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In this video Julie Greenwalt explains how growing cities house a majority of the human population and create most of our economic wealth.
Cities are home to more than half the world’s population and produce 80% of the global gross domestic product. And they continue to grow, adding people businesses, homes, infrastructure. Especially in Africa and Asia, where another 2.5 billion people will move to cities in the next 30 years. However, the story of cities in the 21st century is not only about growth and upward trends. It also includes poverty, inequality, and vulnerability to climate change. In coastal urban areas, the threat of rising seas and greater storm surges could force hundreds of millions of people from their homes and result in costs of more than US $1 trillion each year by mid century.
Furthermore, nearly a billion urban residents live in informal settlements, lacking access to safe and decent housing, sanitation, and water supply. These residents are also often the most vulnerable to climate risk, such as increased heat, rainfall, drought, and rising sea level. In order to become climate resilient, low carbon cities while also facilitating everyday management– waste collection, emergency services, public transportation– governance is critical. Understanding who are the key actors, how are decisions made and implemented, and how power is allocated is important for devising the right entry points that will yield results. City officials, national governments, local communities, individual residents, and the private sector are all critical actors who can direct, influence, and inform the future.
To illustrate this diversity of governance actors, we’ll take the example of a nature-based solution, green roofs. Green roofs can have many benefits– cooling cities to combat urban heat island, storing rainwater, reducing energy use, increasing biodiversity, and providing spaces for recreation and enjoyment. So what are the paths that have resulted in an uptake of green roofs? Paris is set to reach its goal of 100 hectares of green roofs thanks to the combination of a nationwide law passed in 2015 that required new buildings and commercial zones to be covered in plants or solar panels and an initiative kicked of in Paris by the mayor and involving businesses and public organisations.
In Chicago, where green roofs have helped to slow stormwater runoff by 36%, the impetus was actually a deadly heat wave in 1995, which led to a study that demonstrated the benefits of green roofs and resulted in the mayor deciding to turn the rooftop of City Hall green in 2001. In Cairo, green roofs are not as widespread yet, but citizen action and local community interest in equitable access to green space has garnered the government’s interest, and what has started as a small scale movement has the potential to greatly expand in the metropolis of 23 million people. Clearly, leadership and change can come from many starting points– international, national, city, and local levels.
Building on and expanding these successful examples is critical for a more resilient future, which is why the Global Commission on Adaptation has a Cities Action Track to accelerate transformative adaptation action in cities. Based on the findings of the flagship report, “Adapt Now– A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience,” the Action Track is focused on three critical themes– nature-based solutions, urban water resilience, and inclusive climate action planning. This is why, through this course and the Cities Action Track, the Global Commission on Adaptation hopes to inspire leadership at all governing levels and provide knowledge needed for a sustainable future.

As Julie Greenwalt explains in this video, growing cities house a majority of the human population and create most of our economic wealth.

Climate adaptation can lower the vulnerability of cities to flooding, heat, and drought, for example by greening urban roofs. This requires the involvement of many actors at different governance levels. The Global Commission on Adaptation is one of them. On a worldwide scale, the Global Commission on Adaptation supports transformative adaptation action in cities. One of its dedicated action tracks focuses explicitly on nature-based solutions, urban water resilience, and inclusive climate action planning.

After watching the video, please try to answer the following question for yourself: What exactly are ‘nature-based solutions’ for urban climate adaptation? Can you think of concrete examples for nature-based solutions in your city or local neighbourhood?

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Sustainable Cities: Governing Urban Adaptation Under Climate Change

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