News.Mar 23, 2023

A new Generation of Urban Climate Solutions

With an increasing majority of the world’s population living in urban areas, cities play a crucial role in climate mitigation. There are both great challenges and possibilities linked to this, as discussed yesterday at the event A new Generation of Urban Climate Solutions.

Andreas Karlsson (Communications)
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Andreas Karlsson

There are many reasons why cities are important for climate mitigation efforts, said SIWI’s Malin Lundberg Ingemarsson, lead writer of the recent landmark report on the role of water in climate mitigation.

“Installing sustainable systems provides numerous possibilities to reduce emissions, which is why cities really should invest in smart water and sanitation services. It is also key that cities focus on the transition to renewable energy systems, making sure that this is a water-wise process.”

She went on to say that cities must put a lot of effort into protecting, restoring, and sustainably manage green areas in cities.

An example of resilient urban area: Shenzen, a sponge city in China

“These areas are immensely important in urban environments, such as for keeping temperatures down. We should also not forget that surrounding areas, forests, agricultural land, and open waters, are key to mitigation, and should be included in the efforts. We need healthy ecosystems to limit emissions and to increase the carbon sequestration.”

Lundberg Ingemarsson call for an integrated approach in these efforts, where all stakeholders are involved in the climate process, was reiterated by all speakers and panellists in the event. With examples from Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, the benefits of such an inclusive, integrated approach were highlighted.

Faced with a devastating drought in 2017 and 2018, Cape Town did just this and as the so-called ‘day zero’, when the taps would run dry, came closer, actors from all sectors came together to do their bit, piloting a framework called City Water Resilience Approach.

“Cities are really about the power of the people. Here we have a great chance to use that power to create a strong transition to a more climate smart and water-wise world, with cities in the forefront.”

Malin Lundberg Ingemarsson of SIWI summed up the event

As explained by Katrin Bruebach of Global Director Resilient Cities Network, the capacity built in the process has proven beneficiary not only for how the water crisis was managed.

“In the end water is not our only problem, and Cape Town is a good example of that. Following the water crisis came the pandemic and the together with the rest of South Africa, the city is now experiencing a major energy crisis. The Cape Town experience shows that since all these systems are connected, the discussions about water resilience quickly turns into something much broader, helping us address many other issues in a better way.”

SIWI’s executive director Torgny Holmgren noted that faced with new water extremes and climate pressures, cities need to radically rethink every aspect of infrastructure, urban planning, and water governance.

“Solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation remain under-utilized in urban water management plans. Yet, freshwater has an important role to increase climate security and urban resilience, with co-benefits for enhanced biodiversity, healthy ecosystems, resilient livelihoods. To remedy this, the water and climate communities need to work better together through adopting a systems approach and collective action.”

Watch the session

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Follow SIWI to New York

On 22-24 March, the United Nations headquarters in New York will host a historic conference on freshwater. SIWI will play an active role to ensure that countries finally tackle the urgent water crisis and deliver on commitments already made.

UN 2023 Water Conference
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