From Mumbai to Paris: How cities are spearheading adaptation action

By Climate Champions & Helena Fazeli, CDP | December 3, 2023

Cities, as hubs of innovation and diversity, play a critical role in leading climate action. From deploying Nature-based Solutions to implementing waste management techniques, they are not only adapting to the challenges posed by climate change but are setting examples on how to thrive in the face of climate change.

Discover how cities part of Race to Resilience partner initiative, Cities Race to Resilience, are taking action across seven core areas. All data was publicly reported on CDP-ICLEI Track, the main reporting platform for Race To Resilience cities, and more actions can be accessed on CDP’s Open Data Portal.

Nature-based Solutions 

Cities around the world are increasingly leveraging Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to enhance their resilience against climate hazards. This approach is not only improving climate resilience but also bolstering livelihoods and biodiversity conservation. The Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda 2023 Implementation Report launched today at COP28, details a range of successful strategies and stories from key cities.

In line with this, the Nature Positive Cities initiative at COP28 is driving a significant call to action for cities and regions to integrate nature into their Climate Action Plans. This movement aims to accelerate investment in urban natural environments, providing both financial and technical support. These efforts are critical for demonstrating progress in resilience and adaptation, contributing to the overarching goals of the Sharm el Sheikh Adaptation Agenda.

Reflecting on the progress so far, as of the 2023 reporting period, over 80 percent of Cities Race to Resilience (R2R) members have established a Climate Action Plan, with 78 percent of these cities setting explicit adaptation goals. Notably, one fifth of these adaptation goals specifically focus on addressing biodiversity loss. Furthermore, a significant portion of the ecosystem-based adaptation actions targeting heat-related risks are projected to enhance the resilience of nearly the entire population in their jurisdictions. Additionally, about 35 percent of the actions aimed at mitigating flooding are expected to improve resilience in at least 50 percent and up to 100 percent of the natural systems involved.

Examples of action to date:

  • Mumbai (India) is planting 377,416 trees in 100 locations across the city, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute. Additionally, the city has constructed protective walls for mangroves at multiple locations and implemented the ‘Mangrove Conservation and Livelihood Generation’ scheme to support Indigenous communities through sustainable livelihood activities.
  • Paris (France) is implementing its Paris Biodiversity Plan by creating and restoring a network of wetlands and ponds. By 2020, 30 wetlands had been created, and the city has a target of installing an additional 50 by 2030.
  • Sunderland City Council (UK) is taking steps to enhance local biodiversity and address urban environmental issues by installing living roofs on bus shelters, known as “Bee Bus Stops,” and living walls. These initiatives promote biodiversity, aid pollinators, mitigate urban heat, and enhance air quality.

Early warning systems and disaster risk reduction

In the face of escalating climate threats, cities worldwide are increasingly focusing on developing and implementing early warning systems and disaster risk reduction strategies. These measures are crucial for mitigating the impacts of climate-related hazards, ensuring timely responses, and safeguarding communities, particularly the most vulnerable. The integration of advanced technologies, robust emergency response frameworks, and community engagement forms the backbone of these initiatives, reflecting a proactive approach to urban resilience. As cities continue to face diverse and intensified climate challenges, the adoption and enhancement of these systems and strategies become integral to their overall climate adaptation and resilience planning.

Examples of action to date:

  • Makati (Philippines) has improved its Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Operations Centre to address extreme heat conditions. This includes installing weather monitoring stations, monitoring and responding to emergency reports from the public, and issuing warnings and advisories. These efforts aim to inform and protect the public, particularly vulnerable groups like children, seniors, and outdoor workers, from the effects high temperatures, providing guidance on preventive measures and maintaining an emergency hotline.
  • The City of Mountain View (USA) is in the process of updating their Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, aiming to identify vulnerabilities and develop strategies to reduce the community’s exposure to hazards. The city also runs a Community Emergency Response Team programme, providing members with training in various emergency response techniques and team coordination and management, enabling local residents to help themselves, their families, and neighbours in the event of a disaster.

Waste management

​​Tackling waste not only addresses environmental concerns but also contributes to broader climate resilience and sustainability goals. Cities are adopting innovative approaches to manage waste, encompassing recycling initiatives, sustainable disposal methods, and community engagement programs. These strategies are not only reducing the environmental footprint of urban centres but also promoting circular economies and enhancing the quality of life for residents. As waste generation continues to grow with urban expansion, the role of effective waste management becomes increasingly vital in shaping resilient, healthy, and sustainable cities.

Examples of action to date:

    • The “City of Lakes” project aims to revitalize Delhi’s (India) lakes, with a successful pilot phase in Rajokri demonstrating the project’s potential to recharge groundwater, enhance biodiversity, and repurpose treated wastewater that would otherwise be discharged into drains, offering a sustainable and environmentally beneficial solution.
  • The City of Oberlin (USA) has launched a comprehensive community-wide food waste collection program, encompassing both residential and commercial sectors. This initiative involves returning compost to residents and city-owned properties, with the compost serving as a valuable resource to enhance plant and tree growth in bioswales, aiding in rainwater absorption and sustainable landscaping efforts.
  • Udaipur (India) has established a 60 MLD Decentralized Sewerage Treatment Plant to treat wastewater. 75 percent of the treated water is supplied to industries, helping to reduce the demand for freshwater resources. The remaining 25 percent of recycled water is discharged into the river to maintain the underground water level in the nearby area.

Water management

Effective water management strategies are essential for ensuring sustainable water supply, safeguarding against water-related hazards, and maintaining ecological balance. Cities are implementing diverse approaches, from advanced water conservation techniques to infrastructure development and policy reforms, aimed at optimizing water use and enhancing the resilience of their water systems.

Examples of action to date:

  • Rajkot Municipal Corporation (India) has initiated a project to install water meters in 15,000 households, with plans to expand this effort citywide. The intervention aims to encourage responsible water use, reduce wastage, and increase water availability for various needs. Additionally, it will enable the city to gather data on actual water requirements and better identify and address water leakages.
  • Msunduzi Municipality (South Africa) has undertaken several water conservation and protection strategies, in response to recurring drought events in recent years. Additionally, the municipality has invested in Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs) to optimize water pressure based on flow requirements, strategically installing 10 of these devices in high water usage areas.

Oceans and coastal systems

Cities located along coastlines are facing unique challenges posed by rising sea levels, storm surges, and coastal erosion, exacerbated by climate change. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that includes strengthening coastal defenses, restoring natural habitats, and implementing sustainable coastal development practices. Cities are focusing on innovative solutions to protect and enhance their coastal environments, recognizing the vital role these ecosystems play in mitigating climate impacts, supporting biodiversity, and sustaining local economies and communities.

Examples of action to date:

  • Halifax Regional Municipality (Canada) is undertaking the Extreme Water Level Mapping Project to update coastal flooding maps, incorporating the latest sea-level rise projections and newly acquired LiDAR-based elevation data. These maps will identify areas vulnerable to extreme water levels, considering factors like sea level rise, storm surges, tides, and oceanographic effects. The project aims to provide updated hazard maps to the public and inform planning regulations, adaptation strategies, and improved preparation for emergencies.
  • Tagum City (Philippines) has installed structures along the shores of coastal barangays to serve as defensive mechanisms from the effects of waves, winds and storms.

Community engagement

Community engagement is a cornerstone of effective climate adaptation and resilience-building in urban areas. Involving local communities in the planning and implementation of climate action ensures that the solutions are tailored to meet the specific needs and challenges of those most affected. Cities are increasingly recognizing the value of grassroots participation, integrating public input into policy-making, and fostering collaborative initiatives. These efforts range from educational programs and workshops to inclusive decision-making processes, ensuring that diverse voices are heard and represented.

Examples of action to date:

  • Renca (Chile) has ambitious community engagement plans. In 2020, the city organized 56 environmental workshops, both online and in person, engaging over 1,200 participants. These workshops covered topics ranging from recycling and reuse techniques to energy efficiency and urban gardening. In 2021, these were expanded to schools, with workshops held in ‘open classrooms’ along the Mapocho River and in the Cerro Renca.
  • Walvis Bay Municipality (Namibia) plans to initiate a consultation process with communities living in informal settlements in hazardous areas, such as flood plains, to begin urban upgrading or co-planned resettlement processes.
  • The City of Salvador (Brazil) is carrying out a series of environmental education initiatives, including the development of comic books on different environmental topics, including water and waste management, which were then distributed within the community and in schools. By collaborating with local organizations, the city is engaging with young people by delivering awareness-raising and workshops in schools.

Heat stress response and urban cooling

Urban areas face the challenge of the urban heat island effect, where built environments absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes. To combat this, cities are adopting a variety of strategies to reduce heat stress and enhance urban cooling. These include the development of green spaces, such as parks and green roofs, the implementation of cool roofs, and the creation of shaded public areas. Additionally, cities are investing in infrastructure and community programs to improve heat resilience, such as cooling centres and public awareness campaigns about heat-related risks.

Examples of action to date:

  • The Town of Whitby’s (Canada) Climate Emergency Response Plan addresses extreme heat preparedness by creating cooling centres, splash parks, and drinking fountains in areas with vulnerable populations and high-traffic outdoor spaces. The plan emphasizes coordination with local organizations and businesses to disseminate information through social media and public screens, notifying residents about cooling options during extreme heat events.
  • Freetown (Sierra Leone) is implementing urban design solutions to combat heat stress and enhance urban cooling. The city has installed shade covers in three of its major open-air markets, improving working conditions for over 2,000 women.

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 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 recognized for their locally-led adaptation and resilience building actions.

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.

The data analysis was provided by Helena Fazeli and Lea Busch (CDP), based on the data of 64 cities that opted to report on their climate actions via CDP-ICLEI Track in 2023. 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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