Cities are changing at an unprecedented rate: 75% of the urban infrastructure expected to be in place by 2050 has yet to be built. Meanwhile, major adjustments are needed to reach climate and development goals, as cities continue to tackle issues of sprawl, congestion and pollution. Now is the chance to invest in new solutions and seize the estimated $26 trillion opportunity in low-carbon growth.

TheCityFix Labs are an effort to bridge the gaps from idea, to implementation, to scale and help cities understand what is possible.

Through a series of regional workshops in India and Mexico, WRI has cultivated innovative, public- and private-sector solutions to multiple urban development challenges. After applying to be a part of the Lab, a select cohort of projects is guided by a multi-stakeholder platform anchored by WRI experts to nurture their ideas, demonstrate them through pilots and evolve their business models to better suit municipal decision-making processes and markets.

TheCityFix Labs India, supported by CAT Foundation, DEFRA and NICFI, looks to foster nature-based solutions that promote natural management of air, water and green space towards enhancing the climate adaptation capacity of cities. This initiative offers participants exposure and engagement, including the opportunity for a pilot demonstration, technical support and collaboration with different stakeholders. The main intent of the Lab is to articulate the scientific, evidence-based case for urban nature-based solutions that will sensitize institutions and city authorities on the role these solutions can play for cities and their residents. The Lab also seeks to create a coalition of government and private sector partners that can scale much-needed urban nature-based solutions quickly.

Previous editions of TheCityFix Labs, supported by the Citi Foundation, cultivated solutions in Mexico and India. In 2018, the inaugural Lab sought to accelerate small and medium enterprises in the urban service delivery for water, energy and waste in India. That same year, WRI México launched a Lab supported by NICFI, DEFRA and FEMSA for local initiatives to improve urban green spaces, energy efficiency and sustainable water management. Each project, represented by a diverse group of stakeholders, received technical and financial guidance to help the projects reach bankability. TheCityFix Labs México culminated in 2020 with an opportunity for the participating cities to pitch their project to a high-level panel of finance experts and an audience of more than 250 stakeholders, including from national governments, multilateral and development banks, investment funds and institutional investors.

After their participation in this initiative, the Mexican cohort projects significantly improved their investment readiness and managed to attract potential investment from public and private sources. In addition, some of the participating city governments increased their awareness of the potential of nature-based solutions and began exploring potential sources of funding for these solutions, such as land value capture tools and local tariffs for sustainable water management.

TheCityFix Labs build off of WRI Ross Center’s work around the world supporting the market transition to sustainable investments by combining knowledge-sharing, capacity-building and direct technical assistance to help cities better define and initiate fundable projects.

Cover image credit: Satyajeet Mazumdar/Unsplash