Cities around the world are now able to apply for a slice of $164 million from The Rockefeller Foundation in its 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. The opening of the third and final round of this challenge was announced yesterday at the “Cities for Tomorrow” conference at the New York Times Center, The Rockefeller Foundation by its President Dr. Judith Rodin.
The aim of the challenge is to uncover the next round of partner cities who would be committed to building resilience to the shocks and stresses they face.
Already in the previous two challenges over the last two years 67 cities have joined the challenge network. Winners of this round will be announced next April.
Cities will be selected based on their demonstrated commitment to building resilience in the face of many challenges. A defining criterion is that the city’s mayor must be strongly committed to the project and demonstrate firm leadership.
“What we’re learning through the first two rounds of the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge is that not every disruption must become a disaster for cities,” said Rodin. “We can build our cities to be resilient – to be better prepared for, to withstand, an event to transform and grow in the face of these shocks and stresses. And through those same investments, cities not only become future-proof, they become better places to live and work right now. We’re excited to welcome the final 33 cities to join us in this work.”
Michael Berkowitz, President of the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge (100RC), added: “The leaders of our 100 cities will help create a global practice of urban resilience and help to develop new solutions and new ways of planning for an uncertain future. We also want to express our deep gratitude for The Rockefeller Foundation’s commitment to our work and the invaluable support they provide us.”
What challenges do cities face?
From fault lines to sea level rise, population growth, traffic congestion, violence, or all of the above, cities everywhere face a new normal of chronic stresses and acute shocks. The need for urban resilience is driven by three forces:
- Urbanization. By 2050, three-fourths of the world’s population will live in cities, putting new strains on limited resources.
- Globalization. Cities are more interconnected than ever before – and a system failure in one city can cause collapse in economies across the globe.
- Climate Change. For the many cities located in fragile ecosystems and along coasts, the impacts of climate change can be particularly catastrophic. Coastal flooding could produce damages costing $1 trillion worldwide per year by 2050. In the United States alone, 23 of the 25 most densely populated states are along the coast.
Scientists attending a major climate science conference in Paris last week came away warning that the world is presently heading for 4° of global warming and that any talk of warming being limited to 2°C rise hides a “dirty secret”.
This week’s New Scientist magazine reports that not one of the research is their journalist spoke to thought that we could rely on negative emissions, or carbon capture/geo-engineering to keep temperatures down, which is the assumption behind the often-heard mantra that we can keep warming down to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany told the conference that the only way that the temperature could be kept down is through carbon pricing. Coal burning must also be eradicated as soon as possible.
If we accept this news then it makes the job of making cities more resilient to the effects of climate change even more difficult and urgent, not to mention expensive.
What would be the effect of 4°C rise?
According to a World Bank report published in 2012, Turn Down the Heat, all regions of the world would suffer from such a catastrophic rise, some more than others.
The report says that the 4°C scenarios are potentially devastating:
- the inundation of coastal cities;
- increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher under and malnutrition rates;
- many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter;
- unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics;
- substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions;
- increased intensity of tropical cyclones;
- and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.
“The Earth system’s responses to climate change appear to be non-linear,” points out PIK Director, John Schellnhuber at the time. “If we venture far beyond the 2 degrees guardrail, towards the 4 degrees line, the risk of crossing tipping points rises sharply. The only way to avoid this is to break the business-as-usual pattern of production and consumption.”
Some of the effects in cities will be:
- Extreme heat waves. The effects would not be evenly distributed. The largest warming would be exptected to occur over land and range from 4° C to 10° C. Increases of 6° C or more in average monthly summer temperatures would be expected in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East and parts of the United States.
- Sea level-rise by 0.5 to 1 meter by 2100 is likely, with higher levels also possible. Some of the most highly vulnerable cities are located in Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
- The most vulnerable regions are in the tropics, sub-tropics and towards the poles, where multiple impacts are likely to come together.
- Agriculture, water resources, human health, biodiversity and ecosystem services are likely to be severely impacted. This could lead to large-scale displacement of populations and consequences for human security and economic and trade systems.
- There will be a spread of tropical diseases to other areas of the planet.
- Food shortages as traditional grain-growing areas become infertile.
- Many small islands may not be able to sustain their populations.
How can cities prepare for such an eventuality?
Some of the measures to be taken include:
- More more food must be sourced locally;
- Much planting of trees and other vegetation within cities to avoid the heat island effect and encourage cooling;
- Boosting of health resources;
- Protection from flooding, storms, extreme weather events and sealevel rise where appropriate;
- Securing sufficient robust water supplies and encouraging water use minimisation and water reuse;
- Improving local air quality by reducing car use and increasing use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Are cities currently prepared?
Hardly. For example, a report to be published tomorrow by the London Assembly will argue that London is ill-prepared.
Cities need to do a great deal more to understand the full impact of extreme weather events and climate change of this scale. To sustain their populations they need to pay particular attention to the security of supply chains.
Leaders need to drive forward a resilient low carbon economy and integrate climate change adaptation into all development strategies. In most cases, because leadership in this area does not come from the top, if at all, it tends to get ignored.
Hence the need for 100RC, which is dedicated to helping cities become more resilient to the ‘shocks’ – catastrophic events like hurricanes, fires, and floods – and ‘stresses’ – slow-moving disasters like water shortages, homelessness, and unemployment.
Each city in the 100RC network receives four concrete types of support:
- Financial and logistical guidance for establishing an innovative new position in city government, a Chief Resilience Officer, who will lead the city’s resilience efforts;
- Technical support for development of a robust resilience strategy;
- Access to solutions, service providers, and partners from the private, public and NGO sectors who can help them develop and implement their resilience strategies; and
- Membership of a global network of member cities who can learn from and help each other.
Learn more about 100RC at www.100resilientcities.org.
David is Special Consultant of this website. He’s author of Energy Management in Buildings, Energy Management in Industry, Sustainable Transport Fuels, Solar Technology, Sustainable Home Refurbishment, Solar Photovoltaics Business Briefing, and much more. His new book, The One Planet Life, is due out in November. He’s also a novelist, script and comics writer, journalist, and editor. He was …