Adaptation Starts Here

Posted by Mike Antos on Tuesday, May 10 2016


Mike Antos

Editor's note: This article first appeared on the World Policy Blog. It was written by the Mediterranean City Climate Change Consortium (MC-4) Advisory Board. Mike Antos, W. Bowman Cutter, Edith de Guzman, Juliette Finzi Hart, Laurel Hunt, Robert Lempert, David Nahai, Elizabeth Rhoades, Jack Sahl, Adam Smith, and Eric Strauss are members of the advisory board of The Mediterranean City Climate Change Consortium.

Subnational governments—cities, counties, and states in the U.S. and around the world—have an essential role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing integrative approaches to adaptation. Leading up to the Paris climate talks, California Governor Jerry Brown, in partnership with the German state of Baden-Württemberg, gathered commitments from cities and regions to take specific actions toward aggressive emissions reductions, using a multitude of best practices that have been shared across the world. In Paris, close to 1,000 mayors at the Climate Summit for Local Leaders committed to setting ambitious emissions reduction targets. 

This kind of action–mitigation and adaptation at the subnational level–is critical to meet the target of limiting warming below 2 degrees Celsius. However, even if this is achieved, impacts such as sea-level rise and extreme weather events will require a significant investment in adapting infrastructure and resource use to the changing environment.

Cities are where the action is. More people live in cities than anywhere else, and these urban areas will continue to grow. To establish healthy communities, our cities must use resources more efficiently, produce cleaner energy, manage water more sustainably, provide viable transportation systems, protect habitats and open space, ensure food security, grow the economy, and protect public health. These actions are the foundation of a livable and vibrant future.

By taking action now, the challenges before us become opportunities to integrate urban planning solutions: coordination of transportation with jobs and housing; making energy efficient, clean, and local; integrating stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water to achieve water efficiencies; and creating “cool” cities with urban parks and open spaces. Cities will also benefit economically from adaptation and mitigation actions by spawning new industries, spurring innovation, and producing local jobs. Successful adaptors will share solutions that respond to a quickly evolving set of problems. This agility will be facilitated through learning in real-time between similar cities that are coping with 21st century realities. The innovators in this adaptation challenge will create new industries, technologies, and jobs that will improve their economies and the environment as the world rushes to implement what these cities have developed.

The Mediterranean City Climate Change Consortium (MC-4) is an association of adaptive cities. MC-4 is comprised of a response network of civic leaders, business leaders, and academics from a variety of sectors–business, policy, nongovernmental organizations, engineering, public health, urban planning, and others. The network focuses on implementing adaptation solutions in the urban areas of the five Mediterranean climate regions of the world: California, central Chile, the Western Cape of South Africa, southern and southwestern Australia, and the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. In the landscape of climate adaptation, it is a unique collaborative organized around shared social and ecological characteristics.

MC-4 grew from the science-based policy imperative which recognizes that climate change impacts will be felt in similar ways by cities in the five Mediterranean regions. There are benefits from learning from each other and accelerating solutions. All of the cities have commonalities aside from climate: they are coastal, they are losing natural habitats to agriculture and development, they are innovating sustainable industries and resource use, and they are facing increased weather extremes, as well as water and wildfire management challenges. At the same time, many cities in the Mediterranean regions, such as Los Angeles and Barcelona, are key players in the global economy, technology development, scientific research, and policy change. California, for example, would have the eighth largest economy in the world if it were its own nation. MC-4 is optimizing adaption efforts with a set of tested tools and proven solutions linked to expertise from both developed and developing regions. Developing cities can learn from the developed world’s experience and avoid costly mistakes. In turn, cities in less developed countries often have more policy flexibility, which allows them to experiment and learn in ways that can benefit all of the Mediterranean regions.

As a coalition focused on results, MC-4 works to engage geographically separated cities that face the same risks and may possess the same assets needed to address the effects of climate change. Adelaide, Australia, for instance, is responding to increased temperatures by taking measures to minimize the impact of extreme heat events on biodiversity; reducing urban heat island effects by improving urban design and green infrastructure; creating a response plan to minimize wildfire risks; and reducing health risks by raising awareness and providing access to cooling facilities, especially to vulnerable populations. Los Angeles, Cape Town, Gibraltar, Tel Aviv, and Casablanca also face this problem and can benefit from Adelaide’s experience.

Facilitated by MC-4, and by the many institutions that have a stake in creating better futures in their respective regions, Mediterranean cities are already working together to face their challenges head-on. Regardless of the agreements reached or the mandates handed down at the national or international levels, for cities–where people work, live, and play–climate change is a crisis of existential proportions. While nations come together to avoid worst-case scenarios by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cities around the world must collaborate across similar regions to quickly and nimbly innovate a livable future for their communities.

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