Sharm El Sheikh -R-Cities. Cities account for 70% of the global Co2 emissions that cause climate change and global warming. It is therefore in the existential interest of cities to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to develop adaption strategies to protect the growing number of people living in urban areas. As the work of the Resilient Cities Network (R-Cities) shows, cities have significant power in addressing the current climate crisis.
António Guterres, the UN secretary general used strong words at the opening of COP27 to describe the current trajectory of the climate crisis. “We are on a highway to climate hell” he said, “we are fighting for our lives and we are losing…”
The highway to climate hell goes right to the cities, where 57% of the world’s population lives today. A number that will reach 70% at the rate it is currently growing. Cities are on the forefront when it comes to climate change and global warming. As extreme weather events all around the globe in 2022 have shown, densely populated urban areas carry the most catastrophic consequences of the climate crisis.
Cities are the one and single critical factor in reaching the goal to cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. They are uniquely positioned to implement adaptation strategies, but only 10% of climate investments reach the local level.
Often depending on national legislation and emergency funding, cities cannot do this work alone. They rely on working networks, sharing knowledge, information, and access to funding. The Resilient Cities Network with 98 member cities in 40 countries and 5 global regions in one of the leading resilience initiatives currently engaged in 19 multi-city programs and 4 communities of practice that address building resilience in key areas like water, energy, and food.
R-Cities is at COP27 to elevate the voices of cities and offer practical solutions to climate challenges that cities facing.
“Cities are on the frontlines of climate change impacts and need long-term partnerships and financing to decarbonize and build resilience vulnerable communities.” says Lauren Sorkin, Executive Director Resilient Cities Network. “We know that no matter what is decided at COP27, cities will continue to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts and continue the journey to decarbonization.”
R-Cities will be present in more than 20 events at COP27 highlighting a climate resilience portfolio, that includes capacity building, support in energy resilience, water resilience, and climate resilient infrastructure.
Food insecurity is the fastest growing threat
Globally, 150 million urban residents are food insecure; but at the same time, cities are generating 2.8 bn tons of organic waste, most of it, food. By 2050 80% of all food will be consumed in Cities. Here are examples of R-Cities members to address the issue of food on a local level.
In partnership with FoodForward SA, Cape Town has recovered and redistributed 2,148 tons of surplus food to 203 local beneficiary organizations. This project has created jobs, upskilling opportunities for youth and resulted in the removal of 8,592 tons of GHG from the city through food waste reduction.
Rio de Janeiro’s Hortas Cariocas Program transforms idle land near schools or vulnerable neighborhoods into thriving urban gardens. Locals are hired to tend to the 55 gardens and to distribute produce to local communities. In 2020 alone, the existing network provided 82 tons of organic produce for communities in need.
R-Cities latest urban food resilience and circularity campaign “Urban Eats” is a direct response to rapidly rising food prices and food insecurity because of the war in Ukraine, the knock-on effects of Covid-19 and the climate crisis.
The program will support cities to design food circularity projects with a view towards building food resilience. It ultimately ensures all city residents have access to affordable and nutritious food and organic waste is productively used.
Soon a luxury for few – Access to clean water
Globally lacking access to clean water is on the rise, according to a study published in “nature communication” it is estimated that as much as 2.3 billion, or nearly ½ of all urban citizens will face water scarcity in 2050. R-Cities member cities are working on creative solutions.
Over 1,350 rainwater harvesting systems have been installed on the roofs of government and institutional buildings in Surat, India. The city government recently ruled that such water collecting systems must now be included in all new high-rise construction. The harvested water is used to replenish diminishing groundwater and provide an alternative source of drinking water.
Sometimes changing peoples’ mind can be an effective approach. After a devastating draught Cape Town, South Africa started a public awareness campaign to encourage people to simply conserve water. The campaign dramatically changed behaviors among residents on water consumption during the “Day Zero Crisis”, cutting consumption by 55%.
On a larger scale, the Urban Ocean program of R-Cities, funded by the Ocean Conservancy and The Circulate Initiative supports cities to design waste management projects that utilize the principles of circularity, generate green jobs and ultimately lead to reductions in plastic leakage into our oceans. It is currently implemented in eight cities in Latin America and Asia-Pacific. With R-Cities team of in-house experts, it provides quality and resilience value assurance on the project development pipeline within cities.
With great challenges come great opportunities and cities today face a common challenge of responding to climate change and equity challenges. To be more effective, cities must have a formalized role in multilateral climate governance and urban planning globally needs to be fed into national policy.
Photo Caption: Mayor Luis Donaldo Colosio presenting the Parks and Green Corridors System in Monterrey as a solution to increase environmental and social resilience at the Singapore Pavilion (Photo Credit: Singapore Pavilion, COP27)
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