Cities play a critical role in climate change. First, cities produce over 70% of CO2 emissions. Second, cities are hotspots for experiencing the impacts of climate change. For example, the biggest climate change threat to Edmonton is serious storms (CBC News, 2018). Among other impacts, this translates to the City needing to spend $2.5 billion to upgrade its drainage system. Third, cities are very important because they can make things happen on-the-ground on a daily basis and also understand how to integrate many different sectors, departments, and disciplines. The City of Edmonton has a strong Change for Climate program, including an ambitious Energy Transition Strategy.
Cities are demonstrating strong leadership in addressing climate change. Cities helped in the development and collaboration of the Paris Climate Agreement at COP21 in Paris which was signed by 195 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) members. Many cities also joined the #CitiesIPCC campaign to bring more attention to the role of cities in responding to climate change. In addition, many cities have joined C40 and 100 Resilient Cities. One of the outcomes of the CitiesIPCC 2018 conference is a Joint Statement to Work Together to Implement the Global Research Agenda on Cities and Climate Change.
Key areas for cities to respond to climate change include more engagement and collaboration among those in governing roles (planners, politicians, decision-makers, policy-makers), between different levels of government, and with physical scientists and social scientists as well as on-the-ground practitioners. Also, sharing and implementing data and evidence-based research.
The CitiesIPCC conference made several strong impressions on me:
- IPCC is not just focusing on physical sciences and technology anymore, it is paying more attention to behaviour and lifestyle changes of individuals and groups (drawing from psychology and social science) as well as issues of governance. Some courageous conference attendees argued to stop downloading responsibilities onto citizens that are better addressed as a collective and through policies and regulations by different levels of government. In other words, focusing more on social practices that promote less consumption and on intervening in links within systems. For more information on how to apply a practice-based approach to energy transition, visit the DEMAND Centre.
- Highlighting the critical role of discourse and advocating for examination of discourse to understand which worldviews and beliefs are being promoted. Then asking, how come certain discourses dominate over others? For example, why does the techno-fix discourse (environmental problems can be fixed with more and better technology) dominate over the discourse on reducing our ecological footprint by consuming less and wasting less?
- The importance of recognizing power differentials among stakeholders, especially based on gender and socio-economic status. Women (because of their role in providing water and wood, their work in food and agriculture, and their role in caring for families), children, and those living in poverty will be most impacted by climate change (especially in developing countries) and will have the least resources to adapt and recover from floods, droughts, storms, habitat destruction, and increased conflict over natural resources.
Overall, attending the CitiesIPCC was an amazing experience and I feel lucky to live in Edmonton because it is committed to addressing climate change (plus, our river valley is beautiful and is the largest intact urban park in N. America!).