Why Medellín is at the forefront in the fight against climate change in Latin America

IFC
4 min readJun 28, 2023

By Ursula Blotte and Anais Julienne*

Cities are crucial in the fight against climate change. Over 70% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are produced in cities, as well as over 50% of the world’s waste. Cities are vulnerable to climate risks such as ocean rise, floods, and extreme temperatures. In part due to climate induced displacement, urban populations also continue to grow, increasing the need for robust urban planning and the development and expansion of resilient services and infrastructure.

Medellin is no stranger to this problem. Climate change impacts can be felt in several ways, including:

1. Temperature increase: The city has been experiencing more frequent and longer heatwaves, which can have significant health impacts, such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, and respiratory problems.

2. Water scarcity: Climate change is generating changes in precipitation patterns, leading to droughts in some regions. This has led to water scarcity in Medellin, which can have a significant impact on the city’s agriculture, energy production, and public health.

3. Landslides and floods: Medellin is located in a mountainous region, vulnerable to landslides and floods. Climate change exacerbates this vulnerability by increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall.

Medellin has taken several actions to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, starting with the development of a Climate Action Plan (PAC, in Spanish) 2020–2050 that aims at a progressive reduction of GHG emissions, eventually achieving carbon neutrality and increasing resilience through adaptation measures and investments under a low-carbon development perspective.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has partnered with the Aburrá Valley Metropolitan Area, an area integrated by ten municipalities (including Medellin), to become the first in Latin America and the Caribbean to use APEX (Advanced Practices for Environmental Excellence in Cities). APEX is an app developed by IFC that supports cities in emerging economies. It aims to produce a Climate Investment Opportunities Diagnostic to accelerate the implementation of ambitious and transformative policy actions and investments. These planning guideline aims to significantly contribute to transitioning to low-carbon and resource-efficient growth pathways.

The Aburrá Valley Metropolitan Area used APEX for the development of the Climate Investment Opportunities Diagnostic. This guide was designed to assist the district team to ensuring that the PAC 2020–2050 meets its objectives. The guide addresses the development challenges specific to Medellín, as included in the PAC 2020–2050.

The Climate Investment Opportunities Diagnostic supports the implementation of Medellin’s PAC by assessing several of its selected actions in terms of potential investments, indicative costing, and suitable financing options. APEX helps quantify and prioritize city-based policy and investment solutions in the built environment, energy, transportation, solid waste, and water and wastewater sectors.

The Diagnostic has prioritized a total of twenty investment opportunities aligned with the Ambitious Action Scenario of Medellin’s PAC 2020–2050. The overall investment cost of approximately USD 2,805 million comprises both direct investments by the public sector (32.5%) and indirect investments by the private sector (67.5%). The project pipeline is anticipated to deliver a 20% reduction in GHG emissions across all the sectors under analysis.

Prioritized climate investments were categorized according to shared characteristics and potential financing opportunities. This report presents five sets of measures, which are listed below:

1. Investing in Green Municipal Buildings. Reducing energy consumption in new and existing public buildings through energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy.

2. Improving Provision of Infrastructure and Public Services. Enhancing the availability and quality of public amenities and providing basic services.

3. Leveraging Utilities and Tax Collection to Upgrade Private Buildings. Using public resources, such as taxes and public utilities, to incentivize or support the improvement of privately owned buildings.

4. Enabling Green Privately Owned Electric Public Transportation. Promoting the acquisition and operation of privately owned electric buses, minibuses, and taxis through enabling actions.

5. Leveraging Green Private Financing Through Local Intermediaries. Enabling local financial institutions to serve as a link between private investors and green projects, optimizing the use of private financing to support sustainable development and promoting the involvement of local communities and businesses.

Financing mechanisms were identified and analyzed within the city’s specific regulatory and financial context. Low-carbon projects identified in the Diagnostic were then categorized into five groups to reflect the wide range of funding options available to support their implementation. Next, the financing options were aligned with each of the five groups, as indicated above. Details of investments, scopes, and suggested financing delivery models are described further in later sections of the report.

IFC will support more cities globally in the identification, quantification and prioritization of green solutions using the APEX app. In fact, last October during the C40 Mayor’s Summit, IFC and C40 signed an agreement to foster their collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean for the implementation of APEX in cities that have a Climate Action Plan developed with C40. IFC is currently implementing the APEX tool in Lima, Perú. Hopefully, most Latin American cities will have a better understanding of what it will take to reach their sustainability goals, and most importantly, how to design the financing models that could help them get there. Medellín is only the beginning.

*Ursula Blotte, Operations Officer, LAC Upstream and Advisory Infrastructure; Anais Julienne, LAC Cities Lead, Upstream and Advisory Infrastructure.

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IFC

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets.