Faced with storm surges and intense rainfall, Rio de Janeiro is investing in innovative water management systems.
Tropical beaches and dramatic hillsides have helped turn Rio de Janeiro into a magnet for tourists. But the city’s geography also makes it vulnerable to climate change: more powerful storms, rising seas and longer heatwaves threaten businesses and citizens alike. With almost 6.5 million inhabitants and growing, the stakes are high.
With this in mind, Rio is taking action. It plans to build its climate resilience and cut emissions, while also making the city a better place to live and work.
With the aim to cut its carbon emissions 20% by 2020 (on 2005 levels), the city government is looking to its congested streets to reduce its impact.
It has installed 450km of cycle lanes to date, with the aim of pushing beyond 550km by 2020.* The city has also invested in 260 bike share stations and educational programs to encourage safe cycling.
Public transport is another important part of Rio’s environmental strategy. A rapid transit bus network now takes people from one end of the city to the other, with three lines in operation and a fourth under construction, all aimed at reducing transport emissions.
Floods and fires
With climate change increasing the frequency of both heatwaves and torrential, Rio is at risk of fires and flooding – so the city government and is responding with a new community alarm system. When rainfall reaches specific thresholds for each district, sirens alert residents to the risk of dangerous landslides. In hotter weather, a smartphone app and an SMS system tell registered users when extreme temperatures are forecast.
Over the longer term, degraded land is being restored to forest to help prevent landslides and fires, and to slow rainwater runoff – all of which cause major problems for the city.
The new forests also provide shade, welcome a wide range of animals, and improve the water quality for the nearby communities.
Almost 108,000 urban trees have also been planted in the last three years, helping to mitigate the urban heat island effect while cleaning the city air.
By investing in transport and green space, Rio has begun its journey towards improving the lives of its citizens, reducing its environmental impact, and adapting to the effects of climate change.
*Rio de Janeiro has updated this goal to elaborate and implement a Cycling Master Plan by 2020, which aims to improve the quality and connectivity of the cycling infrastructure in the City.
Updated September 2017.