WEEK 1: CLIMATE RESILIENCE IN YOUR CITIES

The vast majority of posts came from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia – the global south. We could see that climatic events are affecting cities across our regions in very similar ways; the effects of climate variability in terms of aggravating existing problems were common across regions; and the major challenges to be overcome when tackling climate challenges were indeed similar. Although we only touched upon the idea of planning to overcome climatic challenges at the city level, we can already see that there are varied approaches, and we look forward to hearing more about these throughout the course of the Learning Alliance. A very important point to pick up on, which recurred many times throughout the posts was that we cannot attribute all existing problems experienced as a result of natural events to climate change. Some participants were concerned with the use of the term ‘climate change’. I would not want this distinction to impede our discussions and would like to suggest that we consider strategies to improve resilience in cities on account of climate variability, which will worsen with time. Many participants directly pointed to the idea that the denial of climate change is a major barrier to development in cities. Thinking that climate change is something that will happen in future, and thus waiting to act rather than taking proactive measures to reduce risks and existing climate aggravated problems now. Many participants theorised that a holistic approach to climate change would be the most effective means of achieving change – integrating climate considerations into all plans, policies and development actions at the city level. One of the main barriers to change that was noted across all regions was the relative inaction of city governments. Many participants explained research projects and promising strategies and plans that have alas not yet come to fruition. It seems that in many cities it is not the lack of planning on how to address climate challenges that is leaving cities vulnerable, but it is the putting of these plans into action that proves to be difficult. Some point out that the reason for this is the lack of conviction in long-term investments, due to the nature of national and local politics. In many countries climate change is not a priority due to the myriad of existing development needs. We will be looking at city level plans and policies in the first week of Module 1. The level of awareness and understanding about climate risks and climate change realities was mentioned time and time again – for all levels of society. Many participants noted that awareness among communities is a key priority, and that city dwellers should be educated about climate threats and included in planning decisions. We did see that some programmes, mainly led by civil society groups, are working on exactly this issue across our regions.

Learning Alliance on Climate Resilient Cities

 

Another recurring commentary was about the importance of using multi-stakeholder groups when planning for and addressing climate challenges. Many participants suggested that players from the government, civil society, the private sector, academia and the community, should work together to identify risks, formulate plans and put them into action. Few successful practical examples were given, but this week’s discussion was not focused on that. In module 2 we will look at the involvement institutions and the community.

In terms of which climatic changes have been seen in cities across our regions, the main cause of problems seem to be heavy rainfall and resultant flooding. Heavy rainfall coupled with a variety of aggravators has been wreaking havoc in cities around the world: - Many cities across our nations are located on the coastline or on riverbanks - Poor drainage systems worsen flood damage - Poor quality infrastructure is easily damaged by heaving rain causing a variety of knock on problems - Lack of building codes for housing - High level of rural-urban migration - Unplanned cities see urban dwellers settling in high risk areas: on riverbanks, hillsides, and other unstable grounds Indeed many participants attributed the lack of land-use planning as one of the main challenges that cities need to overcome in order to become more resilient to climate change. We will be looking at land-use planning during the course of Module 1. Many participants also spoke about the impact of rising temperatures, decreased rainfall and intense droughts. Some spoke about droughts in rural areas that have the knock-on effect of causing food security issues in cities. Droughts in cities also raise concerns over access to drinking water. We heard about some civil society action to drill boreholes, but there was an increasing concern over the lowering of water tables. The three problems that were most often cited by participants as being aggravated by both slow-onset and extreme weather events were poor water access, poor waste management and poor sanitation, leading to a host of health issues (water-borne and vector-borne). Many actions were seen across all regions that are attempting to address these issues. In Module 3, when we look at ways to improve resilience in the built environment we will delve more deeply into these issues, and uncover solutions from across our regions.

Additional (post summary) comments: - Water supply is an increasing concern with the changing climate, and city resilience strategies will necessarily need to address this issue - A lack of local capacity, the outsourcing of important analysis and planning, and the inability to put plans into action are major setbacks to improving urban climate resilience

Learning Alliance on Climate Resilient Cities

 

WEEK 2: CITY LEVEL CLIMATE CHANGE PLANS AND POLICIES Thank you to those of you that participated in the discussion last week on city level plans and policies. Participation in these discussions is very valuable, even if the cities that you live and work in do not show clear signs of implementing the climate resilience strategies under discussion. As a community is it interesting for us to understand the realities across all of our countries, please do not shy away from taking part in the discussion – even if your contribution is merely to state that your cities have not implemented such practices. It is our hope that we can match up our strengths and weaknesses and help each other see different approaches to addressing similar needs. Another comment, before moving on to the summary of this week’s discussion is that in this Learning Alliance we are focusing specifically upon climate resilience at the city level – and not at the national level. There are of course very important links between the two, and we will certainly mention national strategies from time to time, when they directly affect city responses, however, our focus is upon cities because arguably it is location specific strategies and actions that will improve climate resilience in urban areas. In the following discussions we would like to encourage you to share practical local experiences. Last week’s discussion about city level policies and plans showed that very few cities across Africa and Asia have developed city level strategies to improve climate resilience. We heard about national climate change plans, policies and strategies in existence or in development in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ghana, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Plus, we know from the Week 1 discussion that many other countries throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America have national climate change strategies, plans and policies. Several reasons were given as to why city level plans do not exist: Many participants attributed the cause to the fact that other development issues are further up the agenda. A participant from Zimbabwe stated that city level climate change plans would more likely be developed after the national plan is complete. Participants from Bangladesh and Ghana explained that a the lack of city level climate change strategies may have to do with the fact that there are no city governments as such. Participants from India and Zambia explained that climate change is seen as more of an agricultural or rural concern that an urban one.

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Aside from the two cities featured in our discussion material – Mexico City and Quito – some other cities with specific climate change plans were introduced to us, along with other cities with uncoordinated programmes to improve climate resilience. From what participants shared last week we can see that:

Learning Alliance on Climate Resilient Cities

 

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In Bangladesh – the cities of Khulna and Dhaka have a series of initiatives to improve climate resilience, but no central city plan. In Bolivia – La Paz has a plan for climate change, which focuses on early response to hazards. In Ghana – the city of Accra has a plan to deal with flooding, and participants mentioned that byelaws are being passed in cities to improve climate resilience. In India – Surat, Indore and Gorakhpur have specific climate change plans, and Visakhapatnam city is developing a plan now. Delhi has no specific plan, but is apparently very well organised and increasingly green. In Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh city has a Climate Change Action Plan 2015-2025

Given that most cities do not have climate change plans the discussion on financing city level plans was largely combined with the discussion on whether or not cities could become resilient to climate change without a central city level plan. Many participants understood this question to be about whether it was necessary to have support from the central government, and as such we did have two similar but distinct discussions going on. On the whole, participants felt that the chances of success would be higher with support from city level administration. Most participants felt that cities would improve urban climate resilience if national governments gave political, economic and technical support – but many felt that power should be passed on to the city authorities. Two additional, very interesting, recurrent comments that we saw throughout last week’s discussion were: 1) the view that it is necessary to have a multi-stakeholder group working on city level strategies, and, 2) that public-private partnerships would be necessary to fund such initiatives.

Additional (post summary) comments: In India, Ghwahati is preparing a resilience strategy (with the help of TERI), the cities of Shimla, Mysore and Bhubaneshwar have developed resilience strategies (with ICLEI) In Brazil, the city of Rio de Janeiro has developed a Master Plan and also joined the city Resilience Campaign (UNISDR). Many steps are being taken, but results will take years. In Uganda, the city of Kampala has implemented a series of actions under the Climate Change Initiative of the UN-HABITAT In Bangladesh, the city of Dhaka has several separate programmes to address climate challenges, but the lack of coordination between institutions is holding back the development process

Learning Alliance on Climate Resilient Cities

 

WEEK 3: URBAN CLIMATE VULNERABILITY AND RISK ASSESSMENTS

We had a very interesting discussion this week about climate vulnerability and risk assessments in cities across our regions. I would like to thank you once again for sharing your experiences and interacting with others. If you did not yet have a chance to take part in this discussion, please visit the site and add your comments to this post. We saw a range of responses to the question on whether or not exercises like the climate vulnerability mapping of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were being implemented in your countries. We saw that some cities had indeed carried out specific climate change vulnerability mapping exercises, some cities had carried out a range of mapping exercises but without a climate change focus or without covering the whole city, others still showed to have no signs of meaningful mapping. From what participants shared with us this week we could see that: - The cities that showed clear climate vulnerability maps were: Guwahati, Indore and Surat (India), Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), Kampala (Uganda), La Paz (Bolivia). - The cities that had maps in some regions were: Chennai (India), and Harare (Zimbabwe). - The cities that had maps for certain issues were: Dhaka (Bangladesh), Kathmandu (Nepal), Khulna (Bangladesh), Lusaka (Zambia), Makurdi (Nigeria), Sekondi & Accra (Ghana). A large proportion of participants converged on the suggested components necessary for successful climate assessments in cities: - Involvement of multi-stakeholder groups - Involvement of local communities - Mobilisation of policy makers to support such exercises - Inclusion of results in climate change plan for the city - Public-private funding mechanisms - Constant updating of climate vulnerability and risk maps A very interesting discussion occurred regarding the utilisation of quantitative or qualitative data. Many participants stated that there is often lack of quantitative data coming from communities in very academic studies. Some participants gave examples of cases that utilised purely qualitative data- such as cities in the Caribbean. It was generally agreed that a mixture of both quantitative and qualitative data would lead to the most meaningful maps. Quantitative data is helpful when it comes to monitoring and evaluation, and is the kind of data that is best received

Learning Alliance on Climate Resilient Cities

 

by local authorities; qualitative data is necessary because the local communities are the ones that best understand the reality of risks, and local knowledge is highly valuable. The barriers to risk assessments being done, or to risk assessments being translated into meaningful actions were generally attributed to the following: - Lack of political concern for climate change (Ghana, India, Mozambique, Nigeria) - Lack of climate change funding from local authorities (Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria) - Lack of expertise/capacity (Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Nigeria) - Lack of interaction between institutions and agencies (Bangladesh, Brazil, India) - Studies are seen as academic exercises, and are not put to practical use (Brazil, Ghana, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Uganda) - Informal settlement dwellers do not follow advice of resultant plans - Climate change is considered a rural issue and mapping is more common in rural areas (Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Zambia) It was interesting to see that once again this week the fact that rural areas are more commonly mapped for climate vulnerability. The impacts of climate variability are certainly different in cities and due to increasing urbanisation, these kind of mapping exercises might be considered increasingly important for urban areas. It was very encouraging to see some specific examples of cities that have used climate vulnerability mapping to implement specific programmes and actions to increase urban climate resilience. The ACCCRN and TERI initiatives in India, are particularly interesting, as is the example of Ho Chi Minh city, and we would encourage you seek more information on these. Additionally we saw a very interesting example from the Caribbean that was not city specific, but spoke of a participatory approach to mapping climate vulnerability. Our participants kindly shared various links and documents – some of which are annexed here below.

Additional (post summary) comments: - Mapping vulnerabilities may be more robust if different types of vulnerabilities were overlaid on maps – helping to identify high-priority areas with multiple vulnerabilities. - In South Asian cities some of the vulnerability and risk mapping is done by external development partners. In some cases it seems that organisations are more interested in publicising their names than improving climate resilience - Climate resilience in cities is not a political issue in Bangladesh, this issue is never seen on election manifestos

Learning Alliance on Climate Resilient Cities

 

WEEK 4: INTEGRATING CLIMATE CHANGE CONSIDERATIONS INTO URBAN LAND-USE PLANNING Looking at the responses of participants regarding the integration of climate change considerations into land-use planning, we can see that very few cities have successful done this. In many cases where urban land-use planning is effective it is not yet considering the challenges posed by the changing climate. Some examples include: Dhaka (Bangladesh) which focuses much more on environmental issues such as pollution and does not focus on climate change challenges Harare (Zimbabwe) does have some plans for zoning, and some informal settlements are being re-planned but there is not a specific climate change focus Kathmandu (Nepal) does have risk sensitive land-use planning but climate change is not yet being considered Makurdi (Nigeria) does not include climate considerations in land-use planning Zambian cities are not yet including climate considerations in land-use planning

The cities from which we did see specific land-use planning processes to consider climate challenges included: Akwidaa & the Shama District (Ghana) have land plans to reduce further risks posed by climate challenges. These towns also used a successful participatory approach. Cape Town (South Africa) had the Spatial Development Framework that includes climate change considerations Gujarat & Maharashtra (India) town planning schemes have been successful Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) has a planning that includes climate issue, but no plan enforcement Kampala (Uganda) where there is planning to create more space for housing and transport, and green spaced to respond to flooding and rising temperatures La Paz (Bolivia) has a plan that defines construction limits and is updated on a yearly basis

Many other cities were mentioned that do have elements of land-use planning, and some climate considerations are being taken into account but without the specific acknowledgement of this. For example Accra (Ghana) has some earmarked ‘green’ areas that may not be developed, Chennai (India) has a development plan that was developed in 2009 with some recommendations given climate change, Delhi & Ahmedabad (India) have a transit oriented development focus so as to reduce emissions.

Learning Alliance on Climate Resilient Cities

 

What was interesting was that many participants shared converging ideas as to the barriers: why it is that climate considerations are not integrated into urban land-use planning, and what are the major downfalls of existing land-use planning tools. There are many other development priorities that come before climate resilience There is a lack of political push for climate resilience initiatives, and a lack of policy in place to enforce new rules Many times land-use planning is outsources to consultants that do not understand the local reality, and do not effectively communicate the results to urban dwellers Lack of capacity to plan land-use Lack of coordination between related departments and institutions It is very hard to enforce rules, and stop urban expansion in high risk areas for example. Many times this is because the public are not aware of the rules, other times it seems that it is because urban dwellers are not made aware of the risks and the reasons for the land-use policies. It was argued that this situation could be vastly improved upon by including community members in the development of land-use plans

Many participants commented that there is a need for raising awareness, which leads us nicely on to the second part of the discussion which was related to utlisation of multi-stakeholder groups in the development of urban land-use plans. All participants that commented on this question were in agreement that a holistic approach has many advantages and if effectively organised would have a positive effect on improving climate resilience. The most common advantage mentioned was that this kind of approach would enable community members to understand why land-use patterns need to change, and would thus be more willing to change. In terms of cities using participatory methods to integrate climate change considerations into land-use planning we saw the following examples: Linda Dsane from Ghana shared the examples of Akwidaa and the Shama District. In this case a participatory community approach was used, and resulted in community members accepting that they needed to relocate. Land maps were used to prevent development on flood prone land. Edwards Kwaku Duah from Ghana explained an interesting approach that involves institutions and community members from the start of the design to the acceptance stage, although he did not mention the city that he was referring to. Sanap Aksha from Nepal spoke of the bottom up approach of Local Adaptation Plans and the involvement of the community (please see link for more details) Elangovan Balakrishnan from Chennai (India) shared information with us about a participatory process used for the City Development Plan in 2009 (please see link for more details)

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Learning Alliance on Climate Resilient Cities

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