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Future cities need to be resilient 

BONN/GERMANY - Over the next 40 years we will have to build the same urban capacity again that was built over the last 4,000 years. On top of this, 80 per cent of the expected US$80-100 billion per year in climate change adaptation costs are to be borne by urban areas. Now is the time to make sure that the cities of the future will be resource-efficient and resilient. 

To provide a global platform for cities on resilience and adaptation to climate change, ICLEI, together with the City of Bonn and the World Mayors Council on Climate Change, is staging the Resilient Cities 2011 world congress in Bonn, Germany, on 3-5 June. The patron of the congress is UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director Joan Clos, who points out that “preparing for the impacts of climate change on the world’s cities is a major challenge of the 21st century”. 

“Many local leaders, because they are directly accountable to their communities, have already taken action to embark on a low-carbon and resilient path”, comments Marcelo Ebrard, the Mayor of Mexico City and Chair of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change. 

 The argument for resilience is to make the urban structures, which are currently being created for the future, sustainable. Resilience can be seen as a concept for future cities to withstand stress and bounce back from disaster, in times when resources will be less available and climate change risks will increase. Being resource efficient is a vital aspect of being resilient to create a sustainable future for the 6.3 billion urban dwellers in 2050. 

Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Secretary General of ICLEI, argues that: “A step-change is needed so that building resilience and adapting to climate change are understood as urban planning par excellence.” In its 20 years of work on urban sustainability with over 1,200 member cities around the globe, ICLEI has found that to deal with challenges of climate change there needs to be an understanding of making urban regions resilient, rather than simply tackling risks and disasters as if they were unrelated events. Resilience should be understood as a system wide approach for future urban planning.

Mayors are the local leaders who can make resilience and adaptation to climate change happen in their cities. Over 30 mayors will come together at the Mayors Adaptation Forum, the high level segment of the Resilient Cities congress, to do exactly that – make things happen. The Forum will be chaired by Mexico City’s Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and Bonn’s Mayor Jürgen Nimptsch.

 The mayors will discuss how to drive forward the Mexico City Pact and the carbonn Cities Climate Registry (cCCR) as the response of local governments for measurable, reportable and verifiable climate action. The outcomes of the World Bank’s Mayors Task Force on Urban Poverty and Climate Change will also be discussed by the mayors. The mayors will be issuing the 2011 Bonn Declaration of Mayors as the outcome of the Mayors Adaptation Forum, and will take the declaration to the UN climate talks taking place directly after the mayors meeting in Bonn.

 The mayors will meet with World Bank Special Envoy Andrew Steer on how to reduce climate risks of the urban poor. They will consult with Michel Liès, Chairman of Global partnerships at SwissRe, and hold a strategy panel on the role of insurance in reducing climate change risk. And they will discuss with UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres how urban resilience strategies can be supported by the emerging international climate regime. The need for strong multi-level governance and a demand-driven approach to resilience and adaptation planning and finance will be on the agenda.  

David Cadman, ICLEI President and Councillor of Vancouver, says that the Resilient Cities 2011 congress is: “Fulfilling a growing need: to bring together in a single place the knowledge, the experience and the solutions required by local governments and their partners to adapt to climate change.” He stresses that cities and local governments are already being affected by climate change, and they need to find solutions and act now.  

The Resilient Cities 2011 congress will see report launches of the UN-HABITAT “Global Report on Human Settlements on Cities and Climate Change” and the ARC3 report "Climate Change and Cities: First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network". The World Bank will also be launching a new report on the impact of climate change on North African Coastal Cities. 

An ICLEI Global Report “Financing the Resilient City, A white paper” will be launched at the event, and the key ideas and concepts that are being put forward will be discussed in a key session on ‘Responsive finance for adaptation’ on June 5. The paper argues that a demand-driven approach to resilience and adaptation planning and funding is needed. It picks up on the idea of adaptation to climate change and building resilience as being intensely local processes, with globally agreed targets and action plans needing to be based on an assessment of local needs to ensure that the effectiveness of actions is being maximised. 

The Resilient Cities 2011 congress is being sponsored by SwissRe, and supported by the Foundation for International Dialogue of the Savings Bank in Bonn, the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation, the European Regional Development Fund and the State Government of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Resilient Cities 2011 – 2nd world congress on adaptation and climate change, 3-5 June 2011, Bonn, Germany - more information available at: http://resilient-cities.iclei.org/bonn2011/home/ 

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