How to Prep a City for Climate Change

by |November 3, 2016

Cities around the world already have begun responding to climate change, and a new report from the Earth Institute provides a deep analysis about the risks they face and a detailed look at what some cities are doing about it.

UCCRN logoThe 880-page report is the result of three years of work by 350 contributors and was produced by the Urban Climate Change Research Network, based at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Network representatives last month presented the second UCCRN Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities (ARC3.2) at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador.

The work is part of a larger effort by the network to produce a resource for guiding cities in their response to climate change. The report, updated from the first version in 2011, provides expanded coverage of cutting-edge scientific research on climate change and cities. It presents climate projections and catalogs urban disasters and risks, along with the effects on human health in cities.

It also gives concrete solutions for cities looking to reduce their impact on climate change and adapt to changes already underway; urban planning and design; equity and environmental justice; economics, finance and the private sector; critical urban and social sectors such as energy, water, transportation, housing and informal settlements, and solid waste management; and governing carbon and climate in cities.

ARC cover 2016The report examines more than 115 updated and in-depth city case studies, covering cities from every continent. These case studies display current empirical evidence on what cities are doing on the ground to mitigate and adapt to climate change, across a diverse set of urban challenges and opportunities. These city climate actions are also available online through the ARC3.2 Case Study Docking Station tool.

The full report is scheduled to be published by the Cambridge University Press in January; co-authors handed out preliminary copies in Quito for an early look, and a summary of the findings was released in December 2015.

The report presents five key pathways to urban transformation, including:
1)    Actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing resilience.
2)    Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
3)    Risk assessments and climate action plans co-generated with the full range of stakeholders and scientists.
4)    Addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens.
5)    Advancing city creditworthiness, developing robust city institutions, and participating in city networks.

The report Launch at Habitat III was hosted by three co-editors of the report: Patricia Romero-Lankao from the National Center for Atmospheric Research; Shagun Mehrotra from The New School; and Somayya Ali Ibrahim from Columbia University. Other co-editors of the report include Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, William Solecki from Hunter-CUNY, and Shobhakar Dhakal from the Asian Institute of Technology.

Representatives from key partners of the Urban Climate Change Research Network—the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), UN-Habitat and the UN-Sustainable Development Solutions Network—also spoke about the report.

“ICLEI commends all scientists, experts and cities involved in the preparation of this report and encourages them to advance their work, as the success of the decisions in the Paris [Climate] Agreement and at Habitat III depend heavily on the ambitious and accelerated actions of local and subnational governments, which should continue to be guided by robust scientific information such as the ARC3 series of reports,” said Yunus Arikan, from ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.

“Sustainable urbanization embodies the ‘fierce urgency of now,’” said Mehrotra, one of the co-authors. “Now is an opportune moment for transformative action on cities and climate change in the post-SDG, post-Paris, and post-Habitat III environment as a first step to operationalizing the new urban agenda.”

Another Earth Institute center is involved in a project help communities gather and learn how to use climate information: COREDAR—Communicating Risk of Climate Change and Engaging Stakeholders in Framing Community-based Adaptation Strategies—is a collaboration between the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University and Anna University’s Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation Research in Chennai, India. Read about it on State of the Planet.

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