A Partnership For Sustainable Urban Future

Where Collaboration, innovation, partnership and health come together

One of the many hopes for the Global Climate Action Summit is that it will be a hub of idea-sharing and learning between many innovative climate leaders.  It is only in acting and thinking together may we be able to fulfill the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  This blog series highlights the individuals and organizations who apply this similar frameworkto the many challenges faced due to a changing climate.

In our last post, we highlighted the work of Food Systems 6 (FS6), an accelerator dedicated to cultivating the next healthy food system by supporting promising entrepreneurs.  In addition to ensuring a sustainable future for our food systems, we also must create solutions to ensure the same future for our cities. According to the UN, 68% of the world population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, with cities in developing regions growing at the fastest rate.  In order to successfully achieve the SDGs, it is imperative that these regions are able to gain the benefits of sustainable urbanization; benefits including improvements in health and economic prosperity.

This blog post highlights how two organizations came together in order to advance climate and health co-benefits in our growing urban areas.  We sat down with Sabrina Gander from C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and Jonathan Leonardsen on behalf of Henrik Stener Pedersen of Ramboll.  From their interview, we will see how innovation is accelerated by a partnership between their organizations – a partnership resulting in the Urban Climate Action Impacts Framework (UCAIF, or “the Framework”).

THE IMPORTANCE OF PARTNERSHIP

Their strong commonality in accelerating climate action brought these organizations to Climate Week NYC back in 2015.  By what seems like serendipity, members of C40 and Ramboll ran into each other during the conference.  They talked about their mutual challenges of communicating the co-benefits of climate adaptation action in their work.  Almost a year later, this conversation turned into the vision for the Framework, and an impressive collaboration between C40, Ramboll, cities, researchers, NGO’s, multi-nationals, and the private sector.  Thorough this process, over 15 partner organizations and a city advisory group of 14 C40 cities provided valuable input for the Framework.  Jonathan Leonardsen remarks on the necessity for a framework that provides evidence of co-benefits from climate action:

“There is a need for this work and no one is really working on it systematically the way that C40 wanted to implement. And from our side we really wanted to help with this.”

While the Framework is cutting edge because it is comprehensive, Sabrina Gander notes that the team built upon a multitude of ideas and perspectives:

“We weren’t the first organization to talk about frameworks, or to think about measuring benefits, so we looked at other organizations doing similar work.”

Part of Ramboll’s contribution to the Framework was combining, and analyzing existing frameworks and methodologies from other organizations.  From this work, the team discussed how to coalesce the breadth of ideas into a product suited for city priorities. Gander adds:

“It is very critical and important to not reinvent the wheel.  Our aim was to build on different approaches and strategies that are already out there.”

This unification of strategies culminated in the Framework’s structure for the evidence of climate change impacts.  C40 and Ramboll categorized the evidence by the three major themes in sustainability: social, economic, and environmental impacts.  Both organizations recognize how important it is to show how climate change intersects with many different urban interests.

“The key to do this work, especially in this field, is to show impacts across sectors and to convince different stakeholders to take action,” states Leonardsen. “In that sense, I see partnerships as essential, as key.”

MEASURING IMPACTS

In order to maximize the impact of cities’ climate action plans, a shared understanding and approach to measurement is important. Gander mentions the Climate Action Impacts Taxonomy in the Framework is a useful tool to foster this mutual understanding:

“What is important is that we have established a common language between our partners and also our cities.  There’s a coherent way to go out and measure certain benefits, and that’s what we want for our cities –that they’re able to demonstrate and communicate the benefits of the action they’re taking.”

A condensed iteration of the Climate Action Impacts Taxonomy; page 25 of the Framework

The Taxonomy classifies impacts in each of the Framework’s themes, and gives examples of indicators that can serve as metrics for the desired impact.  In addition, the Framework’s pathway approach to measuring these indicators helps cities choose actions that have the largest impact.  Gander adds:

“Our cities are in the process of producing really ambitious climate action plans, and this is exactly where we can offer different angles to implementing climate change actions.”

ALIGNING HEALTH AND CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION

What has been integral in convincing more cities to take climate action is highlighting the link between health issues and climate change.  Health is a very important focus in cities, but the same level of priority isn’t always given to climate change.  Integrating public health can bring in new perspectives and partners. That is why in the Framework, C40 and Ramboll use a holistic perspective on climate change, and emphasize the link between health and climate. Gander states:

“Cities can tackle multiple priorities at the same time, so when they’re doing something good for climate, they are also providing health benefits for citizens, and I think the Framework really shows that link.”

Implementing more bike lanes, for example, not only can decrease GHG reductions, it can increase physical activity for citizens.  Applying the Framework’s pathway approach, a city can further obtain with a metric that describes how this action can reduce the likelihood of citizens getting heart disease.  Gander adds that evidence like this provides a strong argument for climate action:

“Showing the strengths of health benefits in achieving such ambitious climate action targets can help accelerate the city to reach that target.”

In addition to showcasing the health benefits of climate action, C40 and Ramboll knew it was important to incorporate ways to illustrate health inequities in the Framework.  Leonardsen states:

“Health and equity is a big part of this because of the impacts of different climate actions are not equally distributed. It was a priority that we have a focus on showing the distribution of impacts on different groups in society, especially the most vulnerable groups.”

LOOKING FORWARD

While the Framework is an impressive product of collaboration, Gander and Leonardsen mention that the organizations hope to continue building upon the Framework.  The next step would be to build a tool for city stakeholders.  Annex II of the Framework describes the prototype of this tool, called the Climate Action Tool Map (CATM).  Cities will be able to identify their priority goals based upon the impacts listed in the Taxonomy.  Leonardsen remarks on the positive feedback of the Framework, and the impetus to keep building upon the work:

“What I think is promising is that this Framework indicates that there is a demand for evidence based decisions.”

The Global Climate Action Summit’s Science-Based Targets Challenge is yet another indicator of this growing demand for evidence.  Leonardsen is also excited for the conversations and learning that will happen between cities at the Summit:

“It’s the cities that are working together and sharing their experiences, sharing the data, working on the solutions, and creating this evidence base –rather than just having consultants sell a fancy solution.  That’s promising, indeed.”

Just like serendipity brought C40 and Ramboll together, we wonder what other ideas will form as like-minded people convene at the Global Climate Action Summit!  Stay tuned as we sit down with more innovative leaders working at the front lines of solutions geared at tackling climate change and improving health.

Image: Pixabay

Source: Global Climate Action Summit

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.