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South Asian cities tackle climate change

Nick Myall
Friday 25 May 2018

As the global C40 reinventing cities competition reaches its conclusion at the end of May several South Asian cities are focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change

As organisations like C40 focus on making our cities resilient towards the effects of climate change the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), an international coalition of city leaders, has committed to raising the global ambition for climate action. This May it has launched a regional chapter for South Asia in New Delhi, India. The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy - South Asia (GCoM-SA) aims to support the efforts of cities in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and make their communities more resilient toward the effects of climate change. 

GCoM-SA was launched within the context of the South Asian Cities Summit and through support from the European Union (EU) funded International Urban Cooperation programme in India and city network partners. At today’s launch event, GCoM Vice-Chair and former UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, the architect behind the historic Paris Agreement, and EU Ambassador Tomasz Kozlowski joined mayors, commissioners, key local actors and representatives from across South Asian countries as well as global and local city network partners to share regionally relevant challenges, best practices and lessons learnt, and demonstrate how a shared vision for the future can enhance climate action in the communities and quality of life for their citizens. 

GCoM-SA aims to encourage and support South Asian sub-national authorities to promote the economic and health benefits of cities’ climate action. To date, 14 cities in South Asia have committed to GCoM, representing a population of more than 36 million. Through their commitments made to GCoM to take action on climate change, cities in the region could reduce their emissions by 65%. The region’s overall potential to curb emissions is even greater, and GCoM-SA officially launched today a campaign to further invite mayors and commissioners from India as well as local governments across the region to join the Global Covenant of Mayors and commit to transitioning to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy. The Indian cities of Surat and Gangtok signed a commitment to join cities across the globe to take action as part of this coalition today. Through the regional chapter, and as delivered by local and global city network partners, the Global Covenant of Mayors will offer technical support and training and work with signatory cities and sub-national authorities in South Asia to plan and implement climate initiatives more effectively. It will provide access to global city data, research and knowledge, harmonized reporting standards and technical assistance in preparing climate action plans as well as increased access to finance. It is essential to ensure that one of the world’s most rapidly urbanizing continents has the data, tools and technology required to realize ambitious goals. 

GCoM’s global research and innovation agenda on cities and climate change will support Indian cities in developing the science and knowledge needed to help evolve urban areas into transformative agents of change. GCoM-SA will also aim to facilitate collaboration with multilevel governance actors to allow Indian cities to implement the climate action plan in an integrated way, collectively raising global climate ambition to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement. Indian cities will host 200 million more people by 2030, and two-thirds of India’s buildings that will exist by 2030 remain to be built. 

The country’s future urban planning and implementation will have a decisive influence on the global climate impact of international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, many of India’s cities are highly vulnerable to sea level rise, as they are situated along the country’s extensive coastline or along major rivers, and are already feeling the impacts of extreme weather events, including heat waves and floods. Many Indian cities and states are developing climate action plans as part of the national agenda. The cities of Rajkot and Surat have already begun developing urban climate initiatives that serve as examples of global climate leadership.

The city of Rajkot, whose mayor Jaiman Upadhyay is also a Global Covenant of Mayors Board Member, is the 22nd-fastest-growing city in the world and the first Indian city to commit to a climate change mitigation target through a forward-looking development plan that encompasses climate-resilient economic growth and contributes to India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The city has committed to reduce GHG emissions by 25% by 2020 from Rajkot city’s baseline GHG emissions from 2012-13. Since then, Rajkot city has saved approximately 16million kWh electricity and approximately 13,000 tonnes CO2e GHG emission. The successful urban planning and implementation includes interventions in energy efficiency, renewable energy, solid waste management, monitoring water supply and integrated transport planning. Energy efficient affordable housing schemes for informal settlements are currently being developed. As part of one of the projects, “CapaCITIES,” which is funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Rajkot city has prepared a climate resilient city action plan by using ICLEI’s ClimateResilientCities methodology tool, which includes scientific research-based mitigation and adaptation actions for cities to reduce GHG emissions, which will soon be part of Rajkot’s regular planning process. The city has also been participating in many awareness campaigns to sensitize its citizens towards the challenges of climate change and encourage their active participation. 

The city of Surat is the eighth largest city and ninth largest urban agglomeration in India, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and one of the world’s most climate change affected cities. Surat is leveraging its engaged citizens to help develop a Resilience Strategy that is designed to articulate solutions that make Surat more resilient not only to physical challenges, such as floods and aging infrastructure, but also to social challenges, such as cohesion and urban health. Specific programs in the Resilience Strategy include mobility and traffic management, affordable energy efficient housing, water management, regulation of the ecosystem and environment, strengthening social cohesion, and upscaling public health infrastructure and training. 

With the increased presence and reach of the Global Covenant of Mayors in South Asia, the aim is for more cities to make strong contributions towards building a low-carbon future, working to set carbon reduction targets, and implementing changes that are necessary to propel the world towards reaching the goals in the Paris Agreement. 

This Sothern Asian initiative ties in with the Reinventing Cities competition and the global work of C40 which focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change in key cities across the globe.

More information on the Reinventing Cities competition, eligibility criteria and the project sites in each city can be found at http://www.c40reinventingcities.org/ 

Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40 - “Think local, act global, is the 21st century state of mind. By launching this global competition, we make this philosophy very concrete celebrating the most vibrant innovative solutions to environmental challenges.

"Reinventing Cities will set new standards of sustainability in cities and who better than our citizens to imagine the future of their cities? I am convinced that the winning projects will surprise us all and present innovations we are unable to imagine today" 

To learn more about the work of C40, please visit www.c40.org, follow C40 on Twitter @c40cities or Instagram @c40cities and like C40 on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/C40Cities.

 

Nick Myall

News editor

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