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FEATURE: exploring the theme of multi-level governance for urban adaptation

CDKN’s Country Project Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean, Patricia León, attended the Resilient Cities Congress in Bonn. Here, she gives her impressions of the key debates and how they relate to CDKN’s experience supporting climate compatible development at both local and national level.

CDKN is proud to be an endorsing partner of the third Resilient Cities Congress.  Resilient Cities is the global forum for climate change adaptation and resilience building in cities and other forms of local government.  The conference convenes mayors, policy makers, international institutions, NGOs, academics and business, to the GSI Institute in Bonn to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to urban-level adaptation.  Resilient Cities has quickly become one of the key learning opportunities for city officials and other urban-level practitioners to learn from each other’s experiences, challenges and success stories.  In parallel, the Mayors’ Forum, a closed event hosted by the Mayor of Bonn and the Mayor of Mexico City is facilitating direct inter governmental dialogues on these issues.

Out of the hot issues debated at the Resilient Cities Congress, one strongly captures my attention: How to integrate local and national efforts for adaptation?  Several of the Latin American countries that CDKN is partnering with are also grappling with this issue.   Climate compatible development certainly needs strong leadership at the national level, but this needs to be carefully complemented by local level planning and implementation.

Three presentations from different parts of the world illustrate various approaches to local-national coordination regarding urban adaptation plans.

In South Africa, the central government is using fiscal incentives (grants) directed at city governments to fund adaptation planning.  Furthermore, the national government complements the grants with a capacity-building program which selects recent graduates from universities in each province, and brings them to the capital for 12 months to receive training and collaborate with the national climate change agency.  These professionals are then deployed back to their home cities in order to lead local adaptation efforts.  By selecting professionals from local universities, rather than offering the course to people in the capital, they have found that more professionals return to their home states for professional life.

A second example presented at the Resilient Cities Conference comes from the Philippines.  The Philippines’ approach to national-regional regulation has emphasized regulation and capacity building.  The National Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) has created a model Land Use Plan that has to be implemented by local governments.  HUDCC also convenes workshops in regions to provide training regarding application of this model.  The course invites mayors to the first day and then follows with courses to train planning officials who work in local governments.  In addition to this, the HUDCC is also striving to support local government in accessing global climate change funding.  The national government is putting together schemes that supports local governments in accessing the Green Fund and map other possible resources.

South Korea provides a third approach to this issue.   The government considered the province level as the most appropriate level of governance to scale-down adaptation efforts.  Thus, it has provided grants to support the 16 provinces of South Korea to create Adaptation Plans.  First, it supported pilot adaptation plans in two provinces.  Then, based on these two pilot experiences, the national government created Guidelines for the Adaptation Plans at the province level.   Third, the government rolled out the grant scheme to support implementation of the model in each province.  Fourth, the national government fostered capacity by putting together a training package, and creating a roster of experts that could support province governments in performing certain highly- technical aspects of the analyses.  Finally, as a result of this process, each province government has prioritised one sector/area that it will work with in the short term to start adaptation efforts.

All of these experiences illustrate the efforts of national governments trying to carefully downscale adaptation planning to a local government. We find that countries have used some mix of regulatory, fiscal and capacity building approaches.   These examples provide good insight for the discussions that CDKN is having with the governments that it supports.  For example, CDKN is supporting the Colombian government in its efforts to explore national-local coordination for adaptation through pilot programs in Cartagena the Alto Cauca.

As illustrated by the variety of cases shared above, The Sustainable Cities Conference has been successful in providing a good forum for the exchange of experiences related to local level adaptation and sustainability.  As David Cadman, President of ICLEI, pointed out “the densest areas of this world will feel the most consequences from climate change, namely urban areas”.  In this sense, the experiences explored above provide lessons that are important to make sure that national local governments are carefully planning for urban level adaptation.

For more resources related to urban areas and climate change, click here.

Image: View of urban area near river. India. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

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