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Empowering Cities on The Frontline of Climate Change

As global leaders work out a climate change deal in Paris, a clear direction for cities and local governments has been set forth in the report “Summary For City Leaders.” The report, formally released today at Paris City Hall is published by the New York City based Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN) and the Center for Climate Systems Research, Earth Institute, Columbia University.

The concise, 24 page report is a step-by-step guide for city governments on how to prepare for the worsening impacts of climate change while strengthening cities’ resiliency and sustainability. Metropolitan areas across the globe have increasingly experienced hotter temperatures and heavy downpours and coastal cities are seeing  sea levels climbing at alarming rates. Climate scientists say these trends will continue and worsen in the next few decades because of higher concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere caused by burning of fossil fuels and clear-cutting forests for agriculture.

Over 120 scientists from cities all over the world contributed to the report, using numerous case studies from major international cities. UCCRN Co-Director Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Earth Institute said, “the AR3.2 Summary for City Leaders tells cities what they need to know to succeed as climate change leaders, and provides climate change projections for 100 cities so they know what to expect.”

The report defines protective courses of action involving energy, transport, waste management, and water policies as well as the critical roles of urban design to improve building performance using special construction materials and reflective coatings. The report says cities need to increase the vegetative cover which will lower outdoor temperatures and the demand for building cooling. With a projected 500 million more people by the year 2050, the report stresses resilient housing construction for low- and middle-income families that uses adaptive building technologies. Targets for cities itemized for low-carbon energy production and improved  wastewater treatment, better drainage; use of anaerobic reactors to improve the balance between energy conservation and wastewater treatment; elimination of high-energy options, such as inter-basin transfers of water wherever alternative sources are available; and recovering bio-gas produced by wastewater.

UCCRN is a global consortium of individuals and institutions dedicated to the analysis of climate change mitigation and adaptation from an urban perspective. Based out of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the Network aims to institutionalize a sustained state-of-the-knowledge assessment process of climate change science tailored for urban needs, drawing on the experience of cities across the world as they act to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

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