19, December, 2013

City-level Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Latin American cities are under increasing pressure from rapid urbanisation, while current impacts and potential threats from climate change are further exposing municipal vulnerabilities. City planners are responding to these twin pressures with innovations in climate-related policies and are making big strides in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In Latin America, 80% of the region’s approximately 590 million inhabitants lives in cities. Between 2000 and 2010, the total estimated cost of damages from extreme climate events in the region exceeded US$40 billion, affecting some 40 million people. Looking forward, Latin American cities must brace for the impacts of more frequent, severe, and even unprecedented climate risks by boosting the resilience of their infrastructure and systems through adaptation programmes. Yet, just as cities are vulnerable to climate change, they are also contributing to it: urban areas are responsible for approximately 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), primarily from transport and buildings. In an effort to abate climate variability and extreme events, many Latin American cities are working to decouple economic development from the rampant GHGs emissions that fuel climate change, while benefitting from more intelligently managed cities, efficient economies, and healthier populations. 

These risks and opportunities are not limited to Latin America. The geographic locations of many cities in developing regions are particularly susceptible to the risks of climate change. Of equal consequence are the high levels of urbanisation in the developing world that are increasing the vulnerability of local populations to climate impacts. This Guide presents a selection of examples of what is being done to increase climate mitigation and resilience in Latin American cities. These examples show that mitigation can provide benefits well beyond stabilising global climate change, and in fact compliment adaptation efforts by helping establish a stable microclimate, increase economic and energy efficiency, and improve living conditions. Readers in the developing world will find these examples useful in their own endeavours as they contribute to the sustainable development of cities in their own countries.

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Key Lessons:

  • Cities account for the majority of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (75%) and municipal leaders have authority over many of the sectors that produce these emissions (75% on average), making widespread urban-level mitigation measures a superb opportunity to tackle global climate change, while simultaneously improving local quality of life.
  • Municipal leaders in Latin America are working to capture these opportunities through city-level actions and commitments, as participants in networks of similarly climate-concerned cities, as signatories of inter-municipal agreements, and as partners with international NGOs.
  • Even if the world quickly transitions to a low-carbon economy, our societies will still face the impacts of climate change set in motion from past decades of emissions, however the costs of future adaptation measures are dramatically reduced by current mitigation initiatives. This perspective is reflected in the comprehensive municipal climate action plans of Quito, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City.

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