Urban mitigation and adaptation responses
Urban areas play a key role in addressing the challenges created by climate change in terms of mitigation and adaptation alike. But how much do we know internationally about how urban authorities are responding? Cities around the world have undertaken different actions to respond to the burgeoning climate challenge. During the 1990s most local action was dominated by a few cities, mostly from Europe and North America, and facilitated by transnational networks (e.g., ICLEI). The past decade, however, has witnessed the emergence of a new wave of local action including a more diverse set of cities, more transnational networks of local authorities, a more aggressive approach seeking to secure economic competitiveness, efforts to get a local voice in international negotiations (e.g. World Mayor Council for Climate Change) and more international organizations (e.g. Clinton Climate Initiative). However, existing initiatives tend to be fragmented and focus mainly on mitigation, with very little or no consideration of adaptation. Others tend to downplay climate concerns in favor of such things as energy security (e.g., Denver), or other development priorities related to economic growth or poverty (e.g., Manizales).
The inclusion of climate change mitigation and adaptation options as part of the political debate within urban centers does not necessarily mean that what is being done is effective. A number of diverse factors play a role in this:
- The way in which the policy domain and its challenges are framed, e.g., as fitting into issues with relatively more economic priority such as energy security (as in Beijing) or the need to build more roads to increase the mobility of private vehicles (as in many urban areas)
- The opportunities afforded by leadership at the individual and organizational levels
- Institutional capacity, given by the autonomy, resources and decision–making power of local authorities to implement and enforce policies and measures and to decide on critical sources of GHG emissions (e.g. transport, land use planning, infrastructure, building standards, waste and so on)
- Knowledge – or the lack thereof – in creating or constraining urban governance capacity, and pursing such things as the development of local inventories of GHG emissions, city–wide assessments of climate hazards, potential impacts, underlying vulnerabilities, and potential adaptation options
- The inertia and endurance characterizing many of the issue domains to be addressed. While research, development and other actions to reduce emissions will need to be made in the immediate future, it will take decades–to–centuries to move our current energy system, the main force behind GHG emissions, away from its dependency on fossil fuels (See Here and Here)