It won’t be difficult for you to grasp why cities are so vulnerable to climate catastrophe if you’ve ever endured an urban heat wave. Cities are warming twice as quickly as the world as a whole, and by 2100, they may be four degrees Celsius hotter on average than they are today.
At this year’s COP27 UN climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, the UN Environment Programme and its non-profit and academic partners issued a challenge for vulnerable metropolitan regions in the Global South to embrace nature-based solutions such as enhanced urban forests, green belts, and parks.
We have gathered at COP27 during a moment of global crisis, but these challenges are an excuse to raise rather than lower our climate ambition. The Challenge’s key objective is to scale up environmentally friendly solutions to address climate change consequences in cities. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, global lead for climate and energy at WWF, one of the organizations backing the effort, stated. Cities are crucial in preventing the worst effects of climate change, thus it is crucial that we support ambitious and long-lasting initiatives to reduce their effects and prepare for them.
In cities, high temperatures pose a serious hazard to public health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cities create the urban heat island effect by paving roads and building structures over existing natural areas (EPA). This increases the danger of heat-related sickness and death for city dwellers, particularly for those in neighborhoods with a high minority population or low income.
As noted in a 2021 Lancet article titled “Health in a world of intense heat,” the problem is more complex than just increasing access to air conditioning because increased urban heat is linked to the climate issue. This is due to the fact that it consumes energy that contributes to global warming and is frequently out of reach for the most vulnerable. The authors suggested other cooling strategies based on nature.
Green spaces are essential for cooling cities since excessive heat has a higher impact on human health in urban settings. However, they also provide other benefits, such as lowering stress levels, providing a setting for social interaction and physical activity, and sequestering carbon.
Through the Cool Coalition, which is made up of organizations including WWF, EforALL, Mission Innovation, RMI, the World Resources Institute, the University of Oxford, and Durham University, among others, UNEP is exploring these answers. The Beat the Heat: Nature for Cool Cities Challenge was unveiled by the coalition on Wednesday.
According to the coalition website, the challenge has three objectives:
- Show off the effectiveness of nature-based solutions at cooling cities and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy demand.
- Raise funds to expand effective solutions.
- Indicate to developers and funders that there is demand for these solutions.
City and regional governments in the Global South would be challenged to raise the proportion of nature-based solutions in their urban regions by 2030 and to provide proof of progress by 2025. Aside from committing to three specific implementation measures, pledgers would also need to identify quantitative and budgetary goals.
Her Excellency Gladys Wanga, the governor of Homa Bay County in Kenya, made the first commitment by promising to include nature-based solutions in Homa Bay’s affordable housing. The whole list of commitments and the donors that supported them will be revealed during the COP28 climate summit in 2019.
However, for nature-based solutions to be really replicable, local governments, the commercial sector, experts, and practitioners must work together. It is imperative that businesses, investors, and financial institutions act now to support the realization of this vision.