Today, as the COP28 focus shifts to food, agriculture and water, we look at how cities are enhancing climate resilience by tackling flooding and drought, exploring the valuable insights mayors can bring to shaping national and international climate policy.

Home to over half the global population, urban areas deal with water-related challenges daily—floods, droughts, and water scarcity—which account for 90% of extreme weather events and resulting disasters. Vulnerable communities bear the brunt; C40 cities in low and middle-income countries are ten times more likely to be affected by flooding and drought than those in high-income countries.

Mayors realise the scale of this challenge and are united in action to protect their communities and the environment. What mayors and subnational leaders do is crucial for meeting local, national and global climate targets. While C40 cities are making a difference, addressing climate challenges requires national and global collaboration.

Local action, significant impact

Cities in the C40 network are proving that strong local leadership can save lives and make communities more resilient to flooding and drought.

Rotterdam, combating high urban population density and flood risk due to a lack of ground-level absorbent surfaces, utilises ‘green’ and ‘blue’ roofs to increase rainwater absorption, reduce water treatment costs, cut air pollution, and enhance biodiversity. 

Rio de Janeiro has an emergency protocol to minimise the impact of flood events on low-income communities. The city directs residents to pre-built shelters using SMS (text) alerts and sirens, demonstrating a proactive approach to safeguarding local people.

Phoenix and Tucson established the Phoenix-Tucson Water Partnership to prepare for future water shortages. This collaborative effort allows both cities to secure their water supplies, showcasing cooperative leadership and strategic cost-saving methods that help keep residents safe and healthy during times of drought.

Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government manages an online flood risk map [Japanese, English] covering 14 areas across the city, detailing the potential for flooding due to heavy rainfall. Residents can check predicted flooding severity and depth of water inundation. Municipal-level flood hazard maps that show evacuation sites are also available via the online tool.

These city actions exemplify how mayors offer invaluable experience and expertise in local implementation, which can be incorporated into national and international climate policy.

Accelerating water-safe cities and spurring global ambition

To continue driving global ambitions, 17 cities joined the recently launched C40 Water Safe Cities Accelerator. The accelerator is cities’ commitment to implement policies that tackle flood and drought risk while enhancing cities’ resilience by 2030. Cities joining the accelerator include Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Freetown, Jakarta, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Milan, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Phoenix, Quezon City, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, Rotterdam, Tokyo and Tshwane.

As COP28’s food, agriculture and water day unfolds, city leaders are ready to collaborate with national governments to set targets and implement climate policies, unlock resources, and accelerate progress across key sectors, including buildings, transport, waste and water. At COP28 and beyond, let’s work together to create a future where everyone, everywhere, can thrive.

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