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Local, Global Collaboration Drives Action on Climate Agenda

Global Insight by Matt Watson
Santa Cruz flooding

The Summary for Urban Policymakers series grew out of a recognition of the need for greater integration of climate science with the urban perspective.

As places that are disproportionately impacted by climate change, cities are tasked with taking substantial action on adaptation and mitigation efforts—yet they cannot solve the climate crisis alone. It’s therefore an encouraging development that, for the first time ever, a partnership of international organizations and stakeholders translated the latest climate science into an action plan for urban leaders.

The need for city-based solutions to climate change was reinforced by the findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, which led to the publication of the Summary for Urban Policymakers (SUP) series, released at COP27 this year.

The SUP series grew out of a recognition that there needed to be a greater integration of climate science and practitioner expertise with the urban perspective, according to Ian Klaus, who served as SUP series editor while a senior fellow at the Council.

The effort was the result of collaboration between cities and city networks, businesses, scientists, national governments, and international organizations. Each group of stakeholders brought to the table a unique perspective and institutional knowledge that complemented the others—underscoring the necessity of a multilevel approach to combating climate change.

The three volumes and action agenda that compose the series respond to the need for effective, efficient, and rapid climate action in cities by identifying gaps in the current scientific knowledge and establishing mitigation and adaptation strategies as well as enabling actions for city leaders. Here’s a look at what each volume offers.

SUP Volume I: What Latest Physical Science of Climate Change Means for Cities and Urban Areas

The first volume identifies the ways in which human-induced climate change is impacting every region of the globe—and cities and urban areas in particular. The report makes clear that while cities are sources of GHG emissions, they are also key sites of innovation and are well equipped to implement adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • In the coming decades, warming will continue to worsen, as will associated effects on cities such as drought, heavy rainfall, floods, extreme heat, storm surges, and cyclones.
  • Without immediate and deep reductions in emissions, global warming will exceed 2.0°C by 2050, exposing even more cities and their people to climate stresses like increased heat, rising sea levels, and more intense storms.

SUP Volume II: What the Latest Science on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Means for Cities and Urban Areas

Another reason cities are central to any discussion on climate change is that urban areas are uniquely at-risk to its impacts. Take rising sea levels, for example. Many of the world’s largest urban areas exist along a coastline, and approximately 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 60 miles of the coast. And the risks are no longer theoretical—low-lying coastal cities like Miami already experience “sunny day” flooding.

The second volume in the SUP series, therefore, focuses on managing climate risks and adapting urban areas to a warmer, wetter future. Some of the key findings include:

  • Climate risk is exacerbated in urban areas by the concentration of people, inadequate buildings, poor infrastructure, and inadequate basic services.
  • The feasibility and accelerated implementation of adaptation options that contribute to system transitions are enabled by inclusive governance, strong institutional capacity, and political commitment; adequate finance; technology and innovation; lifestyle and behavior change; monitoring and evaluation mechanisms; and attention to culture and heritage.

SUP Volume III: What the Latest Science on Climate Change Mitigation Means for Cities and Urban Areas

While cities must adapt to the impacts of climate change, they must also seek ways to continue mitigation efforts by reducing emissions, facilitating sustainable development, and encouraging lifestyle change. The third volume notes that:

  • Eradicating extreme poverty, energy poverty, and providing decent living standards can help achieve sustainable development while reducing global energy demand and limiting global emissions.
  • Compact urban form can reduce energy demand, and demand management can increase energy systems flexibility to accommodate more variable renewable energy sources.

By identifying gaps in the current scientific knowledge as well as adaptation and mitigation strategies, the SUP series establishes a long-term plan to scale urban solutions to climate change.

The collaborative process that resulted in these publications—with national and international organizations like IPCC joining with city networks, scientists, and the private sector—demonstrates the value of a multilevel approach to the global climate agenda.

These partnerships should be seen as a two-day street. While the climate crisis requires cities to align with national and international efforts, it also demands recognition of what cities bring to the table—innovative ideas, political willpower, and the capacity for immediate action.

About the Authors
Matt Watson
Former Communications Officer
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Matt Watson served as the communications officer for the Center on Global Cities. In this role, he was responsible for implementing the center's multimedia communications strategy and assisting with the Council's digital transformation.
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