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Cities 'going in it alone' on climate change adaptation

Source(s):  United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Europe (UNISDR EUR)

By Dizery Salim

- A new survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, shows that 68% of cities are pursuing adaption planning for climate change but "only 7 per cent of cities surveyed believe that their national governments fully understand the realities of adaptation planning at the local level."

The global survey, Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation Planning, was presented by author, JoAnn Carmin, at the "2012 Resilient Cities Congress" which opened yesterday in Bonn, attended by 250 delegates comprising mayors, local government administrators, representatives of civil society and academia.

The report comes two years into UNISDR's Making Cities Resilient Campaign which now has over 1,020 members as it seeks to create space for cities in the international development process.

Helena Molin Valdés, UNISDR's interim Director and manager of the resilient cities campaign, told the Congress that UNISDR has just embarked on broad-based consultation to identify with cities and local governments how to build a bottom-up approach to sustainable development planning.

"Over the span of the campaign, we have noted a change in attitude and surge of interest among national governments," she said. "Last year, the President of the UN General Assembly organized a first-ever all-day debate on resilience where he invited city leaders to speak to national-level representatives. This was followed by a second one in April this year.

"Building resilience goes beyond weather and climate events. There are all kinds of shocks and risks. Resilience is not only about hard infrastructure, it's also about changing people's behaviors and forging alliances beyond the usual suspects."

But for city administrators on the ground, the path is fraught with challenges. The MIT study discovered that 74 per cent of city officials found it a "major" challenge to communicate the nature of adaptation problems, with 58 per cent noting that communicating to elected officials -- politicians -- was especially difficult.

Ms. Molin Valdes told the audience of local government administrators and others that UNISDR would seek their opinion during the Congress on a new international framework for resilience that UNISDR hopes will replace the Hyogo Framework for Action -- the current plan of action -- once it expires in 2015.

The Congress continues on Monday with a session led by UNISDR on understanding local risks and capacity tools, and the launch of a long-awaited guide on managing risks in an increasingly urbanized future: How To Make Cities More Resilient: A Handbook for Local Leaders, produced by UNISDR and its partners.

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  • Publication date 14 May 2012

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