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Four top ways to drive resilient urban development

We live in an increasingly urban world. Over half the global population lives in cities, and more than two-thirds will by 2050. At the same time, risks faced by urban areas are increasing. Millions of people are losing theirhomes, livelihoods or lives because of extreme weather, in both developed and developing countries. At least two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by mid century, and right now, 890 million people live in areas at risk of natural disasters. The number of people living at or below sea level has also doubled in the past 40 years.

These impacts pose a very high risk to urban infrastructure, economies and the lives of individual residents.

It is clear that the choices we make in urban areas today will pave the path for decades to come. They will be a decisive factor in global sustainable development and in the daily lives of city residents.

Local and regional governments have a key role to play in determining that future. The decisions and actions they take today can put urban development on the right track.

Now, to bring about a critical shift in global development, we need to dial up the pace and scale of resilient urban planning and action. But what does this mean in practice? At the opening of Resilient Cities 2018 in Bonn, Germany, global leaders, urban thinkers and city mayors and planners laid out critical points for consideration.

We need stronger urban, regional and territorial dimensions in climate action. If we are serious about implementing global sustainable development frameworks, like the Paris Climate Agreement and 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, it is critical to bridge the gap between climate policy and urban development, with support and expertise from local and regional governments. At present only 60 percent of national plans consider the urban context, despite the risks they face and contribution they make to global greenhouse gas emissions. This link is too important to disregard in national climate policy. This is why hundreds of local and regional governments called for stronger linkages between urban and climate policy in the Bonn-Fiji Commitment issued at the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders at COP23 last November.

Collaborative action should cut across stakeholders groups and all levels of government. Climate action and sustainable development is not just a task for nations – a perspective increasingly taken up in global sustainable development frameworks. The Talanoa Dialogue is one example that is currently dominating the climate conversation. Launched at COP23, Talanoa is a global process in which nations review their climate commitments alongside their stakeholders. The Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues, kicked off and facilitated by ICLEI, are a bottom-up, proactive exchange between local, regional and national governments worldwide designed to review and strengthen climate action from the global to local level. This Resilient Cities congress will stand as a contribution to the Talanoa Dialogue, by bringing global leaders and all levels of government together to review an look at options for joint action on climate going forward.

Evidence-based, science-driven policy is paramount. Smart policy and action requires a strong evidence base and input from climate science. We need citizens, technicians and political leaders putting science first in their decision making. The recent Cities IPCC Conference in Edmonton, Canada was the first time national governments decided to focus on climate change and cities and set the tone for cities and climate science. The conference resulted in the release of the first draft of global research agenda on climate change and cities which will feed into 2024 report from the IPCC – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – on cities and climate science. At the conference, local leaders released the Edmonton Declaration, stating their commitment to climate science, and to reevaluate their carbon impact beyond what is immediate produced, but also to consider up and downstream impacts.

Open information and data sharing opens doors – but keep an eye on security. Advances in digitalization can be leveraged to support sustainable, resilient development in cities. Openness enables cities to do more with and for citizens, researchers, enterprise and civil society organizations. It also allows for information to be used, reused and shared. Cities have an opportunity to expand their role, providing not only solutions but also secure platforms that enable collaboration, open data access and public information technology infrastructure. Digitalization has potential for sustainability also adds a dimension of fragility. Important to consider this from the first point in time and establish resilient infrastructure. This is why the Resilient Cities 2018 congress is looking at the digitalization of cities and its implications for urban resilience.

Through the days of the Resilient Cities congress, these issues will be in focus, and participants are taking them a step further, asking, in the spirit of the Talanoa Dialogue: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

This post is based on the opening plenaryof Resilient Cities 2018.


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