The UN Climate Change has released a report analyzing practical ways of adapting to climate change impacts called “Adaptation in human settlements: key findings and way forward.” It aims to share good practices and lessons learned in order to enhance climate resilience. The report has been prepared under the Nairobi work program on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change established in 2005. Although numerous initiatives from global to community level are already under way, the UN Climate Change has identified areas for strategic collaboration in order to close critical gaps and inform adaptation action in human settlements.
Against the background of rapid urban population growth (by 2.5 billion by 2050) and its vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change and other natural and human-made hazards (particularly in coastal areas, delta regions and small island developing states), the report stresses the importance of adaptation in human settlements. Thus, the report analyses the role of local governing bodies and the importance of local-level action for climate resilience.
The report addresses following issues:
1. Assessing vulnerability and integrating short- and long-term climate considerations into adaptation planning:
The UN Climate Change defines climate vulnerability as a function of a population’s sensitivity to climate impacts and its adaptive capacity. Assessments of human settlements can help better identify and address root causes of vulnerability. In particular, inclusive assessment and participatory planning processes can significantly facilitate designing and implementing adaptation action. In order to build long-term adaptive capacity, short-term and long-term climate consideration should be integrated into adaptation planning. The report emphasizes importance of ecosystem-based adaptation and development of land-use plans to manage geographical expansion of human activities (e.g. wetlands and forests can act as a buffer in the case of extreme weather events).
2. The role of national governments in supporting local adaptation, including through national adaptation plans:
It is understood that adaptation activities performed at local level (household, town, city) are often the most effective. However, territories of cities are managed in the joint responsibility with sub national and nation governments traditionally responsible for creating an enabling policy, legal and regulatory frameworks for local governments to develop and implement adaptation plans. In this context, the UN Climate Change recommends inclusion of human settlements in national adaptation strategies, linking local and national planning, and national government support for local adaptation.
3. City to-city partnerships on adaptation to climate change:
The report considers city-to-city partnerships connecting urban centers that face similar circumstances and risks to be an effective way of improving member’s understanding of climate risks and adaptation methods. Especially peer-to-peer learning can accelerate the pace of innovation and implantation. Nonetheless, the report identified flowing challenges: (1) capacity issues (too few and high turnover of staff), (2) the political–technical disconnect (political cycles and the needs of those involved in technical partnerships are mismatched) and (3) insufficient emphasis on monitoring and evaluation. In this context, the report finds necessary to strengthen South–South partnerships and to further support more efficient knowledge transfer between cities facing similar circumstances and constraints.