The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a staff-only discussion on urban climate adaptation, featuring Dr. Debra Roberts, head of the Durban Climate Adaptation Charter (DAC) secretariat. The DAC network, established at COP-17, includes more than 1,000 local governments, in more than 45 countries, which advance urban climate adaptation, share information and best practices, and collaborate on joint initiatives.

Dr. Roberts will be a representative of the Group of 77 (G77) at the COP-21 climate negotiations taking place this December in Paris. The G77, which has grown to include 134 developing countries, is chaired this year by South Africa, Dr. Roberts’s home country. She is also a key participant in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program and in the CityLinks initiative funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and administered by the International City/County Management Association.

  • Dr. Debra Roberts, head of the Durban Climate Adaptation Charter (DAC) secretariat, noted that cities represent an intersection of economic, social, and environmental challenges. Any plan for climate adaptation must be relevant to those living in urban areas, as 3.7 billion people now live in cities and the number of city-dwellers in developing nations is expected to double by 2050.
  • Dr. Roberts gave examples of Local Climate Change Compacts in Africa. These compacts allow for the sharing of strategies, the inclusion of local and indigenous governments, and the education of individuals and leaders in order to foster flexible adaptation plans that include shifts toward a low-carbon future for all. Through such practices, mitigation becomes linked to adaptation, allowing for increased aid and decreased risks.
  • Cities around the globe are beginning to show signs of what Dr. Roberts referred to as “transformational adaptation,” which refers to a city’s ability to adapt and become resilient in the face of climate change. No one city can be pointed to as a model, as each are dealing with adaptation in their own ways.
  • Dr. Roberts detailed how vertical integration is key for local governments that are working to adapt to a changing climate, saying that progress toward transformational adaptation requires an “appropriate level of support” from state, provincial, or national governments. Without such an integrated system, local governments attempting to reach transformational adaptation will instead encounter the “glass ceilings of restrictive policy and legal frameworks and limited resources.”
  • In contrast to blanket adaptation schemes, Local Compacts cooperating with other Regional Hubs on an international level allow for “peer-to-peer” learning, the creation of research partnerships, the sharing and creation of local knowledge networks, and regional workshops. This model allows for adaptation and resiliency through diversity and shared knowledge.
  • Funding for these initiatives can come from the Adaptation Fund as well as the Green Climate Fund, but Dr. Roberts suggests that the world’s cities also invest in current “grey” infrastructure and see how they might better use it alongside new “green” infrastructure.

This briefing was for staff only and was not recorded.