Situated on the shore of the Río de la Plata and 240km from the Atlantic Ocean, Argentina’s bustling capital has a strong focus on social inclusion and building resilience to flooding.
Buenos Aires is the only city in Latin America to make CDP’s cities A List in 2018. An impressive feat for a city threatened by flooding, heatwaves, vector-based diseases such as dengue.
A megacity, with a population of 2.89 million in 2010 and three million daily commuters, Buenos Aires is growing rapidly. Officials predict that the population will reach excess of three million by 2030. Some 250,000 of these residents live in informal settlements – many of which sit in flood risk areas.
The city has a real challenge on its hands to build resilience, keep citizens safe and to close the gap between rich and poor. Recent figures show that 1/3 of Argentinian’s live below the poverty line, rising to 41% in Greater Buenos Aires.
But Buenos Aires is rising to the challenge.
Since 2016, the city has taken part in the network of 100 Resilient Cities worldwide which looks at improving the city’s economic, social and environmental resilience.
Not only does tackling climate change feature in the city’s Master Planning document, but the city’s Law of Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change requires it to update its Plan of Action on Climate Change every five years.
Current adaptation targets include planting 54,000 trees by 2023, rehousing families living in informal settlements on flood plains and the delivery of training by the Civil Defence for vulnerable residents to help them cope with climate emergencies.
As extreme weather becomes more common, Buenos Aires faces risks that threaten vulnerable populations in the city including heatwaves, river floods, coastal flooding and vector-borne diseases.
Flooding is a serious concern. Buenos Aires is flanked by two rivers, the Rio de la Plata in the east and the Rio Matanza-Riachuelo to the south. The city is also crossed by 11 water basins. On top of this, the city’s rainfall has increased by 32% since 1960, further compounding the flooding threat.
To make matters worse, a local weather phenomenon known as the Sudestada, brings heavy rain, high seas and coastal flooding between July and October. And while the city can’t stop the wind from blowing, it can take steps to mitigate the risks to citizens.
A 2008 ruling by Argentina’s Supreme Court indicated that no one can live less than 35 meters from the edge of the Matanza-Riachuelo River. To date the city has relocated 710 of 2,000 families from 10 neighbourhoods and settlements in the Mantanza-Riachuelo basin, one of the most polluted basins in the world. Many families have been rehoused in new apartment blocks in the south west of the city. This relocation is due to finish in 2025.
By investing in urban drainage, such as better surface drainage and holding reservoirs, Buenos Aires aims to better cope with floodwaters.
The city is also using technology to respond to the flooding threat by developing a network of hydro-meteorological sensors. It has already surpassed its target to install 28 sensors by 2020. Located in storm drains, the sensors monitor rainfall, pipe capacity and weather conditions and feed this data back to a central control center in real time. Unique in Latin America, this center allows the city to coordinate its response to flooding rapidly with other government agencies such as the Civil Defence, police and health services.
The city’s Environmental Protection Agency expects heatwaves to intensify due to climate change, further exacerbated by the city’s ‘urban heat island’ phenomenon.
Older people make up 16% of Buenos Aires’ population, and this group is most vulnerable to heat waves. Over the summer months, the city runs a prevention campaign to protect older people from the effects of heat waves such as dehydration and respiratory difficulties. This comprises a combination of talks, workshops and interactive communications systems between older people and the city. In early 2019, the campaign reached more than 1,000 older people face-to-face and thousands more through interactive communications via text message and phone calls.
Flooding is not the only risk to Buenos Aires. A changing climate brings with it rising temperatures, longer summers, increased rainfall and greater humidity, all of which create the perfect conditions for mosquitos to thrive. Aedes Aegypti, mosquitos, which breed in the city, are particularly concerning for city authorities as they are vectors (or carriers) of Dengue Fever and Zika.
To adapt to this threat, the city has developed actions which target the mosquitos at each stage of the life cycle from eggs to larvae to adulthood. The city uses a three-part strategy to tackle this threat comprised of fumigation, ovitraps (to trap eggs) and aromatic plants which repel mosquitos.
As the capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires was a popular destination for migrants seeking a better life. However new arrivals often end up living in informal settlements and have difficulty accessing the labour market and public services. In fact, 7% of the city’s population has no access to basic services.
It’s clear that the city’s poorest citizens are on the front line of climate change. For this reason, the city government is working to address social inequality as part of its adaptation strategy. To date the city government has opened Centres for Inclusion and Opportunities, providing support for residents and local businesses as well as cultural activities. The city’s program En Todos Está Vos is also helping citizens to reach a basic income and ensuring access to nutrition programmes and medical care.
The city has also begun to tackle informal settlements, providing basic services to all inhabitants and improving their quality of life. One of the first settlements to be rebuilt was Barrio 31 in Retiro, a neighbourhood in downtown Buenos Aires. On top of this, a large percentage of the homes built for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games are being allocated to social housing for low-income citizens.
Alongside the day to day running of the city, Buenos Aires has put climate change and the safety and security of its citizens at the top of its agenda. This makes Buenos Aires a trailblazer for cities across Latin America with many lessons to share for cities aspiring to climate leadership.
Western Canada’s economic hub is taking action to manage risks associated with a changing climate and driving green job creation
Climate change is a risk multiplier. From flooding to heat waves, winter storms to drought and wildfires, it poses increased risks for communities and cities across the world.
As a northern, cold-weather country, Canada has already witnessed its climate changing more than the global average. In fact, the annual average temperature has risen by 1.6°C over the last 70 years – compared to a global average of around 1°C.
Calgary is no stranger to these rising climate extremes. The city recognizes these risks and is integrating climate resilience into its planning to ensure its long-term ability to deliver reliable vital services, while minimizing costs.
In June 2018, Calgary City Council approved the Climate Resilience Strategy. The strategy aligns with the national strategy called the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Grown and Climate Change, and outlines the City’s strategies to reduce contributions to climate change by improving energy management and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (climate change mitigation); and to respond to a changing climate by implementing risk management measures to reduce the impact of extreme weather events and climatic changes on infrastructure and services (climate change adaptation).
The Climate Resilience Strategy targets 80 per cent reduction in community-wide emissions below 2005 levels by 2050, and aims to provide strategic oversight to climate-related activities in Calgary.
A variety of climate-related initiatives are tied to The City of Calgary’s work towards meeting its goals, such as a bio diesel pilot for vehicles, sustainable building practices and the early adoption of LED technology (retrofitting more than 80,000 public street lamps). The city’s transportation network is also being enhanced with the addition of the Green Line. This new light rail system will add 46 km to the city’s existing network and will connect citizens, businesses and the new South Health Campus. The first stage of the project - expected to be complete in 2026 – will build the first 20km of the route and is expected to cut 30,000 tonnes of CO2e from the city’s traffic emissions every year. The Green Line will be built in stages according to funding availability with a goal to be completed around mid-century.
Situated in the Canada’s energy hub – Alberta - with an electricity mix heavily weight towards coal and natural gas, Calgary continues to look towards renewables as a way to build the city’s resilience, both from climate change and fluctuating prices of fossil fuels.
In 2012, the city approved a motion to purchase 100% renewable electricity to cover all electricity consumed in City operations. This policy resulted in electricity provider, ENMAX, constructing and operating two wind farms with a total capacity of 144 MW in southern Alberta. Additionally, the city has installed more than 3000 kW of solar photovoltaic systems on city-owned facilities.
Warren Brooke, Business Strategist at Calgary’s Climate Change Program said:
“Calgary has been a leader on climate action for over a decade now. We’ve been at the forefront across the province and the country, piloting strategies to reduce our emissions and increase our resilience. Making CDP’s A List in 2018 has been a great recognition of our work to date.”
Diversifying to include low carbon energy is already providing businesses and residents with greater energy security, while boosting the city’s economy.
In fact, this diversification has resulted in employment for more than 15,000 Calgarians in sectors such as transportation, green buildings and energy efficiency. A recent study by Calgary Economic Development reported that the industry brings more than CAD$3 billion of investment into Calgary.
In the long-term, addressing climate change ensures stable growth and prosperity. With its exposure to climate extremes – such as floods, intense storms and extreme heat days – the city is working to enhance resiliency and build its adaptive capacity.
The 2013 Southern Alberta flood resulted in approximately 80,000 people evacuated from their homes, a local state of emergency declared and as much as $6-billion CAD in financial losses and property damage across Southern Alberta. While it is difficult to attribute individual events to climate change, it is known that as the climate changes these kinds of events will become more likely and the city has to respond with new strategies. To examine such risks, the city conducted in-depth research in 2017 to establish baselines and analyze the risk and vulnerability of infrastructure, people and natural environment.
This information then provided the foundation for Calgary's “Climate Adaptation Action Plan,” which aims to identify the risks and vulnerabilities, and provide an iterative process to risk management that will be revisited and updated every five years.
Calgary is future-focused. The city understands the real need to reduce emissions and develop its green economy. Unchecked and unmanaged, climate change hazards will have worrying implications for the city.
Building climate resilience and working with stakeholders across the community to do so is top of The City of Calgary’s agenda.
Calgary is working to ensure a safe, economically prosperous and climate resilient city for generations to come.
Rising sea levels and water stress bring real challenges for The Hague, the largest Dutch city on the North Sea. As the international city of peace and justice, the city is used to dealing with complexity and the city’s approach to tackling climate change is among the most ambitious in the world.
Divided into eight official districts, The Hague is setting meaningful steps to be a climate neutral city in 2030. The city is taking a collaborative approach to meeting this aim, with a cross-stakeholder approach, working with housing corporations, NGOs, industry, regional and national government.
It is little surprise The Hague has such ambitious targets as national targets are driving the whole of The Netherlands to be climate neutral by 2050.
With its goal to reach this same ambitious goal twenty years earlier, The Hague is looking to clean energy solutions to achieve this aim. In fact, it aims to get the 40% of its energy use from city-wide renewable energy generation by 2030 and plans to source the remaining 60% of its renewable energy needs from the national grid.
The Hague has invested in off-shore wind energy to power 8,000 households. The city also currently has a municipal purchasing agreement in place to purchase 100% renewable energy from the national grid.
With the latest IPCC science on 1.5°C offering a clear warning, The Hague offers a shining example of climate leadership.
In addition to this, the city is conducting feasibility studies to explore geo-thermal energy and is working closely with housing associations to transition to gas-free housing.
The city government is also actively encouraging residents to install their own solar panels, even giving schools subsidies to do so.
While the city gets smart on energy, it’s also considering water risks. With The Hague’s population forecasted to rise by more than 30,000 people by 2022 the demand for housing is sure to rise in tandem. The city expects to grow by an additional 100,000 households within the next 15 years, all of which will contribute to increased water stress.
Water quality is a serious concern for the city, due to difficult-to-remove herbicides and pesticides from farming and hormones in the drinking water.
In response to water scarcity the city wants to diversify the city’s water supply and is looking for a third source of freshwater alongside on top of the current use of groundwater and surface water from the river Meuse.
With 11km of coastline along the North Sea, The Hague cannot escape the threat of rising sea levels. Since 2016, it has been a member of the 100 Resilient Cities program. As part of the program, the city has mapped its vulnerability to coastal flooding with flood modelling. This shows that in the case of a flooding event, large tracts of the city could be underwater to a depth of 2.5m.
With 6,500 square kilometres of The Netherland’s land already reclaimed from the sea, this is a risk that the Dutch have been successfully abetting for years and The Hague has been working with town planners to shore up its future.
“As a major Dutch seaside city, The Hague’s minimal elevation above sea level is certainly a cause for concern. We know that sea levels are rising each year, and so the city is working hard to develop new technologies to protect infrastructure, businesses and, most importantly, the lives of our citizens.” Martin Andriessen program manager for the energy transition at The Hague.
In the seaside resort of Scheveningen the city has built a new multi-purpose boulevard; improving the appearance of the waterfront and protecting the city from flooding. Invisible to the average citizen, a kilometre-long dike can be found beneath the boulevard, offering another layer of protection from the proverbial wolf at the door.
Another astounding solution is the city’s ‘sand engine’, which is in operation at Ter Heijde, south of The Hague. This strengthens the coast by depositing and replenishing sand on a hook-shaped peninsula, measuring 2 km in width and stretching 1 km out to sea. This forms a physical barrier against the rising seas.
From high tech to nature-based solutions - the city is also making use of green pavements which integrate concrete and grass in a honeycomb structure and support drainage. This is being encouraged by a national movement called ‘Operation Steenbreek’. Green rooftops and green space at Zuiderpark and Slachthuisplein are another way that the city is increasing soakage and carbon capture.
It’s clear that the city of diplomacy has a vision for the future which promotes strong action to ensure that the city reaches its goal of climate neutrality by 2030 and remains a viable place to live. The Hague’s environmental policy is a shining example of technological solutions to climate change, forward-thinking on urban planning and fierce ambition and there are lessons here for cities the world over.
As a subtropical coastal city with a high-tech economy, Taipei is facing up to the challenge of a changing climate with innovation and cross-sector collaboration, looking to become a green city of the future.
Taipei’s population of 2.7 million boasts almost full employment and most people work in the services sector. Taipei is a global hub for technology with a vibrant start-up culture of its own while playing host to global tech giants. High-rise office blocks and skyscrapers form the city’s dense urban skyline.
The city’s humid subtropical climate is prone to heatwaves, cyclones, storms and droughts. Despite both its economy and population being remarkably stable, the city is still at risk from climate change.
To help tackle this global challenge, Taipei has a target to cut city-wide emissions by 50% by 2050 (compared to 2005 baseline), with an interim target of 25% by 2030.
This has not proved an easy challenge. Despite strong environmental governance, higher temperatures have led to higher energy demand from air conditioning to keep cool. The city has achieved a 6% cut in emissions so far, compared to 2005.
Ming-Lone Liou, the commissioner of Department of Environmental Protection of Taipei City Government said: “Taipei is a future facing city – we are leading the world in cutting-edge technology, and we also want to be a leader in environmental sustainability. Like others around the world, our city’s future is at risk from climate change and water risk, so we are taking action to cut emissions and build resilience. In the 21st century, to be a future-facing city is to be a green city”.
With an economy focused on high-tech services (sector primarily based in office buildings), most of Taipei’s emissions (74%) come from buildings. To deal with this, the city is employing innovative solutions and strong regulatory standards on green buildings and public space.
The city uses green walls and roofs to counter the urban heat island effect and special permeable pavements to keep the streets cool and limit surface runoff from storms.
It’s also compulsory for all new builds to meet high standards for green building design. After completion, if the building fails to comply with the Taipei Green Building Self-Governance Ordinance, the manufacturer’s performance bond is withheld.
The standard means that all new buildings with a footprint of 1,000 square meters and over need to have solar panels installed on the roof, covering over 5% of the building area.
The city government has also kicked off a three-year Energy Saving Action Plan for Residential and Commercial Sectors, focused on replacing old inefficient air-conditioners and other energy-guzzling appliances in schools, communal housing and service businesses.
They expect that the three-year project will deliver total energy savings of 250 million kWh, equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions of 132,000 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 28,000 cars off the road for a year.
Taipei is heavily reliant on coal and gas for energy. Renewables make up only 3.4% of its energy mix. The city has a target to boost this to 10% by 2025 via development of solar energy, landfill gas power generation, and biomass energy.
Taipei takes a business-friendly approach to the energy transition, using public-private collaboration and innovative financing models.
Take for example the Taipei Energy Hill project, which was built in the Fudekeng Environmental Restoration Park.
It’s difficult to find space for large-scale solar in Taipei due to the limited land and high population density, so installing solar on an old landfill site that gets plenty of sunlight was a creative solution. The plant also extracts biogas from the landfill itself to generate electricity.
Private companies build, own and operate the energy infrastructure for Taipei Energy Hill. They sell the electricity to the state-owned Taipower energy company through a feed-in tariff scheme. The Taipei city government then receives a rebate equivalent to 10% of the total electricity generated, as the land rent.
Along with the looming threat of extreme weather events, Taipei must also look to tackle the underlying concern of water scarcity. The city experiences droughts around every two years. Each time drought brings water shortages. This is only likely to increase with climate change.
In response, the city has taken a pragmatic approach to minimise water waste both through infrastructure improvements and public behaviour change.
Between 2015 and 2017 the city underwent a project to replace old lead pipes and fix leaks. Through examining the whole pipe infrastructure, the old pipelines were replaced, and several unnecessary pipelines were removed. A total of 2,200 water leaks were found, saving 613,000 tons of water per year.
The city has also used public engagement campaigns to encourage citizens to conserve water supplies and avoid waste. For example, holding a prize draw to gamify the water conservation process. Residents are eligible for this draw if they save 5% more water compared with the previous year.
By advocating water-saving measures to households, communities, city agencies and schools, the average household water consumption across the city was cut by some 15% between 2014 and 2006.
With Taipei’s pragmatic approach to climate resilience, which includes a mix of business-city collaboration, strong regulation, citizen engagement and public investment in infrastructure, the city has secured its place as a green city of the future.