How Uruguay is advancing its National Adaptation Plan across cities through adaptive solutions and education
Climate change is one of the main challenge cities will have to face in the coming future. Mitigation and adaptation are the two main approaches to cope with the effects of climate change on the earth and its population. There is international consensus that greening strategies in cities are one of the most effective adaptation measures. Examples of these solutions range from planting more trees to green the cities, to green roofing and rain gardens.
In cities where the lack of urban greening contributes to prolonged heat waves, adaptative solutions are essential: when a roof of a building or home is partially or completely covered with vegetation, it produces oxygen and absorbs CO2, filters dust and dirt particles from the air, prevents overheating of ceilings and reduces temperature variations in the day-night cycle. Moreover, trees are excellent filters for urban pollutants and small particles and when properly planted around buildings, trees reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and save 20% to 50% on heating.
Uruguay cities are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme events such as droughts, floods, heat and cold waves, strong winds, tornadoes, hailstorms, frosts, heavy rains and severe storms.
According to the latest census in Uruguay, more than 93 percent of its population lives in urban areas. This trend has been characterized historically in the country and is expected to intensify in the coming years. For these reasons, Uruguay chose to focus its National Adaptation Plan process in its urban centers, where the most relevant service infrastructures are located and where fundamental economic activities take place.
The development of a National Adaptation Plan for Cities and Infrastructures (NAP-Cities) is a new effort at the national level to integrate the adaptation approach in cities, in infrastructures and in planning at the national and local levels.
In 2018, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved the Government of Uruguay’s Readiness Proposal in order to advance towards a National Adaptation Planning process in cities and local governments . The NAP-Cities is led by the Ministry of Housing and land-use planning in coordination with the Ministry of Environment, with the support of the Uruguayan Agency for International Cooperation of Uruguay and implemented by the UNDP.
The process of the NAP-Cities plan began with the mapping of relevant actors, followed by the preparation of an inventory of adaptation experiences throughout the country. The inventory detailed activities developed at national, departmental, and local levels, and helped recognize the advance of adaptation in the country.
Agreements with various academic institutions, specifically the Faculty of Sciences, the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urbanism, the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Information and Communication will contribute to the generation of knowledge to identify adaptation options for the main threats that affect cities.
Within the framework of the NAP-Cities, a multi-hazard assessment was carried out for climate change scenarios in four urban areas: Canelones (inland), Rivera (border city), Juan Lacaze (coastal), and the area of Pantanoso stream in Montevideo (capital). These four cities were strategically selected for the multi-hazard assessment considering the diversity of climate risks they each face. The multi-hazard assessment was developed in collaboration with the cities´ authorities and technical staff, which played a key role in the process of formulating their local plans that included specific adaptation measures.
Multi-hazard risk zoning allows geo-referencing the possible impacts of meteorological phenomena, assessing the exposure of the city infrastructure and establishes the vulnerable populations in order to identify areas where risk reduction measures are a priority. At the same time, using climate change projections allowed visualizing areas of higher risks, where immediate action is a priority and to preserve areas of the city that appear low risk but may be exposed to threats in the future.
The multi-hazard risk map will contribute to the development of early warning systems and contingency plans. Furthermore, the risks maps allow to identify which modifications in land use planning are more urgently needed in order to reduce risks and define and recommend different adaptation measures such as: the greening of waterproof areas, incorporation of new drainage infrastructure or restoration and preservation of relevant ecosystems. All of this aimed at minimizing the impacts of climate change.
With regard to social policies, the multi hazard risks map helps understand environmental conditions where the population is exposed; and with regard to habitat policies, it allows the identification of areas where the infrastructure, services and house are deficient.
The planning of climate change adaptation in cities involves the participation and commitment of various actors at the national and local levels, in order to achieve an interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach to adaptation.
The creation of a communication strategy for the NAP-Cities project determined training activities as a key component. Two annual capacity plans have been developed to date. These plans respond to the training needs identified regarding climate change adaptation. It is noteworthy that all training and education activities incorporate the gender perspective, across the analysis of adaptation measures defined in the NAP-Cities
The NAP-Cities has been implementing climate change adaptation training and educational activities with teachers, students and practitioners from various disciplines. These trainings have reached to more than 1,000 children from as young as five-years old to high school students in their late teens.
The Directorate of Scientific Culture of the Ministry of Education and Culture is supporting students’ Science Clubs to propose yearlong projects about climate change for practical solutions for their cities.
At the university-level, several programs and long-term trainings were carried out in order to deepen the technical understanding and knowledge of climate change adaptation and to help achieve the correct dissemination of these subjects.
All these actions developed for the preparation of the National Adaptation Plan for Cities and Infrastructure are contributing to the long-term vision for a resilient Uruguay and will help the country to fulfill the commitments agreed in its Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement.