Cities Race to Resilience: driving action for locally-led adaptation and resilience building

By Lea Busch, CDP & Dania Petrik, ICLEI Africa, Cities Engagement Manager for Cities Race to Resilience | November 1, 2022

In July 2021, the Cities Race to Resilience initiative was officially launched by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions. Transforming cities so that both people and nature cannot just survive climate shocks and stresses, but thrive in spite of them, is at the heart of the Cities Race to Resilience initiative. Under the global Race to Resilience campaign, the Cities Race to Resilience initiative is the primary initiative for cities themselves to join the Race to Resilience, and be formally recognised for their locally-led adaptation and resilience building actions.

Crucially, Cities Race to Resilience aims to ensure that city voices are put front and centre, and heard at the highest international level of climate change negotiations. It also strives to ensure that climate resilience goals are treated with the same urgency as the global race to halve emissions by 2030. Concretely, the initiative also acts as a global platform on which cities can showcase their ambitious climate adaptation actions that build the resilience of their population, and thus helps to increase adaptation actions worldwide.

In 2022, Cities Race to Resilience signatories across both the global north and the global south were able to report on the commitments made under the 11 thematic areas of action for the first time, through their selected reporting platform. The 50 Cities Race to Resilience signatories that chose to report through the CDP-ICLEI Track reported on over 200 resilience actions.

As torchbearers leading in the fight against climate-related impacts and disasters, Cities Race to Resilience signatories have demonstrated their commitment to implementing adaptation and resilience actions across different aspects of urban planning. Some of these outstanding examples of climate leadership follow:

Nature-based solutions and conservation of biodiversity

  • The Riverbank Bamboo Plantation in Dipolog City (Philippines) is reducing the risk of river flooding by planting 78,302 bamboos along the riverbanks of the city.
  • City of Yaoundé 6 (Cameroon) focuses on reforestation of the commune through awareness campaigns, the dissemination of seedlings to the local population and the launch of a prize for schools (primary and secondary) implementing a reforestation and nature protection policy. It is part of the activities for the protection and participatory development of the Mingosso River area against erosion, pollution, flooding and disaster prevention.
  • Cocody Municipality (Côte d’Ivoire) works on a sustainable restoration of its mangrove ecosystems, flora and biodiversity, focusing on afforestation and the sustainable development of the lagoon shores, bays and riverbanks, with a view to increase resilience and carbon sequestration. Actions towards a sustainable restoration of its forest biodiversity ecosystems include tree planting and protecting medicinal plants, wild food and aromatic plants.
  • Edinburgh (UK) has developed Scotland’s first Nature Network, focusing on creating a well-connected, healthy, resilient ecosystem that supports the city’s wildlife and residents. These opportunities are being actioned through environmental interventions, (such as planting 1 million trees) and nature-based solutions (like creating areas of wetland to hold water and reduce flooding) needed in each area.

Early warning systems (EWS) and Disaster Risk reduction (DRR)

  • Nashville (USA) established the Metro Emergency Alert & Notification System allowing safety agencies to directly communicate to the people of Nashville in times of emergency. This includes safety instructions via cellphone, landline, text/SMS, or text telephone for localized emergencies such as flooding or public health emergencies. Residents can sign up for this free alerting service.
  • The City of Salvador (Brazil) monitors meteorological systems that cause rainfall through radar and satellite images and has a Civil Defense Preventive Plan including a Warning and Alarm System in 10 risk areas for landslides and floods, as well as designated resident reception points. Using a participative approach, valuing the knowledge of the community, the city’s Self Defense Project aims to mobilize, raise awareness and train residents in risk communities. 42 Centres for Protection and Civil Defense were created in various risk neighbourhoods, directly benefiting more than 2,000 people certified by the project. 64 schools participated in the Civil Defense at Schools Project.
  • In 2021, Halifax (Canada) conducted a pilot ‘Storm Kits for Newcomers’, to provide newcomer families with storm kits and information about what to do in the case of severe weather events. The kits included items to help families and individuals be more prepared for power outages and extreme weather events.  It was translated into Arabic.

Waste management

  • The City of Makati (Philippines) identifies drainage deficiencies and regularly conducts drainage and waterways clean-up operations in flood-prone areas. In 2018, the city improved the drainage system in 1169 out of 1174 streets, resulting in a faster floodwater receding time of 15 minutes (Annual Report 2018)
  • The Lusaka City Council (Zambia) conducts monthly city clean-ups with councillors and community members working together to unblock drains and clear the streets of waste and pollution.

Water management

  • Nakuru County (Kenya) has enacted the Nakuru Climate Change Act, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Act, Nakuru Waste Management Act (2021) to combat climate change through adaptation measures, increase water efficiency and access, and improve waste and sanitation management in the County.
  • Tagum City (Philippines) recognizes the need to promote the proper harvesting, storage and utilization of rainwater, since power and water interruptions are two of the pressing problems in the city. Rainwater harvesting facilities are being required in government buildings and encouraged in individual residential buildings and commercial establishments.
  • Nottingham (UK) runs water efficiency projects installed at three city locations, delivering reduced consumption, reducing overall water demand. Water efficiency is also actively promoted through internal and external media channels. The city also focuses on the increased water demand in the region, by ensuring timely, accurate metering is obtained and working to reduce leakage across the council estate.

Oceans and coastal systems

  • The City of Belfast (UK) is implementing the £17m Belfast Tidal Flood Alleviation Scheme by building permanent and temporary flood defences. It aims to protect approximately 560 residential and 460 non-residential properties currently at risk from a significant tidal event and 3400 properties at risk (2640 Residential and 770 Commercial) by 2065, due to the sea level rise.
  • The City of Portsmouth (UK) addresses the increasing risks of flooding through its Surface Water Management Plan and implements projects such as the North Portsea Island Scheme, including the construction of 8.4 km of new flood defences, reducing the risk of flooding to over 4,000 homes and 500 businesses for the next century.
  • San Francisco’s (USA) Ocean Beach Climate Adaptation Project focuses on departments at risk from Sea-Level Rise and focuses on chronic shoreline erosion and includes managed retreat, structural protection, access and recreation improvements, and beach nourishment through the placement of sand.

Community engagement

  • The City of Oberlin (USA) started a Climate Adaptation Task Force comprised of stakeholders from throughout the community, that meet every month with the aim to review the city’s vulnerability assessment and to fill gaps, especially regarding those most vulnerable. Concrete actions include increasing resilience of the electric grid through redundancies and developing more renewable energy in the community.
  • Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality (Turkey) conducted Environmental Awareness Trainings including an animation film which educated 40,000 pupils focusing on water and soil. It reached 70,000 students by providing environmental awareness and recycling training which included the distribution of animation CDs, blooming pencils, and cleaning sets. A specific Environmental Awareness Trainings for all primary schools included soil and water mascots and a theatre play. Since 2016, a total of 199,000 students have been educated on environmental awareness and the Zero Waste mission.
  • Peñalolén’s (Chile) community health corporation executes an annual program to prevent the proliferation of cardio-respiratory diseases in the community, focused on winter, especially aimed at the most vulnerable or disadvantaged population, in addition to the population at risk. This also includes emergency dormitories (winter shelters) in municipal spaces for homeless people.
  • Campinas (Brazil) has created the Municipal Management Committee for Prevention and Control of Arboviruses to monitor and establish strategies for intersectoral actions aimed at the prevention and control of diseases such as Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya. This includes informative lectures in public schools and the inclusion of the topic in political-pedagogical projects and training courses for volunteers.

Heat stress response and urban cooling

  • Saanich (Canada) encourages building design and retrofit measures to reduce impact from heat waves and poor air quality events. In addition, Saanich aims to protect and expand the urban forest to increase carbon sequestration, improve heat response, and improve air quality, and plans to increase tree planting from 1,000 to 2,000 trees per year. In 2021 a total of 2,346 trees were planted (Annual Report Card 2021).
  • London (UK) has developed a communications protocol to cascade heat risk messaging from the Met Office and Public Health England to keep Londoners informed during extreme temperature events (London Environment Strategy). The work focused on the elderly and young children who are less able to adapt quickly and control their environments, as well as Londoners who need a respite from the extreme heat.
  • Wakefield’s (UK) Castleford Strategic Regeneration Framework proposes the installation of Green Roofs as they have the capacity for rainwater retention and for the roof itself to heat up less. Green roofs can also contribute to greater biodiversity in urban areas, capture particulate matter to improve air quality and runoff from green roofs is cleaner.

Race to Resilience cities will be officially acknowledged and celebrated at COP27, increasing the visibility of signatory city’s climate actions. To become a Cities Race to Resilience signatory, you can officially pledge your commitment by selecting at least one resilience action you’re focusing on and uploading your mayor’s signature on the Cities Race To Resilience website before COP27.

Signatories are required to report progress on their locally-led adaptation and resilience-building actions annually, through their selected reporting platform. Cities Race to Resilience partners are on standby to provide technical support for the next reporting period.

This article was co-authored by Lea Busch (CDP) and Dania Petrik (ICLEI Africa, and Cities Engagement Manager for Cities Race to Resilience), based on CDP’s analysis of the 50 cities that opted to report on their climate actions to the CDP-ICLEI Track. Reported resilience actions are publicly available at CDP’s Open Data Portal for cities so that local governments, NGOs, civil society and other stakeholders can browse the data and get inspired to take action on climate change.

Local governments that are interested in joining Cities Race to Resilience and reporting on their climate actions via CDP-ICLEI TRACK can contact racetoresilience@iclei.org and/or lea.busch@cdp.net.

The Cities Race to Resilience initiative is an effort in support of the COP27 Roadmap of Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency to the UNFCCC. C40 Cities, CDP, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), Making Cities Resilient 2030 (MCR2030), Resilient Cities Network, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have come together as partners to mobilize an unprecedented coalition of cities committed to prioritizing resilience and implementing inclusive and resilient climate action.

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