Cities: A Driving Force to Address Climate Change

As a “trademark” achievement of the global community, the Paris Agreement can be considered as a very important agreement document produced by the international community during COP21. However, many parties face problems in implementation. Even when a country decides to commit to the Paris Agreement, nothing will happen unless action is taken on the ground. Decisions from the international and national level have to be relayed to the local authorities in order for actual work to be done. Cities have to spearhead the action and become a more sustainable and livable place.

Video from the Global Environment Facilities

From the trend of COP23, it is obvious that more attention has shifted towards community-led actions, diverting from a national level centric approach. This is where cities come in. Cities, being the center of the fight for sustainable development and against climate change, has to promote integrated and sustainable urban planning. Having an intimate connection with the local community, cities are able to understand the needs of the people better and provide better service to the people when integrating climate risks into urban planning and management through policy intervention. Cities have the capacity to attract finance and involve the private sector. They could invest in projects that bring environmental benefit while bringing economic benefit to the local community.

We can look at the example of the Sino-Singapore Tianjin eco-city project that was designed to be practical and replicable, positioned to be a role model for resource efficiency and low emission development. Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, was also able to integrate climate risks into their urban planning process and ensured that community-based adaptation is in place to enhance resilience towards urban flooding.

Around a two-hours’ drive away from Kuala Lumpur lies Malacca, where a sustainable city development takes place. Launched in May 2017, the project has received a grant of 2.7 million US Dollars and 20 million US Dollars in in-kind funding. The project has four components: economic, development, social and smart, aiming to balance each area in the planning of the cities. Through the project, Malacca also worked with World Bank in order to improve its creditworthiness to attract more private investment, hoping to shift the local authorities project monitoring focus from solely federal projects.

Thus far the initial assessment seems promising, with most of the goals reached. However, Malacca does face a rather tricky problem: carbon emission by tourists. According to the initial assessment, Malacca attracts 16 million tourists per year which amounts to 4.3 million tCO2e. With revenue from tourism on one hand and climate impact on the other, the state has to get out from this sticky situation as soon as possible.

The Rapid Assessment of Sustainability Outlook for Malacca was able to run smoothly because it had the support of high-level leadership. The project was proven implementable within a six-months’ time frame and the initial two months are critical in building momentum. A point to note is that emphasis needs to be placed on leveraging existing institutional governance, mobilizing local consultants, and being inclusive of all economic sectors.

As the Paris Agreement reposition cities as a driver of climate action, the importance of cities as a solution towards climate change increased along with more attention from the IPCC. Cities are the stakeholders that could work towards the goal country leaders committed at the international level. However, currently, the gap between the national level and local level is still significant such that a session by the Global Environment. Hopefully, the scene would be better soon.

 

Sources from session of the 9th World Urban Forum #WUF9

Written by Xiandi

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