Urban resilience and its pivotal role to address climate change

As Argentina takes over the G20 presidency, a new Think 20 (T20) process, a key forum for think tanks from all over the world, also kicks off. Since its inception in 2012, the T20 has brought together knowledge-generating centers to develop policy proposals for governments, advise the G20 and monitor policy implementation. This year, it will be co-chaired by the Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI as per its acronym in Spanish) and by the Centre for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC).

The purpose of the T20 is to formulate specific and feasible public policy recommendations for consideration at the multilateral forum. These proposals are drafted upon the work of ten task forces.  And one of the tasks forces of this T20 Argentine process is called ‘Climate Action and Infrastructure for Development’.

The problem of climate change is directly linked to urban policies.  The total global urban area will increase threefold in the next 30 years and the percentage of urban population will rise from 54 to 66. And according to UN Habitat, cities are the source of 70% of greenhouse gases emissions. So in the context of this background, it becomes plainly evident that if we do not work towards reducing GHG emissions, the path to a sustainable development will be winding.

Investing in quality urban infrastructure is one of the keys to sustainable development. The actions that contribute to better cities are those that aim to create or improve infrastructure of an area, such as sewerage systems, fiber optic networks, bridges and parks, among others. These infrastructure projects are particularly important for developing countries where infrastructure deficits are severe.

Climate change is a long-standing problem, but in the last decades the negative effects unfolding over such short periods of time have been stronger than ever. That is the reason why this phenomenon made it to the international agenda through agreements and recommendations. When the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement, the alliance of G20 engagement groups, including the T20, emphasized that ‘the other 19 member countries of the G20 must decisively show their determination to enforce it’.

In order to mitigate the possible impacts of climate change, such as record rainfall, droughts, heat waves and hurricanes, it is necessary to spur investment in resilient infrastructure that allows for a quick disaster recovery. Urban resilience is one of the pivots of CIPPEC’s Cities Program. Poor infrastructure hinders access to safe drinking water, sanitation, clean energy and also, indirectly, to education, health and employment. It is also necessary to boost productivity, promote access and development of efficient sources of energy and create synergies with the existing infrastructure.

During the T20 Argentina process, the task force will strive to bolster the network of knowledge-generating institutes, share and spread country experiences and make policy recommendations to stimulate public and private investment in resilient infrastructure, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda. One of the premises of those proposals will be that it is possible to secure a thriving and climate safe future if swift action is taken immediately, according to the conclusions of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5).

The work of the task force called ‘Climate Action and Infrastructure for Development’ will revolve around mitigating the impacts of climate change and will address the issue of developing infrastructure for creating resilient cities that can recover and even toughen after natural disasters. Furthermore, it will also encourage low-carbon infrastructure improvements as a stepping stone towards sustainable development and growth, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By Gabriel Lanfranchi. Co-chair of the Climate Action and Infraestructure for Development task force.

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Gabriel Lanfranchi

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