They came from cities all over the world in a galvanized effort to take on climate change and affect a plan for low-carbon, resilient urban growth. This incredible summit happened last week at the Cities and Climate Change Science Conference (Cities IPCC, #CitiesIPCC) in Edmonton, Canada. This summit was the first of its kind where 750 delegates hailed from 75 countries across the globe including mayors, city planners, scientists and researchers focused on adapting predicted climate change impacts. Delegates were encouraged to share effective action plans that were bolstered by new research aimed to create more resilient cities in this era of global warming.
Half the earth’s population lives in cities that produce 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Mayors and city managers are working to lessen emissions that come from basic, daily goods and services by implementing a circular economy where waste is used for energy, and many forms of recycling is a large part of a city’s regenerative system. Strengthening resiliency also means embracing new technologies, smart city designs and upgrading existing infrastructures that are locked-in to inefficient design modalities. Many of these strategies were laid out in the newly released Second Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities (ARC3.2), a report authored by more than 350 scientists from around the world as part of the Earth Institute-based Urban Climate Change Research Network. Some of the report’s main strategies include mitigation and adaptation initiatives; linking of disaster and adaptation planning; generation of climate action plans in partnership with non-governmental stakeholders; attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and most vulnerable; and the advancement of good governance, partnership networks, and solutions to gaps in financing.
Many cities have already taken steps to prepare for climate change. Some cities in Minnesota threatened by flash flooding, such as Duluth, has stopped building in floodplains that absorb excess flood water and stricter building standards have been enforced, especially for bridges and culverts. Rather than having developments sprawl over more porous, water-absorbing land, the city is now investing in shoring up existing housing stock, a move that will ultimately to strengthen current infrastructure which has never weathered a 100- or 500-year flood. Other cities such as Bridgeport, Connecticut have an agenda listing design resilience measures that will minimize flood risk and take into account sea level rise that affects Bridgeport’s South End businesses and residents. The future looks toward powering cities with 100 per cent renewable electricity by using energy sources such as wind, solar or hydro, with battery storage and microgrids (energy sources that can connect or disconnect from major power grids independently). Coastal cities are developing an urban living infrastructure, with its nature-based solutions as the threat of rising sea levels becomes a regular occurring reality. Efforts to replant mangroves and coastal vegetation will provide softer barriers between land and sea; removing dams and man-made canal systems to restore natural waterways can reduce the urban heat island effect and mitigate its negative impacts on human health.
In December, 2015, leaders from 195 countries announced a the landmark Paris Agreement at the COP21,the first time nations of the world came to reduce man’s reliance on fossil fuels and to reduce the devastating effects of climate change. Although cities were represented, it was more notable that nations agreed to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. Last week’s Cities and Climate Change Science Conference empowered cities and urban communities to take on climate change themselves while addressing the goals of the Paris Agreement.