• 16 cities signed a commitment to address flooding and drought, and improve resilience by 2030
  • Each city will also take steps to improve water access, flood protection or wastewater management  
  • Accelerator cities include Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Freetown, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Milan, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Phoenix, Quezon City, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, Rotterdam, Tokyo and Tshwane 

Today, C40 Cities announced the launch of the Water Safe Cities Accelerator, a groundbreaking initiative involving major cities from around the globe in a concerted effort to combat the escalating challenges of flooding and drought, bolster urban resilience and sustainability by 2030.

Each participating city pledges to a fundamental commitment, to protect their most vulnerable communities from the severe risks of flooding and drought by 2027. This includes:

  • Establishing comprehensive early warning systems in all high-risk, low-income areas.
  • Developing robust emergency response plans to ensure safety and basic necessities for all during critical events.

Additionally, each city will choose to follow at least one of three dedicated pathways:

  • Universal Clean Water Access: Ensuring equitable access to clean water for all citizens.
  • Flood Protection Measures: Implementing strategies to protect against significant flood events.
  • Net-Zero Water and Wastewater Systems: Aiming for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in water and wastewater management.

C40’s team of technical experts will provide tailored support to each city, helping to identify and implement the most effective strategies based on local needs and opportunities.

The Water Safe Cities Accelerator encourages cities to work collaboratively. By partnering with public, private and civil society organisations, mayors and city leaders are taking decisive steps to protect their communities from the extremes of water-related threats, ensuring a safer, more sustainable future for urban residents worldwide.

Water-related climate hazards are responsible for 90% of global disasters. C40 cities in the Global South are ten times more likely to suffer from the impacts of flooding and drought compared to those in the Global North. This disparity underscores the need for immediate and targeted action.

Hear from the mayors of the signatory cities

Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam, said: “A water safe city is essential for the well-being of citizens and managing water extremes is more significant than ever. In Rotterdam, living with water is in our genes: eighty-five% of the city lies below sea level. Managing excess water was of top concern for ages, but now we are facing a new threat: longer periods of drought and a decline of surface water quality. These water issues have no boundaries, so it is crucial for all cities to take bold action. Rotterdam commitments for the accelerator include adaptation strategies for residential outer dikes and implementation of 50 climate-adaptive projects within public spaces, alongside the development of 15 climate-resilient squares. We will work in the C40 Water Safe Cities Accelerator with peer cities, partners and business to create a resilient city. Together we are stronger when it comes to fighting the challenges of climate change.”

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown and C40 Co-Chair, said: “Our #TransformFreetown water target is for there to be a significant increase in access to safe, affordable, and sustainable water supply by 2028. The Water Safe Cities Accelerator will be instrumental in helping Freetown to achieve this target whilst building resilience and sustainability. In the face of increasing climate uncertainties and water-related challenges, the Water Safe Cities Accelerator initiative helps us to discover innovative solutions, establish robust infrastructure, and implement community engagement. By prioritising water safety, we aren’t only ensuring the well-being of Freetonians but also fortifying our city against the unpredictable impacts of climate change. The Accelerator empowers us to build a future where Freetown not only survives but thrives, with water security at its core.”

Josefina “Joy” Belmonte, Mayor of Quezon City, said: “Quezon City’s evidence-based climate strategies prioritise water management as a foundational step towards ensuring water safety and security. With a focus on building retention ponds as catchment basins to mitigate floods and installing reuse systems for our parks and public spaces to avert water stress during droughts, we aim to strengthen our resilience, especially the city’s most vulnerable communities. Through the C40 Water Safe Cities Accelerator, our efforts are reinforced with expert support and learnings from cities’ best practices, thereby advancing our steps to safer and sustainable water sources.”

Kate Gallego, Mayor of Phoenix and C40 Vice Chair, said: “As a desert city, Phoenix knows the value of our water resources and has cultivated a culture of conservation. Still, our warming climate is accelerating aridification and we must continue to innovate to meet new challenges and empower residents to live sustainably. The Water Safe Cities Accelerator brings drought and flooding to the forefront of the climate conversation and will be crucial for cities in sharing best practices and uplifting success stories.”

Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, said: “The historical urbanisation processes that neglected the hydrological cycle, combined with the hilly and low-lying topography of the city of Rio de Janeiro, makes Rio’s urban area prone to flooding. The conflict between the natural and built environments often makes structural stormwater management solutions socioeconomically unfeasible. Thus, the implementation of a flood warning system appears as an alternative to increasing the resilience of cities. The requalification of water bodies provides a better relationship between the city and its rivers, bringing opportunities for co-benefits between the natural and built environments. In this context, the C40 Urban Water Security accelerator is a great opportunity to bring together experiences and tools from cities around the world to make Rio more resilient to these disasters. The accelerator corroborates the Sustainable Development and Climate Action Plan of the city of Rio de Janeiro, also in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Pabel Muñoz, Mayor of Quito, said: “The Water Safe Cities Accelerator will be implemented as a high-impact programme for Quito. It will prioritise and boost actions oriented to build resilience in the city to face extreme natural events such as floods and droughts, categorised as events with high social and economic negative impact. We will focus on early warning systems implementation in vulnerable areas, aiming to safeguard people’s lives and enhance the effective response to potential emergencies due to climate-related hazards. In the same way, we will develop actions to guarantee universal and equitable access to water and to protect citizens and infrastructure from extreme natural events.”

Cilliers Brink, Executive Mayor of Tshwane, said: “The Water Safe Cities Accelerator holds paramount significance for the City of Tshwane as it will catalyse the outcomes of our Climate Action Plan and our goal of being a water and energy secure city. By focusing on the accelerator pathways and targets, the city will enhance water equity and build resilience to future water-related climate impacts. It will also deepen our collaboration with other C40 cities, particularly those African cities joining the collective effort of achieving the Water Safe Cities Accelerator targets.”

Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen and C40 Vice Chair, said: “With the water accelerator we can focus our efforts on becoming a city that is prepared for climate change. With increased rainfall, rising sea levels and lately also the threat of water shortage in periods of drought, we need to raise our ambitions to combat these threats. Thus, the Water Safe Cities Accelerator is an important addition to our Cloudburst Plan, so we can have a continuous focus on water and learn from other C40 cities. Climate change will have a huge influence on urban life.”

Heru Budi Hartono, Acting Governor of Jakarta, said: “C40 Cities’ initiative to establish the Water Safe Cities Accelerator will help to protect the vulnerable communities who are at high risk of flooding and drought in Jakarta by 2027. Skilled expertise and technological advancements will help us to safeguard people and the city’s critical infrastructure from major flood events with an increase of at least 20% of stormwater retention and infiltration to reduce flood risk.”

Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo and C40 Vice Chair, said: “Climate change is causing once in a lifetime heavy rainfalls to occur more regularly all over the globe, and we must start preparing for the wind and flood damage that accompany these heavy rainfalls immediately. In response to natural threats, such as floods and inland floods due to intensified heavy rains and typhoons, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will promote the utilization of state-of-the-art technologies and the development of urban facilities in both structural and non-structural aspects. As a vice-chair of C40, I will work hand in hand with cities all over the world and other key stakeholders to advance our initiatives.”

Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of Milan and C40 Vice Chair, said: “Flooding – as well as droughts – increasingly occur in cities all over the world. This continues to demonstrate that extreme weather events have become more intense, frequent and unpredictable. And it makes it even more urgent to develop integrated solutions that mitigate the risk of flooding and at the same time increase people and infrastructures’ resilience to its impacts. By endorsing the C40 Water Safe Cities Accelerator, Milan will boost local action for a safer and more sustainable water management, including through depaving and using Nature-Based Solutions to enhance stormwater infiltration.”

Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Mayor of Buenos Aires, said: “In the city of Buenos Aires, we are working on enhancing urban infrastructure to alleviate the repercussions of extreme rainfall events and advance the restoration of water bodies to mitigate the impact of climate change. Our active participation in the Water Safe Cities Accelerator is crucial as it allows us to share the urban water management solutions Buenos Aires has been planning to adopt while gaining valuable insights and recommendations from experts and technicians from different cities around the world. Furthermore, this initiative will contribute to our ongoing commitment to bring about positive change, shaping a new and resilient relationship with water for our city.”

Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City, said: “From creating new green spaces to using water-absorbent concrete on our streets, we’re turning New York City into a sponge to protect New Yorkers against flooding and the dangers of extreme weather.

“We’re proud to stand with our sister cities to support the C40 Water Safe Cities Accelerator and tackle the global climate crisis together.”

The Water Safe Cities Accelerator is supported financially by the Grundfos Foundation and informed by insights from Grundfos. It is the latest of C40’s High-Impact Accelerators.

Share article

More Articles