Global Collaboration for City Climate Resilience

This year’s Climate and Society class is out in the field (or lab or office) completing a summer internship or thesis. They’ll be documenting their experiences one blog post at a time. Read on to see what they’re up to.

Megan Helseth, C+S ’16

Over the past two decades, international negotiations have failed to produce substantive action on climate change. Instead, city governments have become the world’s leaders on climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. As much as 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities and urban centers are responsible for up to 70 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Many cities are on coastlines and may be highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, so they have a strong incentive to find effective climate solutions sooner rather than later.

It is with these facts in mind that the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN) aims to support appropriate city-level action. Established in 2007 during the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit in New York, UCCRN unites networks of climate professionals and urban decision-makers from across the globe to enhance policy-making based on sound climate science. With regional hub cities from Rio de Janiero to Bangkok that support the work of UCCRN’s headquarters at the Earth Institute at Columbia, the organization is dedicated to sharing information and encouraging collaboration among the world’s climate experts.

Source: Urban Climate Change Research Network

Source: Urban Climate Change Research Network

One of UCCRN’s primary efforts to facilitate collaboration among climate scientists, policy experts, and urban governments is the Assessment Report on Climate Change in Cities, known as the ARC3 series, of which the first was released in 2011. This effort combined research and insights from 100 scholars in 50 cities around the world and was the first interdisciplinary, science-based assessment of climate risks, adaptation, mitigation, and policy mechanisms relevant to cities in sectors ranging from public health and disaster risk to urban planning and energy.

Since then, UCCRN has been hard at work writing the second Assessment Report (or ARC3.2), which is due to be released in October 2016 at the UN Habitat III summit in Quito, Ecuador. For ARC3.2, UCCRN expanded its efforts to include over 350 researchers, practitioners, and city officials representing more than 100 cities. Dubbed the “IPCC report for cities,” ARC3.2 is a peer-reviewed, in-depth examination of climate impacts across four sections: urban planning and design, urban ecosystems and human services, urban infrastructure systems, and governance and urban features. Most importantly, each section is focused on providing practical information that urban decision-makers can use to implement the most effective, relevant climate programs for their city.

In addition to the chapter text, which provides highly detailed analysis of the most recent climate projections on cities, ARC3.2 also contains 117 case studies that detail actions being taken by urban governments today to fight climate change. Each case study provides an inside look at how cities are managing the climate crisis in real time — allowing those in other cities to learn from best practices to improve resilience around the world.

Source: Urban Climate Change Research Network

Source: Urban Climate Change Research Network

To make the case studies easily accessible and available for analysis by climate practitioners, UCCRN has developed an online platform (the Case Study Docking Station) that allows users to search for and download copies of each case study. With the ability to search by topic, keywords, latitude range, population, continent, and more, the Docking Station provides enough data suitable for scientifically valid research and comparison of climate action across a range of social, bio-physical, cultural, economic, and political contexts. The case studies, like the ARC3.2 chapter text, has undergone peer-review, making the Docking Station database a valuable resource for climate practitioners looking to compare efforts across international boundaries. By providing such detailed information, UCCRN hopes to provide actionable information that will improve climate resilience in all cities.

As the global climate continues to warm, urban areas will continue to face significant threats to every sector of society. Many city governments have taken important steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, but too often they take action without information about how other similar cities may have handled similar challenges. UCCRN, with ARC3.2, hopes to fight this lack of pertinent information and provide a centralized resource for climate collaboration.

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