normally face dangerous and time-consuming congestion are opened to all. Street performances and marathons take the place of cars. On peak days, more than 20,000 people have come on to the streets to celebrate Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon.

Since its launch, the phenomenon has spread to other Indian cities, including Delhi, and evolved into different iterations – “open streets,” “happy streets,” and “equal streets for all.”

The organizing team for Jhajjar, which included the deputy commissioner’s office, Jhajjar police and WRI India, decided to redesign Raahgiri to suit the town’s smaller size and special characteristics. The event was about clearing Jhajjar’s streets for a day, yes, but also imagining how public space could be different – more open to all people.

As you enter Jhajjar, you are met with narrow roads busy with local traffic. These lead to even narrower, sometimes-unpaved lanes bustling with hawkers and village pedestrians. Here the highways are meant for heavy vehicles and urban roads belong to men – who drive, ride, loiter and own the streets.

For a community that never observed or encouraged open participation from girls and women, Raahgiri was designed to provide a refresh. The event was labeled a gender safe space and organizers invited young girls, mothers and older women to come forward and participate.

To promote gender equality, women and girls participated in different sporting events, including hockey. Photo by Deputy Commissioners Office, Jhajjar, India

A team “Pinkathon” – a national movement built around marathons and empowering women – was specially organized for the city. Messages from Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, a national effort to prevent gender-biased sex selection and ensure young girls are protected from discrimination, were promoted. Swach Bharat, an effort to improve waste and sanitation, was also highlighted.

Groups of children and youth participated in races, gymnastics, cycling, aerobics and yoga. Varsha Upadhye and Himanshi, 15- and 19-year-old national-level gymnasts from Jhajjar, tumbled down the streets. They said Raahgiri provides them a safe environment in which they feel proud to showcase their talent.

A Platform for Awareness

Leaders in Jhajjar envisioned combining socially progressive elements with the road safety messages of Raahgiri to create a unique event, and it worked. The district administration cited Raahgiri as a particularly significant occasion for raising awareness and educating people about various social habits and issues. In the end, the women and girls of Jhajjar represented half the total participation on the day.

When we spoke with 70-year-old Janki Devi she said she had forgotten singing and dancing. “Raahgiri brought it back to me after 40 years,” she said.

Janki Devi has been a constant feature in each of the monthly Raahgiri Days in Jhajjar since its debut. She not only participates in every event but encourages her daughter and daughter-in-law to as well.

Many have taken advantage of Raahgiri to become part of a larger group, to open up their lives to the community, and to confidently take to the streets and claim their space. Chief Minister Khattar has committed to celebrate Raahgiri in every district of Haryana for one year, so we should expect to see more re-engineering in the future.

Sonal Goel is the Deputy Commissioner for Jhajjar, Haryana, for the Indian Administrative Services.

Sarika Panda Bhatt is the Head of Integrated Transport and Road Safety at WRI India Ross Center.

Raahgiri 2.0: Re-Engineering Car-Free Days for Smaller Cities in India

Latest from Cityfix - Mon, 2018-06-18 13:13
If you drive out of New Delhi west along National Highway 48, you will find yourself reaching a small district in Haryana state named Jhajjar. Just 50 miles from the national capital, its demographic contrast is unmistakable. The bustle and ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

There’s an Easy Way for National Governments to Help Cities Act on Climate Change—Give Them Data

Latest from Cityfix - Fri, 2018-06-15 13:13
Thousands of cities have committed to act on climate change, but few have yet turned their goals into tangible results. One of the important items that can help them begin is data from national governments. Establishing an “emissions inventory,” measuring how much greenhouse ...

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How Behavioral Science Can Boost Household Energy Efficiency

Latest from Cityfix - Thu, 2018-06-14 13:13
Persuading people to use energy more efficiently has long been heralded as a simple, effective way to help tackle climate change. The problem lies in the persuasion. Historically, policies and programs to encourage people to save energy have relied largely ...

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What if Citizens Set City Budgets? An Experiment That Captivated the World – Participatory Budgeting – Might Be Abandoned in its Birthplace

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-06-13 18:31
Neighbors in Porto Alegre, Brazil, have been getting together regularly since 1989 to discuss the future of their city. Everyone is encouraged to speak at district meetings in churches, gyms and clubs, discussing everything from water supply and sewage to ...

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Can Latin America Move From Quantity to Quality of Infrastructure?

Latest from Cityfix - Mon, 2018-06-11 13:13
At a recent Latin American Development Bank (CAF) Infrastructure for Development Conference in Buenos Aires, regional experts and policymakers delved into the unique urban landscape for the area, from early approaches to modern challenges around inequality and better service. Pre-Incan ...

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Cleaner Air, New Jobs, Reduced Inequality: The Benefits of Low-Carbon Cities

Health and environment - Fri, 2018-06-08 19:09

Low-carbon urban development can provide substantial economic benefits in at least three ways. Photo by Andreas Wecker/Flickr

Climate action is rarely a primary consideration when investments are made in cities. Roads and transport networks are built to improve mobility, homes to provide shelter, offices to create places to work.

But with more than three-quarters of global emissions coming from urban areas, and a majority of the global population living there, it is increasingly critical that urban actors consider climate change in their decision-making.

Drawing on evidence from more than 700 academic papers, our new research for the Coalition for Urban Transitions provides a systematic review of the wider benefits – and sometimes costs – of climate action in urban areas.

Results show that we may be under-appreciating the extent that low-carbon investments can contribute to a wide set of urban challenges.

Indeed, in some cases addressing seemingly unrelated urban issues – around public health, employment, poverty, and sanitation – may be hard to achieve without also reducing carbon emissions and improving climate resilience.

In three areas these benefits are especially notable:

1. Improving Public Health

Combating climate change can lead to significant health benefits for citizens. Up to 3 billion people rely on open fires for heating, cooking, and lighting, leading to 4 million deaths from indoor air pollution. When health benefits are taken into account, solar lighting and clean cook stoves can save up to 60 times the investment costs.

Source: Coalition for Urban Transitions

Poor heating and ventilation also contribute to chronic ill-health. While the direct savings on energy bills are sufficient to generate an attractive return on investment, the monetized health benefits associated with improving indoor environmental quality can be more than 10 times the value of energy savings.

The value of health benefits from investments in cycling infrastructure is another area in which cities can save money while improving public health. The money saved by improving infrastructure can amount to more than five times the cost of investment. Extrapolating across Europe, this suggests that the health benefits from cycling could be worth $35-136 billion annually.

Motor vehicle crashes are responsible for 1.3 million global deaths each year and over 78 million injuries. Where public transport networks are well developed, transport-related injuries are more than 80 percent lower.

2. Creating Green Jobs

Investments in upgrading existing buildings and raising the energy efficiency of new buildings in OECD cities could lead to the creation of 2 million net jobs annually in the period to 2050. Equivalent investments in non-OECD cities could generate anywhere from 2 million to 16 million jobs annually in the same period.

Investments in expanding public transport and improving vehicle efficiency could also lead to the creation of more than 3 million net jobs annually in OECD cities, and a minimum of 3 million and up to 23 million jobs annually in non-OECD cities, in the period to 2050.

3. Reducing Inequality

Many actions that combat climate change will benefit the poorest in society. For example, between 16 percent and 50 percent of the total benefits associated with programs to retrofit existing buildings in Europe are in the form of improved health, thermal comfort, living conditions and productivity of residents. This is especially true for residents who are relatively poorer.

Another way in which creating greener cities reduces the effects of inequality is through improving public transport systems. People from lower income brackets typically spend more time commuting and will benefit from faster and more efficient networks. Public transport networks which will also reduce carbon emissions are therefore found to disproportionately benefit the urban poor.

Vulnerable populations often have poorer health than the average. They may also be more likely to live and work in polluted areas. As a result, marginalized groups benefit disproportionately from interventions which improve air quality.

Policy Implications

Previous research has demonstrated that low-carbon investment in cities can generate substantial economic returns. But the economic case may not on its own generate the level of action needed to prevent dangerous climate change.

Furthermore, in the face of a range of urban challenges, including poverty, air pollution, poor transport networks and insufficient housing, policymakers with finite time and resources need actions that can target multiple issues.

The benefits for health, jobs and equality identified by our analysis are not guaranteed. The distribution of benefits and their scale will vary from city to city and from the way that policies and programs are designed and implemented. But as a first step, viewing climate change as connected with, and in cases, inseparable from, a wider set urban challenges, can open new opportunities for action.

While climate change will remain an issue that is long-term, global, and relatively uncertain, the benefits of climate action – in cleaner air, new jobs and more inclusive cities – can be seen as near-term, local and relatively certain.

The original version of this article appeared on the University of Leeds Medium page.

The Coalition for Urban Transitions is a special initiative of the New Climate Economy jointly hosted and managed by WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

Andrew Sudmant is a Research Fellow and Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Leeds.

Andy Gouldson is Professor of Environmental Policy and Dean of Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Leeds.

Cleaner Air, New Jobs, Reduced Inequality: The Benefits of Low-Carbon Cities

Latest from Cityfix - Fri, 2018-06-08 19:09
Climate action is rarely a primary consideration when investments are made in cities. Roads and transport networks are built to improve mobility, homes to provide shelter, offices to create places to work. But with more than three-quarters of global emissions ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

Better Engineering Can Significantly Improve Road Safety in India

Latest from Cityfix - Wed, 2018-06-06 09:42
Road engineering – the way urban streets are designed and built – plays an extremely important role in ensuring road safety. The right kind of engineering for a street includes measures that actively restrict the scope for road users to ...

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4 Ways Businesses Can Get the Most Out of Public-Private Collaboration:  Lessons from the Building Efficiency Accelerator

Latest from Cityfix - Mon, 2018-06-04 13:13
How can businesses provide more value to, and receive more value from, collaborative initiatives with cities? Businesses are the ones that design, build, finance, own, operate, renovate and occupy most of the buildings in cities. Without active collaboration and support ...

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The People of Bogotá Want Cleaner Air. Will the City Listen?

Buses - Thu, 2018-05-31 13:13

TransMilenio faces the unique opportunity to lead on Bogotá’s mobility upgrade — driven not by politicians, but by the users themselves. Photo by Galo Naranjo/Flickr

Bogotá is one of Latin America’s most polluted cities – but thanks to its citizens, its air may be getting cleaner.

A decision from the mayor’s office to keep using diesel fuels in the next generation of buses in the city’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, TransMilenio, set loose a series of events, led by citizens, demanding cleaner air and challenging the local paradigm that less-polluting fuels are too expensive to consider. Today, Bogotá is closer than ever to a cleaner BRT fleet.

What can we learn from Bogotá? Citizens have the power to promote sustainable development, even when there is an apparent lack of political leadership through sustained political organizing and pressure.

The Power of Organized Resistance

Like many other cities, Bogotá has been very slow in the adoption of new and cleaner technologies for its transport system. There has been pilot testing of one electric bus and no more than a handful of tests of natural gas fuels.

Potentially the largest benefit of electric buses comes from the fact that they have no tailpipe emissions, which reduces the health impact of harmful local pollutants in cities across the globe. Bogotá’s BRT is used for 2.5 million trips daily. And its users are disproportionately exposed to air pollution: concentrations measured inside the BRT buses are by far the worst of all the city’s transit modes.

Carbon dioxide emissions from a Euro V bus (tailpipe) compared to an electric bus (upstream) in multiple countries. Graphic by Sebastian Castellanos and Juan Pablo Orjuela

In March, the city of Bogotá issued a draft tender to replace 1,383 buses corresponding to the oldest of its BRT fleet. Initially the document explicitly said that the buses to be used in the city had to have internal combustion engines, although this was quickly reversed to also include electric motors.

Despite this change, the city was only offering an incentive of 50 points out of a total of 2000 to companies that operated cleaner technologies, such as electric and natural gas. To many, this incentive was insufficient, as the city was missing a clear opportunity to improve Bogotá’s air quality by demanding cleaner vehicles. Even a change.org petition was started to try and bend the Mayor’s will.

What ensued next shows the power of organized resistance in the digital era.

A wide range of actors, without any clear connection to one another, organically organized a resistance movement against the city’s decision to exclude cleaner technologies. Civil society came together under the citizen’s air quality roundtable and sent a letter to the mayor, demanding the inclusion of zero-emission buses. Citizen science also played a key role in informing the general population on high air pollution exposure levels in the system with measurements taken by citizens and shared via social media. The hasthags #TransMilenioDejameRespirar (“TransMilenio let me breathe”) and #NoMasBusesDiesel were soon trending on Twitter.

Almost at the same time, Colombia’s national environment minister sent a letter to Mayor Enrique Peñalosa requesting the inclusion of low- and zero-emission vehicles in the tender. And the city council, which acts as a check and balance on the mayor, called for a debate on the topic, expressing their concern about the exclusion of cleaner technologies.

The academic community also joined the movement. The deputy dean of one of Colombia’s most prestigious universities, and an expert in air quality and transportation, lamented the decision of the mayor explaining that he couldn’t find any technical reasons for Bogotá not to hop on-board the electric bus movement.

Finally, the office of the inspector general issued a warning, and asked the mayor to respect international treaties on climate change and comply with its mandate of ensuring a safe environment for its citizens.

All these initiatives were picked up by the national news with various reports on the matter highlighting the importance of the process. The debate even reached the financial sector as the development bank Bancoldex announced that they would no longer finance diesel buses.

Mayor Peñalosa at first resisted. City hall used misleading data in an attempt to minimize the impact that their decision had in Bogotá’s air quality. The health secretary denied the proven health effects of air pollution and diesel emissions, and the mayor even blamed dust as the main cause of poor air quality instead of vehicle.

But mounting pressure from multiple sectors eventually resulted in a substantial change in the tender. On April 24, Peñalosa announced an increase from 50 to 400 additional points to operators and suppliers that include gas and electric buses in their proposal, giving these technologies an edge over diesel.

Kickstarting a Public Transport Transition

Since no minimum quotas were included, it is too early to say if this new incentive will effectively lead to a massive inclusion of cleaner technologies. Hopefully Mayor Peñalosa and other politicians in charge have received the clear message that citizens are no longer willing to ignore the environmental costs of current systems.

There is still a lot to be done for Bogotá’s air quality. Major issues with other sources such as freight transport and industry remain. And many other cities in the region also face worsening air pollution and an absence of effective action.

However, what happened in the past few weeks is a clear example of how organized and well-informed citizens can achieve the changes our cities need. The TransMilenio BRT is an iconic element in Bogotá and the integrating actor of all public transport in the city; the expectation is that it should lead by example. Despite not being the highest-emitting source, it is in a unique position to kick-off needed technological advances in diesel transport fleets and public transport generally.

Politicians today may choose not to believe facts and science in their decisions, but we have the responsibility to pressure them to pay attention to our demands.

Juan Pablo Orjuela is a PhD student working on air pollution exposure as part of the PASTA project under the supervision of Dr. Audrey de Nazelle. His main focus is on developing statistical models to estimate exposure in three European cities (London, Antwerp and Barcelona) based on black carbon measurements and surveys.

Sebastian Castellanos is an Energy & Climate Associate at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

The People of Bogotá Want Cleaner Air. Will the City Listen?

Latest from Cityfix - Thu, 2018-05-31 13:13
Bogotá is one of Latin America’s most polluted cities – but thanks to its citizens, its air may be getting cleaner. A decision from the mayor’s office to keep using diesel fuels in the next generation of buses in the city’s bus ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

Informal Workers Make Cities Work for All: 3 Stories from Thailand, India and Colombia

Latest from Cityfix - Tue, 2018-05-29 19:00
Think of the delicious food stands in Southeast Asia, the street performers in Africa, the rickshaw driver in Bangladesh, and the invisible home-based workers who embroider garments and stitch shoes in India. What do they all have in common? They ...

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As China’s Urban Rail Transit Systems Boom, Public-Private Partnerships Face a Reckoning

Buses - Thu, 2018-05-24 13:13

Chinese cities are taking on rail transit systems, but the challenge of how to finance these systems is at the forefront. Photo by Benoit Colin/WRI

To curb car congestion and boost the economy, China is embracing trains at an unprecedented rate. In June 2017, the government approved 5,770 kilometers of new urban rail systems, almost 17 times the total amount of track in all of Brazil. Existing systems are expanding and new systems are sprouting up. Last year, the number of cities with urban rail transit systems soared to 53, with many small and medium-sized cities coming aboard.

But like many city transit systems, farebox revenue isn’t enough to keep China’s new rail systems afloat financially. Rail transit systems in China have historically been financed primarily by municipal governments, through local land sale revenues and municipal borrowing. With the cooldown of housing and land markets and increasing municipal debt, however, many cities are looking to public-private partnerships.

The results have not always been positive, as cities grapple with inexperienced state-owned companies and inadequate risk management overrides prudent accounting.

Ballooning Municipal Debts

Public-private partnerships are a financing method that leverage private funding, innovation, quality control and efficiency to complement public sector investment and capacity insufficiencies and to deliver social obligations. According to the national public-private partnership database, by the end of 2017, China had 54 rail transit projects financed by public-private partnerships, amounting to $136.7 billion in capital investments.

These projects are spread over 40 Chinese cities, from large cities with more than 20 million people to small cities with just 170,000. They include 40 metro projects and 10 streetcar projects. Most use a form of project financing where the private sector is responsible for finance, design, construction and operation of the infrastructure for a certain number of years, known as “Built-Operate-Transfer.”

Despite their rapid adoption, the municipal debts created by the public-private partnership arrangements pose a great risk for China’s economy, amounting to around $2.5 trillion by November 2017. To avoid economic crisis, in March 2018, the National Development and Reform Commission put a hold on rail transit projects in 13 Chinese cities, including at least 4 ongoing private-public partnership projects.

The Commission raised the bar for cities qualified for rail transit projects, where annual fiscal revenue and GDP increased threefold (from $ 1.6 billion to $ 4.8 billion and $159 billion to $476 billion, respectively). The Ministry of Finance also flagged the need for intense scrutiny of these projects, and 12 unqualified public-private partnership projects  were removed from the national database and forced to seek other financing channels or renegotiate for less risky contractual arrangements.

The increased scrutiny aims to steer projects clear of three major pitfalls.

1. Misguided Purposes

When cities create their annual budgets, they usually set an upper spending limit, which controls fiscal risk and liability. However, public-private partnerships open a loophole in this constraint by allowing cities to commit more spending than they can afford by including commitments to the private sector. Some projects are therefore pursued not for efficiency reasons, but to get around the hard budget constraints and boost investment-led growth, regardless of local fiscal capacity.

This gives rise to economically inviable projects, with an excess in transit capacity for the residents in the area. For example, some remote counties of Yunnan Province, with fewer than 200,000 residents, have a tremendous oversupply of transit services thanks to streetcar projects.

The fiscal implication of this behavior is alarming. In the short run, a $2.9 billion investment to construct a metro line will strain a city with $1.2 billion annual revenue. In the long run, low ridership and scarce farebox revenues will further deteriorate the financial performances of both the local government and private companies. In the end, such an arrangement not only increases local liability, especially in the event of a default leaving debt obligations to future governments, but can also crowd out essential safety-net programs and growth opportunities.

2. Lack of Private Sector Participation

Another feature of current rail transit public-private partnerships is that they are predominated by state-owned construction enterprises with limited experience in the lifecycle management of rail transit projects. This inexperience will possibly lead to increased project costs, delays in delivery, substandard service quality, or even financial insolvency. Further, the indifference of these state-owned enterprises to profitability, risks and innovation also undermines projects’ Value for Money.

3. Inadequate Risk Management

Since the initiation of public-private partnership projects is largely reliant on political support, the rush to deliver these projects within a certain political cycle to boost economic growth and leave a political mark can lead to overlooking risk profiles and, ultimately, inadequate risk management.

In some cities, the shortage of active “private” participants has prompted governments to undertake excessive risks and liabilities in pursuit of this quest – through government-backed debt financing and guaranteed fixed rate of returns, for example.

In Wuhan, a consortium of commercial banks was chosen as the company to finance, build and operate Metro Line 8. Although cost overrun or other project risks were high, due to the inexperienced bank consortium forayed into metro construction and operation, the local government still accepted its strict demand for fixed returns. In other cities, poorly understood demand risks are blindly shouldered by state-owned companies, increasing the likelihood of project defaults.

Although public-private partnerships can help cities expand their infrastructure to keep pace with demand, many Chinese cities are beginning to understand that they have profound implications. Other financing channels such as land value capture and green finance (like green bond or carbon trade) can well complement public-sector financing or public-private partnerships.

Rail transit systems not only offer investment-led growth and political ribbon-cutting glory, but can come with heavy financial burdens, if poorly planned or executed.  The demand – and need – for more public transit infrastructure is undeniable, but expensive rail transit systems are not the only way. More economically feasible options, such as bus rapid transit systems or shared mobility, are also viable to meet increasing urban transport challenges.

Lulu Xue is a Research Associate at WRI China. 

As China’s Urban Rail Transit Systems Boom, Public-Private Partnerships Face a Reckoning

Latest from Cityfix - Thu, 2018-05-24 13:13
To curb car congestion and boost the economy, China is embracing trains at an unprecedented rate. In June 2017, the government approved 5,770 kilometers of new urban rail systems, almost 17 times the total amount of track in all of ...

Continue reading on TheCityFix.com.

Boosting the Cool Factor of Energy Efficiency

Latest from Cityfix - Tue, 2018-05-22 13:13
Energy efficiency’s image is due for a makeover. Long seen as one of the simplest ways to reduce consumer costs, energy efficiency also offers multiple benefits that improve people’s lives while cutting air pollution and curbing climate-warming emissions. And yet, ...

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Making India’s Streets Safer Means Confronting Political Economy Barriers

Latest from Cityfix - Mon, 2018-05-21 13:13
On average, two people die on Mumbai’s roads owing to traffic crashes every day. The city ranks seventh in the country in terms of absolute numbers of road traffic fatalities. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are most vulnerable, and are involved in ...

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