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ICLEI Urges Local Leaders to Do the Work of National Leaders and Tackle Climate Change

Making cities resilient to disaster and the impacts of climate change has undoubtedly become a responsibility of all local leaders. This became evident during deliberations by over 400 experts, and practitioners who convened for Resilient Cities 2014: The 5th Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation in Bonn Germany.

The Congress brought together 90 local government representatives as well as experts from international organizations, national governments, research institutions, business and media.

Prince Charles giving his address by video link to Resilient Cities 2014

Prince Charles giving his address by video link to Resilient Cities 2014.

Local leaders are realizing the need for an integrated approach that works towards building resilience in their cities. As His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales said in his opening message to Resilient Cities 2014, "The need for this integrated approach is now urgent and that is why meetings such as this are vitally important in order to articulate fully the vision and help establish ways to build the evidence base and galvanize the wheels of change. So I can only congratulate ICLEI for their leadership in this area over the past few years".

The Resilient Cities Forum saw a move forward in resilience financing with a big improvement in understanding barriers to financing adaptation measures and a great increase in partnerships to address these challenges. However there is still little improvement in implementation and impact on the ground so local governments are getting creative towards financing their resilience efforts using their own existing assets, local revenue streams and fiscal mechanisms to leverage other funds, from Mayor Diane Watts' (Surrey, Canada) solution of a "green fund" to Nancy Saich's (European Investment Bank) suggestion to take the climate label off and find funding in smaller sectoral packages that include adaptation.

The congress also saw avid interest and innovation in creative infrastructure projects, especially in the ecosystem-based adaptation sector. Singapore's projects, Garden by the Bay project and the Bishan Ang Mo Kio Park, are great examples of turning domestic water deficits and concrete drowning-traps for floodwater into tourist-attracting self-sufficiency and much-needed green leisure areas in the space-constrained city-state.

Cities are looking for innovative means for financing resilience and designing infrastructure while adapting to the changing climate. This has become even more apparent as most parts of the world see frequent weather events and other disasters. There is an urgency for all cities to do vulnerability assessments and, based on these assessments, to work towards risk reduction and resilience-building by engaging multiple stakeholders.

Multiple stakeholder engagement is necessary not only between researchers and practitioners but also different levels of government to further drive and fund efforts in resilience building.

Resilience building was also the focus of the Mayors Adaptation Forum (MAF). This forum convened by the World Mayors Council on Climate Change saw the inclusion of resilience as a key component of the Urban Sustainable Development Goal (Urban SDG) being campaigned for by the ICLEI. The phrasing of the Urban SDG focuses on creating an inclusive productive resilient city.

David Cadman, ICLEI President said: "It is inspiring to see cities so involved and being so innovative. Cities are essentially about the people that live in them. We want to build inclusive, safe, sustainable cities".

Tim Isaksson, a student from Lund University covering the event, commented: "Unfortunately, ICLEI's work seems to be the work not only for cities and local governments, but also for our national governments – in mitigation as well as adaptation and resilience-building." He quoted ICLEI Deputy Secretary General Emani Kumar: "Since a COP-21 agreement in Paris will not come into effect until 2020, the real responsibility of doing the necessary work until then will fall upon cities and local governments."

Cadman sent delegates away at the end of the conference by saying therefore: "It is time for all of us to mobilize the grassroots. There lies the only seed strong enough to nourish the courage and determination required of our elected leaders."

In the coming two years there is a convergence of decisions in many of the most important workflows of global cooperation. The soonest is UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's pre-COP-20 climate meeting in New York, after which is COP-20 in Lima, the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, the important COP-21 in Paris in 2015, the final formulation and adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (where ICLEI is campaigning for an urban goal), and the Habitat III conference, among others.

Due to the importance of Paris 2015, large parts of the outlook plenary concerned mitigation. Cadman was adamant that, "We need to send the message to national governments that returning home with no agreement, is not acceptable."

Therefore, and because he deemed the collective work showcased during the conference so impressive, Cadman tasked all delegates to: "Go home and transform the world".

With thanks for much of this article's content to Tim Isaksson and Katrina Borromeo.