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Funding cities for conservation and climate resilience

Neeraja Havaligi1
May 2015

Urban areas take up about three percent of earths land surface, use seventy five percent of
natural resources, and are home to growing human population projected reach up to 6.4 billion
by 2050 (ICLEI2 and WHO3). Rapid population growth in urban areas is scattered and expansive
(Angel et al., 2005), driving local and regional environmental changes (Grimm et al., 2008). Both
urbanization and agriculture contribute significantly to climate change, but also present unique
opportunities for communities to build resilience to climate change (Bulkeley, 2013) driven by
funding opportunities that support innovative locally identified and evolved solutions.
Urbanization is one of the primary causes of land cover change, habitat loss, change in
composition of living species and species extinction (Grimm et al., 2008, McDonald et al., 2008).
Agriculture is a significant contributor to GHG emissions and climate change (Schill, 2008).
Agriculture also contributes to loss of biodiversity (Vandermeer and Perfecto, 1995; Alkemade et
al., 2009) challenging the ability of protected areas to preform ecosystem services (McNeely and
Scherr 2003) and support ecosystem health (Diaz et al., 2006).
Climate change identified as “water change 4 ” impacts water resource management and
sustainable economic development (Keur et al., 2008; Wilby and Dessai, 2010). Climate change
influences all aspects of hydrological cycle (surface and ground water, precipitation, soil moisture,
snowpack, evapotranspiration, etc.) presenting serious challenges in often-unpredictable ways to
water resources management (IPCC, 2008) and to agriculture production (Kaiser, 1991; Darwin et
al., 1995; Evangelista et al., 2013).
Rapidly urbanizing areas rely mainly on fossil fuel-dependent global food systems (Curtis, 2009)
sequestering foodstuffs over large distances often with detrimental environmental impacts
(Fraser and Rimas, 2010). Similarly large cities rely on extensive built infrastructure and energy to
move potable water into cities and also to remove and process the wastewater generated from
these cities, for reuse (Houillon and Jolliet, 2005). The reliance of urban communities on resources
from outside their geographical areas renders them vulnerable under intense climatic conditions
and peak oil scenarios resulting in sudden severances of vulnerable supply lines (Newman et al.,
2009). Projected climate changes poses challenges to agriculture (Müller et al., 2011; Teixeira et
al., 2013), water (Vörösmarty et al., 2000) energy and transportation (Naylor, 1996) sectors on
which agriculture is heavily dependent to meet its production, processing and transportation
needs. Climate change will result in increasing pressure on urban food and water systems.

1 Dr. Neeraja Havaligi is a San Francisco based biodiversity and climate adaptation specialist. She has worked with

UNDP and FAO developing projects for GEF funding. She is advisor for sustainability start-ups and board member
of Cityslicker Farms, a non-profit for food security and food justice. Her doctoral focused on urban agriculture,
greywater reuse and rainwater harvesting for biodiversity conservation and climate resilience. Dr.
Havaligi has master’s in agronomy and plant physiology. She is CFA member since 2011. Neeraja can be reached
at: diversityoflife@gmail.com and www.neeraja.net.
2 http://www.icleicanada.org/images/icleicanada/pdfs/conservation_infographic_web.pdf
3 http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/
4 UN’s World Water Assessment Programme (2009)

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Creation of “sustainable cities” designed for sustained ability to provide food and shelter and basic
services to its residents is a challenge to most of the authorities (Jacobi, et al., 2000) particularly
in climate change scenario (Deutsch et al., 2013).

Addressing the Need
Consumption of food and water in urban areas presents opportunities for urban residents, urban
planners and other stakeholders to design community-based interventions for climate resilience
(Sheppard, 2011). Urban agriculture particularly as practiced in home and community gardens is
identified as a viable solution for food provision and buffering urban poverty particularly in
climate change scenario (Dubbeling and de Zeeuw, 2011 and others). However, with few
exceptions, urban agriculture is typically practiced using freshwater brought into urban areas, at
enormous energy costs. Urban agriculture practiced with greywater reuse and rainwater
harvesting decreases water, carbon and energy footprints of urban food and water systems
(Lancaster, 2012; Birkmann et al., 2010).
Cities are also biodiversity hotspots, particularly for agrobiodiversity. Language plays a
fundamental role in biodiversity conservation (UNESCO5). Cities are characterized by greater
density of human population and diversity in terms of spoken languages, race, ethnicity and
culture (Siemund et al., 2003). For example, in Queens, New York approximately 138 languages
are spoken. Similarly in Manchester, England, a city of half a million people is home to at least 153
languages including many rare dialects. Urban agriculture is a reflection of its migrant history,
social mobility, challenges and opportunities associated with urban cultural diversity and
multicultural citizenship. The embedded knowledge of biodiversity in urban community and home
gardens could very well be the foundation on which urban agrodiversity can be understood,
nurtured and conserved.
GEF’s Sustainable Cities Integrated Program comes in at a critical time to engage urban
stakeholders for climate resilience, biodiversity conservation and to envision goals such as zero
carbon development by 2100 (Fay et. al, 2015) on a common platform. Its success relies on
identification of low-Carbon potentials in all areas particularly in urban food and water sectors to
ensure energy consumption in these two major and essential sectors are accounted for, right from
the start. Resilient tools discussed here are cross cutting in their eligibility including integrated
land use planning, energy efficiency and energy recovery processes. Participating cities could be
innovation hubs of low-emission food and water resiliency tools and knowledge bases, yielding
innovations for clear and quantified improvements of the global environment through locally
enabled change.

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http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CLT/pdf/FlyerEndangeredLanguages-WebVersion.pdf

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