Speaker Series 2023 #12 | National Policies on Urban Resilience

Dec 2023

About the Session

The Speakers

While national policies play a pivotal role in supporting urban resilience, cities are often at the forefront of the impact of climate change and are thus well placed to develop and implement innovative solutions to confront challenges like extreme weather events and resource scarcity. In this session, we welcomed speakers from both France & United States to speak on their countries’ approach to achieving national resilience.

National policies play a pivotal role in bolstering urban resilience by offering a supportive framework for local governments, communities, and organizations to address challenges effectively. Cities, being on the frontline of these issues, have demonstrated their capacity to devise innovative, holistic solutions to navigate shocks and stresses. There exists a reciprocal learning opportunity between national governments and cities, where cities’ experiences can inform and shape national policies, and national resources and expertise can empower cities to expedite their urban resilience initiatives. The dynamic interplay between the state, local government, private groups and citizens is crucial for fostering adaptive strategies and building resilient communities.

The Cities on the Frontline speaker session on National Policies for Urban Resilience underscores the interconnectedness of economic stability, environmental sustainability, and resilience in the face of climate change impacts. We were joined by speakers: Kimberly Johnston, Founder and CEO, NextGen Energy Partners; Special Advisor, Climate and Clean Energy Infrastructure Investment Strategies & Bruno Bessis, Sustainable City and International Advisor to the Deputy Director of Sustainable Development, Ministry of Ecological Transition, France. In a dynamic and informative panel moderated by Ron Harris, Lead, Knowledge Transformation, Resilient Cities Network & Marion Gonzales, Project manager, Communication, Events & International, France Ville Durable, we delved into the French & US contexts over the past few years, laying the foundation for the creation of the Climate and Resilience Law in France, & National Day of Resilience shedding light on the backgrounds of Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in the USA.

The speakers advocated for a comprehensive approach to addressing national resilience. Importantly, they underscored the necessity for city-level governance to effectively access available funds for bolstering climate adaptation measures. Throughout the session, the central theme was the essential involvement of cities in shaping national measures to address climate change. They underscored the disproportionate impact of climate change on residents in poverty-stricken and pollution-prone areas, emphasizing the necessity for active city and resident participation in crafting effective national strategies. Preservation of natural assets, combatting urbanization, and embracing mindful growth were identified as key factors for communities to take pride in & work to protect their ecosystems, both urban and natural, safeguarding life within cities. The discussion highlighted nature’s pivotal role in mitigating the climate crisis, with wetlands, coastlines, and ecosystems playing a crucial part in carbon reduction efforts.  The session emphasized the critical importance of co-creating national policy with diverse stakeholders, citizen engagement, and a holistic approach to building resilient and sustainable communities amidst the challenges posed by climate change.

Key Insights

  • The importance of public-private collaborations and multi-sector partnerships for equitable sustainability and resilience was discussed as the most effective way to drive down emissions while creating a livable quality of life for citizens.
  • Multi-sector collaboration forms the bedrock of equitable sustainability & resilience. By aligning with people every step of the way, public-private partnerships & projects can inject new life into the economy while cutting back on emissions.
  • Effective climate legislation is born from more than bipartisan agreement (like in the United States) but from extensive consultations with residents. The government benefits from organizing these opportunities due to increased citizen adoption and participation increasing the success of implementation and sustainability of bills.
  • National governments, while removed from specific environmental contexts, have a large role in supporting the focus on preserving natural assets, combating urbanization, and fostering mindful growth.
  • National bills such as the Inflation Reduction Act need to be targeted towards improving community well-being, giving residents a livable way to afford living, real jobs, real solutions.
  • People living in poverty and/or in zones of pollution are the ones hit the hardest by climate change. Cities need to be part of these discussions because of the huge swathes of urban populations that are affected by climate change; national measures are only effective if cities are consulted in their creation.
  • Giving cities a roadmap to resilience allows them to self-reflect and evaluate. By empowering local resilience in local government & local eco-organizations, implementation can be targeted to the needs of specific communities and can better manage the accommodation of differing social needs.
  • Cities play an important role in defining the reality of what a disadvantaged community looks like. Being data-driven in our pursuit of climate equity is something that national governments tackle well, but poverty exists beyond numbers and is felt on the ground. Local government and governmental agencies (like L’Agence National pour la Cohesion des Territories) play a huge role in listening to the needs of specific communities and creating targeted measures.

Kimberly Johnston, Founder and CEO, NextGen Energy Partners; Special Advisor, Climate & Clean Energy Infrastructure Investment Strategies

“The value of public private collaborations is that it’s trained to stimulate new markets, if we think of the new stimulus caused by the New Deal, post war, this is aimed at doing the same for sustainability.”

Bruno Bessis, Sustainable City & International Advisor to the Deputy Director of Sustainable Development, Ministry of Ecological Transition, France

“It took time in France … to rethink the way that the government responds to climate change they realized that they needed the private sector, social organizations, NGOs. By unifying these stakeholders France was able to really cooperate with all the sectors of society. When we work as a group we can find commonalities between viewpoints, break down traditional sector barriers, and create a common vision for a resilient future for urban areas.”

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