Cities are creating a resilient future by adapting to climate change

By Akel Biltaji, Mayor of Amman, Jordan and Vice-Chair of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, and H.E. Abdulla Al Shaibani, Secretary General of the Executive Council of Dubai, UAE

2016 was a momentous year for action on climate change. More than 120 countries, including Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, ratified the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. As the Mayor of Amman and the Secretary General of Dubai’s Executive Council, representing the most populous cities in our two countries, we understand the magnitude of this commitment by our national governments, and are ready to help turn the aspiration of the Paris Agreement into action on the ground.

Around the world mayors and city leaders in the C40 network – now comprised of 90 cities – are building low carbon and resilient cities that deliver a range of social, economic and environmental benefits to our citizens. We know that this kind of action is urgently needed. Research by C40 shows that the world’s megacities must peak emissions by 2020 and must cut per capita emissions from over 5 tons of CO2 to around 3 tons by 2030.

We understand that creating a climate-safe world requires cities to adapt to climate change that is already happening, in addition to cutting emissions. The cost of inaction is staggering. Unless preventative action is taken, climate change-related natural disasters have been estimated to put 1.3 billion people at risk by 2050 and destroy assets worth $158 trillion – which is double the annual productive output of the world.

Amman is no stranger to the dangers that climate change poses to our economy, our infrastructure and the health and well-being of our citizens. Jordan has the third lowest water availability per capacity of any country in the world. As the climate changes, increasing temperatures and the risk of drought, along with population growth from refugee influx, is creating a profound challenge for Amman. Even under the most optimistic scenarios the situation is likely to get worse in the years ahead.

Dubai shares many of these challenges. The Emirate of Dubai lies within an arid zone where average temperatures are high, fresh groundwater is limited, and rainfall is insufficient to supply the needs of agriculture, industrial development, and a growing population. In this context, developing a climate change risk assessment and an adaptation plan are important milestones towards making Dubai a climate resilient city.

However, the resiliency and tenacity of our cities means that we are facing this challenge head on. We, as city leaders are committed to implementing and delivering innovative climate solutions. Amman, for instance, is working with partners to develop a flood management and storm water network master plan for the city.

Following UAE’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, Dubai is developing a strategic plan to adapt to the impact of climate change. So, it is appropriate that last month in Dubai, along with representatives from 43 C40 cities, including Johannesburg, Rotterdam, Paris, Seoul, and Washington D.C., we are focusing on addressing the impacts of climate change on the world’s megacities. The C40 Dubai Adaptation Conference represented a powerful opportunity to catalyse action in our cities, and ensure that climate adaptation is embedded into all decision making and infrastructure projects.

The next four years are crucial in determining if the worst effects of climate change can be avoided. Yet, even if every nation on earth stopped generating greenhouse gas emissions today, our cities and citizens would still feel the impacts of climate change for decades to come. With the health and wellbeing of our people and economies at stake, the risks of inaction are too great to ignore. This is why we are determined to create resilient cities, prepared for whatever our future climate will be.

Participants at the C40 Dubai Adaptation Conference in January 2017
 
Learn more about the C40 Dubai Adaptation Conference here.