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Day 1 at the IPCC Cities & Climate Change Science Conference

The day started with the sun beaming in through a wall of glass looking out over Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River. The discourse on cities was hopeful- tinged with periods of critical thought and realism. Presenters, including the Mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson, talked about the need to track consumption-based GHG emissions; but the mechanisms that cities require to influence consumption of their citizens are both politically and legally limited. Many speakers talked about green jobs and low-carbon cities as engines of economic growth and development, while others reflected that economic development itself is the source of GHG emissions. Irrespective of the pathway forward, there is no question that the role of local governments and cities is gaining prominence and an increasing focus of UN agencies and other entities in the world; if cities can’t dramatically bend the curve, then there is no way that the world will achieve the necessary reductions of 1.5 degrees. Mayor Iveson emphasised this point with a story about UNFCCC COP 13 in indonesia; as a deputy mayor his option was to represent a non-profit organisation at a side event of a side event. Luckily, times have changed: urban areas are now a primary focus with an IPCC focussed conference on cities.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release a much anticipated report on what it will take for the world to stay within 1.5 degrees later this year; this report include a chapter on the role of cities. This 1.5 degree report is expected to the basis of extensive discussion at the next COP later this year, in Poland. In 2024, the IPCC will also  prepare a special report specifically on cities.

One of the most remarkable speeches was from Aromar Revi of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) and a lead author of the urban areas chapter of the upcoming IPCC report. He highlighted coal plants as stranded assets but said that the most signficant stranded assets are our cities, noting that economic activity, people’s homes, cultural centres in many great cities are at risk from sea level rise.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement (UNFCCC COP 21/CMP 11), countries identified Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), which were promised emissions reductions, in the lead up to the conference. Three years after those commitments were agreed upon in Paris, we’re about 1 degree above the 1850-1900 mean, which is two thirds of the way to the 1.5C level and halfway to the 2 degree level. The current INDCs are the fast elevator to 2 degrees; the question now are: could we experience an overshoot, how big will that overshoot be and how long will it last? If we had started GHG emissions reductions seriously in Rio de Janeiro (in 2012), we may have had the gift of choice but now societies need to accelerate the transformation of our energy systems, land-use, cities and regions, governance and financing.

Ultimately though, Aromar points out, the transition is a question of behavioural and cultural change. And if this transformation occurs, the empire, he indicated, will strike back as this is the nature of the systems. In this case, Aromar drew on the example of Gandhi taking on the greatest empire of the world at the time as a source of hope and inspiration; he concluded that ultimately the objective is to transform not only the system but ourselves.

In discussing future climate impacts, a presenter pointed out that the climate of the prairie provinces will resemble that of Texas by 2050; imagine what Texas will look like. The impacts are Increased precipitation early in the growing season and then longer, hotter dryer growing season, creating a need for some form of water storage. The researcher has developed and costed a natural infrastructure system that will provide water storage and protect the City of Winnipeg from flooding. In 2011, the City of Winnipeg experienced a major 1 in a 300 year flood. To protect the City, berms were broken to allow water to spread onto farmland, which both failed to protect the city and caused a nearly $1 billion loss in agricultural activity. A subsequent drought resulted in a further $1 billion in crop losses. No existing civil infrastructure mechanism could both prevent the floods and store water from that “rainy season”. The proposed natural infrastructure system not only solves these problems but also provides a spider web of ancillary benefits. In order to implement this system, a new form of agency will be required to raise the $5 billion required for implementation and generate returns from the different forms of benefits delivered.

SSG at IPCC Cities & Climate Change Conference

SSG directors, Yuill Herbert, and Jeremy Murphy, will be in Edmonton at the IPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference: Fostering new scientific knowledge for cities based on science, practice and policy, this March 5-7th. Sustainability Solutions Group is proud to be a silver sponsor of this conference.

This conference is an important one for the international climate research community. It will bring together representatives from national, local (city) and regional governments, academia, international research organizations, as well as urban planning and climate change practitioners.

The goals of the conference are to:

  • identify research and knowledge gaps related to cities and climate change;
  • inspire regional and global research that will lead to peer-reviewed publications and scientific reports; and,
  • stimulate research on cities and climate change throughout the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report (AR6) cycle.

The conference’s outcomes are important because they will inform upcoming IPCC reports as well as support cities and citizens in building low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable cities, the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the New Urban Agenda, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

If you can’t make it to Edmonton yourself, you can join the live webcast here and get informed by reading the pre-session documents, available here.

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False Creek at night. Photo by Naomi Devine

Join SSG at Renewable Cities. We’re throwing an afterparty you won’t want to miss!

SSG is pleased to support Renewable Cities, a global program of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver, Canada. We are participating in their Global Learning Forum 2017: a solutions-focused dialogue on the transition to 100% renewable energy in cities. Leaders from local governments, the private sector, utilities, and the NGO and research communities will be in attendance and we look forward to connecting with everyone.

In celebration of our recent report, TransformTO: Climate Action for a Healthy, Equitable & Prosperous Toronto – The Pathway to a Low Carbon Future, we are throwing an afterparty for all attendees of Renewable Cities. Join us for a social evening to connect, engage, and share your stories about how we are working to make cities renewable, one step at a time.

SSG members Jeremy Murphy, Julia Meyer-MacLeod, and Naomi Devine will be attending Renewable Cities. Be sure to connect with us and say hello at the event or at our afterparty.

Afterparty Details

Thursday, May 18, starting at 6:30 pm

The Belmont Bar, Vancouver BC
1006 Granville St

Man walking down a city street in front of some art.

We’re attending the Conference of the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation. See you there?

The Conference of the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation is happening in Vancouver from November 2nd-5th.  SSG is a proud worker cooperative. We are pleased to attend the conference and help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the CWCF & CoopZone. This conference will be a great opportunity for participants to meet, share ideas, and build networks in the worker cooperative sector.

The Co-operators CEO, Kathy Bardswick, will be the keynote speaker and the conference will cover several practical training topics such as:

  • Managing the democratic process in a worker co-operative;
  • Financing worker co-ops; and,
  • Strengthening your Co-op’s value proposition.

Find more details on it here, and be sure to touch base with us if you plan to attend!