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Seven Takeaways from the Climate-Compatible Cities Workshop

By Danica Marie Supnet

I first set foot in Cagayan de Oro thanks to the Climate-Compatible Cities second stakeholders’ workshop on Opportunities and Challenges on Climate Change Financing. We organized the event along with Germanwatch and colleagues from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.

As a highly urbanized first class city, Cagayan de Oro may very well be the happiest city in the Philippines. That might be why it is called the “City of Golden Friendship“. Kagay-anons are often remembered for their friendliness, hospitality, and the warm welcome they give visitors. It is not surprising the city is often called the “Gateway to Northern Mindanao”.

Here are seven insights I brought home from the event:

iCSC Executive Director Red Constantino talks about the People's Survival Fund

iCSC Executive Director Red Constantino talks about the People’s Survival Fund

Funding blending is not just desirable; it is possible. The Performance Challenge Fund (PCF) and the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) are finance modalities governed by the national government that provide local government units (LGUs) the opportunity to jumpstart climate change adaptation projects. If both programs have a common intent, is fund blending possible? Absolutely, yes! The PCF could be a counterpart of the PSF. For instance, as discussed by Department of Interior and Local Government-Bureau of Local Government Development (DILG-BLGD) Division Chief Zaldy Masangkay and iCSC’s Red Constantino, technical researches such as vulnerability assessments and feasibility studies can be financed by the PCF, in order to access likely greater funding from the PSF. The PCF can be tapped to provide the evidence-based studies that underpin adaptation interventions that sustain as well the development goals of localities.

Climate-themed researches are in line with the PCF’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation (DRR-CCA) thematic indicator, which helps access the PSF because such studies strengthen the viability of proposed climate plans. Other forms of fund blending within the PCF and PSF should likewise be further explored because fund blending does not only provide LGUs more windows to climate finance, as it mainstreams climate change adaptation in local government planning. The PCF promotes transparency, accountability, and participation of stakeholders in governance as well.

Representative from the Central Businnes District (CBD) group during the open forum

Representative from the barangay during the open forum

Local government officials are hungry for information, and this is good! The perceived lack of information on climate finance was evident during the workshop. Not only were local officials vocal about their frustration with the limited information available regarding the PCF and PSF; they were also excited about pursuing plans to tap the funds once they gained basic knowledge about accessing the funds to help their constituency.

Ownership of local climate plans is critical. One issue raised during the focus group discussions was about the ability of barangays to use the PCF and PSF modalities. One participant from the Central Business District (CBD) argued that allocating PCF and PSF direct to the barangay fund may even ensure projects will be implemented more effectively. This is something LGUs need to consider. Although the PSF and PCF can enhance the capacity of LGUs to implement , the funds can only be accessed by provinces, towns and cities. Barangay officials present during the event asserted that ownership of projects are usually restricted to municipality levels only, even though barangays are the ultimate beneficiaries. In response, an official from National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) argued funding modalities are best governed by the LGU because of the inherent technical capacity. One solution to ownership issues we recommend: LGUs should consider barangays not merely as beneficiaries, but as one of the main implementing partners (as stated in the PSF handbook). Consider including officials, such as the chairman of the league of barangays, to be part of the project implementing team. Most importantly, to build ownership, LGUs need to value barangay consultations prior to writing proposals.

Germanwatch Policy Advisor Lisa Junghans presenting the research

Germanwatch Policy Advisor Lisa Junghans presenting the research

Consider provincial perspectives. Cooperation across different political persuasions should be encouraged especially when issues faced by different LGUs are common within their given province. This is especially true for localities like Cagayan de Oro, with its key economic and cultural role in the province of Misamis Oriental. The Philippine Human Development Report 2012/2013 suggests that we need to take geography into account in development planning to effectively pursue opportunities for human development. The report emphasizes planning will be most effective when undertaken by the province, currently the most practicable level of authority that can give full weight to the specificity and diversity of local conditions and outcomes. Currently, political practice in Cagayan de Oro, which often favors officials of similar political affiliation, remains a barrier for communities to work together. This exacerbates fragmented decision-making and implementation of projects. This needs to change.

There are other financing modalities aside from national government programs. Lisa Junghans, Germanwatch Policy Advisor on Climate Change Adaptation and Urban Transformation, presented research suggesting a number of financing sources that are available for cities to match their needs in translating low carbon and climate resilient development plans in action. Financing modalities include Internal revenue sources (taxes, user fees, development charges, tax increment financing, interacting), External Revenue Sources (energy performance contracting, green bonds, crowdfunding), and Alternative models (bonus programs and procurement, community-owned energy systems, tax abatement schemes for climate friendly development, mainstreaming climate compatible development in urban planning). Her research argues that by accessing these financial resources, they can become pioneers of adaptive transformative change.

Focus group discussion with the Central Business District (CDB) group

Focus group discussion with the Central Business District (CDB) group

Collaboration between the academia, civil society and LGUs should be encouraged. Sharing experience, insights and technical knowledge does not stop with the successful undertaking of the climate-compatible cities workshop. The experience shows how greater engagement with schools such as Xavier University, Germanwatch, barangays, and also with DILG can promote better dialogue, yield greater ownership, and motivate a city’s diverse stakeholders to work towards common aims.

Transparency in climate finance helps make initiatives more successful. Climate finance can bridge the gap between the perception of communities as mere victims of natural disasters and other climate impacts and as direct participants in promoting transformative change. Full disclosure of plans and information is critical – often, climate policies are crafted not because policy makers are aware of climate issues but because stakeholders have voiced out their views on the problem. Opportunities grow when more information is available to the public. The success or failure of climate policy should not end with implementation, because stakeholders can also help in generating helpful lessons from climate initiatives of LGUs.

Editor’s Note: Photos above by Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan Department of Economics. Featured image: DILG-BLGD Division Chief Zaldy Masangkay talks about the Performance Challenge Fund (PSF). 

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