By Caroline Fouvet
Cities’ role in the face of climate change was a recurring topic at COP 25. Given Acclimatise’s track record in working alongside municipalities to foster their climate resilience, Maribel Hernandez was invited to present her insights at a panel discussion convened by CAF, the Latin American development bank, the French Development Agency (AFD) and the European Union through its Latin America Investment Facility initiative.
The side event, entitled “Cities and Climate Change: from baseline and diagnostics to concrete measures for resilient and low-carbon cities”, convened experts who were involved in CAF’s and AFD’s efforts to support cities against climate change, through local climate analyses, prioritisation of low-carbon and resilient actions, and pre-investment studies of projects with climate co-benefits in the urban context.
Maribel Hernandez, who has co-led the development of a zonal climate vulnerability index for the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, as well as a climate change vulnerability analysis for the Chilean regions of Atacama and O’Higgins, presented her perspective on the importance of such analyses.
Climate risk and vulnerability analyses (CRVAs) are undertaken to identify and assess climate change risks, and relevant bankable adaptation projects that will be implemented under a changing climate. A climate change context entails both obvious but also more hidden risks, and that as a result, CRVAs are necessary to uncover the latter.
An early analysis of climate risks allows to assess project success factors within the context of a changing climate, and to answer questions such as “will the project as it is currently designed operate successfully under a future climate?”, or “will the project result in more operation and maintenance costs than currently envisaged?”. The CRVAs also support having an encompassing view of the project as part of a supply chain in which critical nodes (such as roads and ports) should not be overlooked.
As for projects involving critical infrastructure, long-lived or capital-intensive assets, which are essential for cities’ development, a progressive adaptive management approach is highly recommended. This implies implementing flexible adaptation measures that could be adjusted over time and in response to more data becoming available.
In addition to identifying risks, assessing climate impacts can also lead to the identification of opportunities, linked, for instance, to where resilient investments can be made. Understanding such opportunities strengthens both cities’ climate resilience and development.
With regards to situations when data is scarce and potential solutions to overcome this barrier, the best possible use should be made of the existing information. There exists global and regional observed satellite data and projections data, that can, for instance, provide a useful level of information regardless of whether a location is considered “information-scarce”. Besides, using past information to better understand the future constitutes a way around the lack of data. Finally, stress tests could also be undertaken in the case of scarce information, to assess how the project would perform under different climate scenarios.
In addition, participants stressed the importance of involving local stakeholders that can also contribute substantial knowledge where gaps exist. This is why engagement with all cities’ actors is an essential component of any climate-related project, which further ensures buy-in of all proposed mitigation and adaptation measures.
This side event, along others organised in Madrid this week, reflects the importance of subnational entities in the fight against climate change. As the “Time for Action” has come, cities are on the frontline to help achieve the Paris Agreement’s low-carbon and climate-resilient objectives, and need to be supported in their endeavour.