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Unleashing the Potential of Intermediary Cities for Climate Action

Mr Remy Sietchiping


date June 29, 2022 | 13:30 - 15:00
Multifunction Hall Room 6
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre and United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat)
Greener Urban Futures
NE 106


Intermediary cities have a large untapped potential for addressing climate change and boosting rural and urban resilience. Intermediary cities play critical roles in the urbanisation dynamics of developing countries, and are at the fore front of actions for climate mitigation and adaptation. By 2035, intermediary cities (defined as those agglomerations with less than one million inhabitants) will host 53% of the urban population in developing countries. Moreover, due to their intermediation role, these cities are key actors in local and national development strategies. Indeed, intermediary cities act as nodes that connect rural, metropolitan, and cities of different sizes in the urban system, and function as hubs for provisions of food, goods and services. Intermediary cities are also key in the rural-urban and circular migration processes, employment diversification as well as reducing poverty in both rural and urban areas. Intermediary cities are also critical actors for addressing climate change. Intermediary cities, particularly in less developed countries, are often characterised by fast and unplanned urbanisation processes, which could lead to undesirable results seen in other places (e.g. car and motorcycle dependency, high levels of sprawl, and associated emissions of both). Paired with systematic governance and financing constraints, the combination of these features disproportionately expose them to adverse effects of climate change, while limiting their capacity for climate action. Unless coherent actions are in place, these cities risk to follow the same path as larger cities that are currently struggling to become sustainable. In 2015, intermediary cities in less developed regions accounted for almost 43% of urban CO2 emissions. However, as these cities grow and become wealthier, this share is expected to further increase. Moreover, due to the closer links to rural areas, this process will also affect the dynamics of the rural interface; in particular, those associate to food systems and internal migration processes. The session will discuss the current challenges and opportunities for climate action in intermediary cities. In particular, the session will highlight key entry points and assets to consider when promoting climate action across intermediary cities.




The main objective of this session is twofold. First, the session will discuss the opportunities and constrains that intermediary cities face in pursuing low carbon development and implementing climate actions. Intermediary cities face three key main gaps: a knowledge gap, resulting from insufficient information and empirical evidence on the development processes surrounding these agglomerations; a policy gap, as they are often overlooked in national strategies and international cooperation programmes, leaving these cities to face fragmented polies, often with inadequate local resource and capacity; and a persistent financing gap, resulting from their low revenue base, high reliance on national transfers, and limited access to financial markets. The session aims to promote a constructive dialogue that helps intermediary cities to transition towards a sustainable and inclusive development path. Second, the session will discuss how a shift in our current policy approach can promote climate action across intermediary cities. The complexity associated to climate change, as well as other challenges these cities face (e.g. income and health inequalities), calls for better decision-making tools that allow policy makers to advance climate action across intermediary cities, while improving the well-being of the population. The session will discuss a new way to think about climate action at local level by following a system approach.

Session speakers

Mr Remy Sietchiping
Chief-Policy Legislation and Governance Section
Mr. Vicente Ruiz
OECD Development Centre
Mr. Tadashi Matsumoto
Head of Sustainable Urban Development Unit
Ms. Meelan Thondoo
Research Associate
University of Cambridge
Ms. Mariana Mirabile
OECD Environment Directorate
Mr. Michael Lindfield
Climate Finance Expert