Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France

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Thursday 9 July - 11:30-13:00 UNESCO Fontenoy - ROOM II

L3.3 - Managing Transitions in Cities

Large Parallel Session

Chair(s): J.P. van Ypersele (IPCC vice chair - Université catholique de Louvain, Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)

Co-Convener(s): D. Ürge-Vorsatz (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary), X. Bai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

11:30

Transition and transformation towards low carbon, resilient cities

X. Bai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Abstract details
Transition and transformation towards low carbon, resilient cities

X. Bai (1)
(1) Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Abstract content

The facts that link cities and climate change are simple - cities contribute majority of CO2 emissions, and due to the high and growing concentration of population in cities and the geographic locations of world major cities, cities are also increasingly exposed of, and would suffer from, the impacts of climate change. It is increasingly recognized that transition and transformation towards low carbon and resilient cities are critical, and what we do in our cities, and how we do it, may largely determine our collective futures under climate change. 

The importance of looking at cities in climate change is paramount, and the need for the role of cities to be better recognized and for cities to be better integrated in international climate change negotiations is essential. However, the real challenge lies in how can we initiate, manage, and achieve transitions and transformations that enable cities to become low carbon and more resilient. Drawing on recent studies and several examples, this paper explores such challenges and potential leverage points, from the following four aspects:  

a) The complex and multifaceted linkages between cities and climate change: The linkages between cities and climate change are complex and multifaceted.  Cities are the largest contributor of CO2, but they might also be more efficient in terms of delivering the same level of services. Recent research shows that cities impacts on climate change have multiple pathways that go beyond contribution to CO2 emission. Such complexities are not fully recognized, nor they are reflected to inform policy and practice.

 b) Contextualizing low carbon concept in rapidly urbanizing regions: The concept of low carbon and resilient cities often becomes a relative term and context specific. In regions undergoing rapid urbanization and economic growth, the goal of achieving low carbon and resilient cities can have drastically different meaning, which is often contradicted by other objectives that are more pressing and thus given higher priority. For example, how to reconcile the tremendous need to provide urban housing and other infrastructure vs the task of reducing total carbon emission?  Competing priorities exist within the cities, but can also be dictated by the national policy and thus beyond the city’s administrative capacity.

c)The need to focus from transition to transformation: Transition can be defined as the shifting of system state, in terms of carbon emission quantity, level of resilience. Transformation on the other hand, means fundamental changes in the society,  that involves different actors perspective, awareness, behaviour, culture norm, and business governance practices. Much of the efforts in low carbon cities are focused on transition. Research shows majority of consumption based carbon are from upstream indirect emission, which can only be addressed via transformational changes.

d) The need for a better understanding of urban systems processes and interaction:  Cities are rapidly changing system with interlinked actors and processes. There are synergies, trade-offs and feedbacks between actions within different sectors, with direct and flow on effects. Such interactions, and in particular the feedbacks, are not well understood. As far as cities are concerned, it probably is not true that all the science needed to take action is out there.  Further, the sector or actor that initiates a climate mitigation or adaptation action might be responsible for and own the action, but not the flow on effects, positive or negative. A better understanding of urban system processes and interactions can help identify leverage points and target the most important interactions and actors, which in turn will enable cities to harness synergies while limiting trade-offs. 

11:45

Mitigation priorities in cities

D. Urge-Vorsatz (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary)

Abstract details
Mitigation priorities in cities

D. Ürge-Vorsatz (1)
(1) Central European University, Center for climate change and sustainable energy policy (3csep), Budapest, Hungary

Abstract content
12:00

Adaptation and urban resilience

C. Rosenzweig (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, United States of America), C. Rosenzweig (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York city, United States of America)

Abstract details
Adaptation and urban resilience

C. Rosenzweig (1)
(1) NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York city, United States of America

Abstract content

Cities are acting as world leaders in climate action. This is a crucial stage where significant opportunities are emerging for the co-production of knowledge between researchers and stakeholders. This discussion will draw on the Urban Climate Change Research Network’s (UCCRN) Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities (ARC3) as an example of the co-production of climate knowledge for cities. The discussion will also highlight the work being done by the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) to aid in developing science-based policy solutions for resiliency in the metropolitan region of New York City.

The objective of the UCCRN is to bring together experts working on global-scale, climate change and cities assessments in order to simultaneously present state-of-the-art knowledge on how cities are responding to climate change and to define emerging opportunities and challenges to the effective placement of this knowledge in the hands of local stakeholders and decision-makers.

The First UCCRN Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities (ARC3) was published in 2011 by Cambridge University Press, and articulates urban climate risk frameworks, climate science for cities, and derives policy implications for key urban sectors — water and sanitation, energy, transportation, public health — and cross-cutting issues through land use and governance. The ARC3 report, containing 46 city adaptation and mitigation case studies, represents a four-year effort by 100+ scholars from over 50 cities in both developing and developed countries, and is the first-ever global, interdisciplinary, cross-regional, science-based assessment to address climate risks, adaptation, mitigation, and policy mechanisms relevant to cities.

The UCCRN is now working towards launching the next installment in this ongoing series, the Second UCCRN Assessment Report on Climate Change and Cities (ARC3-2, which has been submitted to Cambridge University Press for publication. The ARC3-2 Report is scheduled to be launched at COP21 in Paris in December 2015. The UCCRN is also launching its Case Study Docking Station later this year, providing examples of urban mitigation and adaptation initiatives from 100 cities across the globe.

New York City, one of the cities included in UCCRN’s Case Study Docking Station, is a leading example for urban climate change adaptation and resilience. The New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) is an independent body that advises the City on climate risks and resiliency. Utilizing the best available data, NPCC science informs New York City’s comprehensive climate policies, positioning residents and planners to confront expected future changes in the most effective way possible. The NPCC was established in 2008 by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an ongoing collaboration between scientists and key stakeholders in the City of New York to integrate resilience against the future impacts of climate change into long term sustainable planning.

The NPCC released its first report in 2010 outlining the key impacts that climate change is projected to have on the city through 2080. In February of this year, the NPCC released its second report, Building the Knowledge Base for Climate Resiliency (NPCC 2015). This provided climate projections for temperature, precipitation, and sea level rise through 2100 for the first time, representing advancement in the science for resilience. New topics covered in the NPCC 2015 report also include public health, with a focus on extreme heat events, coastal storms, and enhanced dynamic coastal flood modeling, which incorporate the effects of sea level rise. The work of the NPCC has been used by New York City planners to guide key adaptation initiatives. This science information was included in rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 through the Special Initiative on Rebuilding and Resiliency, in the City’s $20 billion adaptation plan for climate change, and most recently in Mayor de Blasio’s One NYC initiative for approaching sustainability, resiliency, and equality simultaneously in the 21st century.

12:10

Highlights of climate mitigation challenges in an urban context

M. Fischedick (Wuppertal Institut, Wuppertal, Germany)

Abstract details
Highlights of climate mitigation challenges in an urban context

M. Fischedick (1)
(1) Wuppertal Institut, Wuppertal, Germany

Abstract content

Reduction of GHG emissions caused by cities plays a decisive role in the battle against climate change. Due to rapid urbanization in many parts of the world, particularly in the developing world, appropriate solutions have to be found for growing cities and even new agglomeration areas. In cities with mature infrastructures, their exemplary roles are especially important in demonstrating the cornerstones of a low-carbon transition, such as in their building and equipment operation including deep retrofits, general procurement and mobility system transformation.

Systematic and coordinated strategic urban planning with effective stakeholder participation is of high importance for developing low-carbon urban infrastructures. Specification of mitigation priorities has to start at the very beginning with carefully identifying and addressing the needs and the challenges in each of the key sectors (including basic needs of inhabitants). The planning shall be based on robust scientific analysis, shall start with a solid analysis of the given urban infrastructures, the GHG emission sources (GHG inventory) and their endogenous and exogenous driver. In addition the whole bunch of mitigation options (from smart energy efficiency services to decentralized renewable energy supply structures) has to be considered and properly assessed.

As consequence of high fixed costs of urban infrastructure measures and the long life span of those investments, within the planning process lock-in risks and path dependencies have to be considered carefully. In the long term with the growing implementation of energy efficiency measures to minimize embodied energy becomes more and more important. A better understanding of the value chain and of about how to change the existing relationships is therefore key.

For shaping suitable low-carbon infrastructures no blueprint is available and specific conditions of every city are crucial. However, exchange of experience can play an important role in finding the right solutions. With this regard international city networks and bi- or multilateral partnerships (e.g. in the context of existing twinning towns) can help to exchange experience of how to steer urban transition processes successfully and how to set a solid fundament to achieve an appropriate implementation culture. 

 Cities often are the crucial driver and forerunner for significant changes on the national level (or even the international level). They are often focal point for political and cultural changes and provide the right framework for development and testing of (niche) innovations, innovations that have the potential for the necessary changes of socio-economic regimes (including institutional settings and consumer behavior respectively routines). With this regard cities can also be seen as perfect real laboratories. In cities socio-technical texture of modern societies can be found (comprising energy and transport system, provision of food and education etc.), but in comparison to states with a lower grade of complexity. Learning formats can be better placed under those conditions. 

Against that background the presentation will provide major requirements for shaping carbon infrastructures and will give illustrative examples for successful practical steps.

 Reduction of GHG emissions caused by cities plays a decisive role in the battle against climate change. Due to rapid urbanization in many parts of the world, particularly in the developing world, appropriate solutions have to be found for growing cities and even new agglomeration areas. In cities with mature infrastructures, their exemplary roles are especially important in demonstrating the cornerstones of a low-carbon transition, such as in their building and equipment operation including deep retrofits, general procurement and mobility system transformation.

Systematic and coordinated strategic urban planning with effective stakeholder participation is of high importance for developing low-carbon urban infrastructures. Specification of mitigation priorities has to start at the very beginning with carefully identifying and addressing the needs and the challenges in each of the key sectors (including basic needs of inhabitants). The planning shall be based on robust scientific analysis, shall start with a solid analysis of the given urban infrastructures, the GHG emission sources (GHG inventory) and their endogenous and exogenous driver. In addition the whole bunch of mitigation options (from smart energy efficiency services to decentralized renewable energy supply structures) has to be considered and properly assessed.

As consequence of high fixed costs of urban infrastructure measures and the long life span of those investments, within the planning process lock-in risks and path dependencies have to be considered carefully. In the long term with the growing implementation of energy efficiency measures to minimize embodied energy becomes more and more important. A better understanding of the value chain and of about how to change the existing relationships is therefore key.

 For shaping suitable low-carbon infrastructures no blueprint is available and specific conditions of every city are crucial. However, exchange of experience can play an important role in finding the right solutions. With this regard international city networks and bi- or multilateral partnerships (e.g. in the context of existing twinning towns) can help to exchange experience of how to steer urban transition processes successfully and how to set a solid fundament to achieve an appropriate implementation culture. 

 Cities often are the crucial driver and forerunner for significant changes on the national level (or even the international level). They are often focal point for political and cultural changes and provide the right framework for development and testing of (niche) innovations, innovations that have the potential for the necessary changes of socio-economic regimes (including institutional settings and consumer behavior respectively routines). With this regard cities can also be seen as perfect real laboratories. In cities socio-technical texture of modern societies can be found (comprising energy and transport system, provision of food and education etc.), but in comparison to states with a lower grade of complexity. Learning formats can be better placed under those conditions. 

 Against that background the presentation will provide major requirements for shaping carbon infrastructures and will give illustrative examples for successful practical steps.

12:20

Experiences from the ground: case study from Rio de Janeiro

C. Pontual (, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), D. Ürge-Vorsatz (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary)

Abstract details
Experiences from the ground: case study from Rio de Janeiro

D. Ürge-Vorsatz (1)
(1) Central European University, Center for climate change and sustainable energy policy (3csep), Budapest, Hungary

Abstract content

Although “only” about half of the global population lives in cities, they are already responsible for app. Three-quarters of the energy-related CO2 emissions.   As a result of the dynamic urbanisation processes worldwide, not only the absolute numbers, but also these proportions are expected to grow: with the share of urban dwellers growing to more than two-thirds by mid-century, they will largely dominate as the sources of energy-related emissions. 

The talk will first summarise the key trends in the past and future related to urban developments that drive GHG emissions. Then, following a general overview of mitigation strategies, the presentation will highlight the particularly important mitigation strategies in cities  - that are largely different in mature cities from those in rapidly growing ones.  As such, the talk will identify the key features of urban form that influence urban emissions, as well as other strategies for lowering emissions where the infrastructure is up and running.  The presentation points to the importance of cities as key potential movers and shakers in mitigation due to their different characteristics from countries, and emphasises their exemplary role, for instance through public leadership programs.

Such strategies and their implementation are particularly crucial in cities – where the lion’s share of emissions are related to long-lived infrastructure such as buildings and transportation networks.  These are especially prone to the so-called lock-in effect.  Preventing or minimising the lock-in in the urban context is complex due to different systemic complexities that are difficult to disentangle and forecast out into the lifetime of the infrastructure.  However, the presentation will provide an example for how important the lock-in effect can be in quantitative terms.  As such, it will be pointed out that even a full implementation of today’s most ambitious policies towards energy-efficient buildings may lock as much as 80% of 2005 emissions in by 2050.  This means that whereas this amount could be mitigated cost-effectively through state-of-the-art technology and know-how, these mitigation potentials cannot be unleashed for decades, perhaps even centuries, to come, as a result of actions that focused on short-term optimisation rather than systemic, long-term transformation priorities.

The talk concludes by emphasising the importance of action today through demonstrating the major difference in potentially locked-in emissions if the adoption of the state-of-the-art is moderate rather than dynamic. 

12:30

Panel discussion: Managing a sustainable urban transition to address climate-related prioritiesin a world of competing economic/social priorities

J.-P. van Ypersele (IPCC vice chair - Université catholique de Louvain, Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium), D. Urge-Vorsatz (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary), X. Bai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia), M. Fischedick (Wuppertal Institut, Wuppertal, Germany), C. Rosenzweig (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, United States of America), C. Pontual (, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Abstract details
Panel discussion: Managing a sustainable urban transition to address climate-related prioritiesin a world of competing economic/social priorities
Abstract content