Making our cities sustainable can answer the global climate conundrum
- Category: News
- Published: Saturday, 01 August 2020 18:47
- Written by Maria Serenade
The impact of climate change has already affected Indonesian cities, arriving sooner than many expected. In order to prevail, cities must adapt, take action and make sustainability as their raison d'être.
On July 22-23, 205 city administrators from the Asia Pacific Region participated in Sustainable Urban Design & Planning training, hosted by the Climate Resilient and Inclusive Cities (CRIC) Project. The training was developed by the ISOCARP – Centre of Urban Excellence. This is the the first of five training to be delivered through the CRIC Project, the European Union-funded, 5-year-project, led by the UCLG ASPAC, in partnership with Pilot4DEV, ACR+, ECOLISE, Gustave Eiffel University and AIILSG.
This first training on sustainable urban development focused on four themes, localised in the Indonesian context. The supporting materials consisted of case studies and best practices, further readings, and references to other interactive media. Additional to the overall themes, current global planning concepts and approaches were covered. These included the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 11, the New Urban Agenda (NUA), Sustainable Urban Development (SUD), Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), human-centred design, metropolitan/territorial planning, as well as socially inclusive planning. The training also covered planning across scales, planning across disciplines/sectors, planning for the poor/for informality and discussed how to link different planning bodies.
The training, which was run via Zoom, was a success in expanding the participants’ knowledge base. The chat room was filled with questions from cities seeking answers to a decades-old conundrum: how to promote growth without compromising the environment.
This is a timely question to ask, as city is on the frontline in delivering solutions to tackle climate change. UN Habitat (2011) reported that the world’s cities are responsible for up to 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and consume a large part of world’s energy supply. The need for cities to take an immediate action is also punctuated in the IPCC report (2018), highlighting that transitioning to sustainable urban development would help to curb global warming to 1.5°C by the end of this century.
The need for an immediate action
Integrating mitigation and adaptation efforts in urban design and planning can help cities increase their resilience, while at the same time meeting human needs and preserving the environment. In order to achieve that, Putra Dwitama, CRIC Project Coordinator of the UCLG ASPAC argues that a set of actions that are directed to “change behaviour, advocate for better policies and increase climate literacy” at a city level is required. “The cost of not adapting to climate change is much, much higher. The loss is beyond economic, but also cultural and social,” he said.
In Indonesia, hydro-meteorological disasters are on the rise due to climate change. It has been observed that the wet season rainfall has increased while the dry season rainfall has decreased (Indonesia 2020-2024 Mid-Term Development Plan). Increased rainfall may lead to high flood risk, and decreased rainfall will put some areas at high drought risks, reducing water supply for consumption, sanitation and food production.
This impact will not be felt equally because city has its own characteristic, thus determining its risks and vulnerability. To both curb climate change and cope with its impact, cities will need both mitigation and adaptation options because no single option will be sufficient. In the environmental session, John Echlin encouraged participants to pursue actions where mitigation and adaptation are linked through integrated responses. He also stressed the importance to look these two actions through economic lens.
The training also presented mitigation and adaptation efforts that cities can undertake. From Curitiba, Brazil, participants learned how multimodal transportation could both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve mobility. Another example from the northern part of Java showed the design that can protect communities from coastal flooding while preserving the mangrove ecosystem.
Local action matters
The training reiterated that local actions matter in the fight against climate change. But it takes political will of local leaders, organisational capacity and strong civic engagement to manifest this action - which cities are still lacking of. A question from one participant gave evidence to this, “what would be the best approach to motivate the local leaders in developing a climate resilient city as well as mitigating environmental pollution caused by urbanisation?”
Concern about the absence of an ideal collaborator at a city level also loomed large, as the feedback survey found. Participants mentioned that to better manage a city, they primarily will need a strong team; secondly, wider collaboration across departments came second; and thirdly, training and personal skills.
The CRIC Project will help ten Indonesian pilot cities to meet the aforementioned needs. Currently, pilot cities are assembling representatives from government institutions, universities, local communities and private sector to establish a working group. This group serves as an effective vehicle to formulate policies, mobilise collective actions, and influence local leaders to take a bold move to save the people, the city and the planet.