In Brazil, São Bernardo do Campo Municipality looks into priority adaptation measures to tackle the challenges of climate change

By the end of next month, the municipality of São Bernardo do Campo, located in São Paulo State, will deliver the last stage of its risk and climate vulnerability assessment conducted by the WayCarbon – ICLEI South America consortium. The project is part of the PROINFRA Program and is financed by the Latin America Development Bank (CAF).

In this stage, three public consultations were conducted to define the priority adaptation measures for the city and the final evaluation considered the combination of nature-based solutions, climate/social justice, and efficiency as criteria. Given the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, both the meetings of the intersectoral working group responsible for conducting the project and the public consultation were held in a virtual format.

With this movement, São Bernardo do Campo assumes a leadership position in the effort to understand the risks and vulnerabilities derived or accentuated by climate change in the region. Nature-based solutions and their potential to generate multiple environmental, social and economic benefits are highlighted in the study, responding to the threats of climate change, but also to the challenges historically faced by the city in its development process.

“In the context of the necessary ‘green recovery’ after the Covid-19 pandemic, cities are called upon to strengthen their resilience and design actions, projects and investments to reduce vulnerabilities and deal with systemic risks. It is essential that the climate lens is applied in this process. Both the risk and vulnerabilities assessment and the design of adaptation measures underway in São Bernardo do Campo are an important step in this direction, capable of becoming a reference and inspiring other municipalities in the region”, highlights Mariana Nicolletti, regional manager for low carbon and resilience at ICLEI South America.

São Bernardo do Campo, a member of the greater São Paulo Metropolitan region, is the fourth most populous municipality in the state of São Paulo, with an estimated population of 812,086 people (referring to the year 2020) and a high degree of urbanization – estimated at more than 98%. Belonging to the largest urban-industrial agglomeration in Brazil, it houses a dynamic and diversified industrial park that, in turn, favors a significant concentration of activities and services in its territory.

The city is geographically located in the domain of the Atlantic Forest, and a significant part of the municipality integrates a Watershed Protection Area – the Billings Reservoir – the largest water reservoir in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo. The relationship between intense urbanization and the geophysical characteristic of the territory imposes, therefore, the need for an attentive look at climate change effects regarding the risks of floods. Not by chance, in 2020, São Bernardo published the Mapping of Risks of Mass Movements and Floods in the Municipality.

It is also interesting to note that the public hearing process that ICLEI has conducted more recently points to the importance of actions related to water management, drainage, and urban sanitation. At the top of the priority among the adaptation measures resulting from the public consultation is the strengthening of water resources management with a focus on sanitation supply and sewage – a structural measure intended to ensure that water supply, sewage collection, and treatment services meet quality standards and reach the most vulnerable areas of the city.

The city’s performance in tackling climate change has been constantly evolving since 2009 and, in its 2019 Climate Change Policy, reveals a vanguard regional movement, laying the foundations for building a resilient city, one which fosters innovation towards the quality of life of its population and protects the most vulnerable communities.

“Developing the climate risks and vulnerabilities assessment will allow us to identify, with the support of citizens, the priority actions to be implemented in our city at this time when the climate emergency is advancing. By reducing the impacts of this crisis and adapting the territory to the necessary changes, we will protect the population of São Bernardo and inspire other cities to follow this path of adaptation and climate planning”, says the mayor of São Bernardo do Campo, Orlando Morando.

In this regard, the current assessment carried out by ICLEI South America and WayCarbon functions as an essential analytical tool in incorporating the adaptive lens in municipal policies. As they are implemented, adaptation measures will respond in a contextualized manner to the risks associated with climate change in São Bernardo do Campo.