COP23 Side Event: Advancing science to accelerate effective climate action in human settlements

By Gifti Nadi, City Diplomacy Manager – Global Campaigns 

Moderated by Seth Schultz, Director of Science and Innovation at C40, this high-level side event examined the role of science in informing more effective urban climate action. The event aimed to highlight practical solutions and build engagement towards the 2018 Science Conference on Cities and Climate Change on March 5-7 in Edmonton, Canada. 

The event featured a range of speakers, including a keynote address from IPCC Vice-Chair Dr. Youba Sokona, remarks from Dr. Petra Wolff, Director Energy and Climate, Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and an engaging presentation by Manager of Economic & Environmental Sustainability at the City of Edmonton Paul Ross

A panel comprised of urban practitioners, scientists and policymakers were asked the question: ‘How can the role of science better influence your day-to-day work?’ 

Billy Cobbett, Director, Cities Alliance, said that subnational governments can bring scientists into local administrations by creating the position of Chief Science Officer and by developing evidence-based science around land and settlement patterns. 

Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, and former Mayor of Kigali, Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, said that leading a city is both an art and a science, and that the next 15 years provide a window of opportunity for science to be used as a tool for social transformation to guide urbanization. Her main goal for Edmonton is for science “to give a voice to the voiceless.” 

Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, and former Mayor of Kigali, Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira

Dr. Deon Terblanche, Director of Research, World Meteorological Organization, said that science can provide the answers for our future. “It is important for researchers to access data and infrastructure to do their work – scientific facts must be translated into something more usable.” 

Frederic Ximeno, Director of Ecology of the City of Barcelona, emphasized the need to examine the role of physical and social systems, taking them into account in decision-making for cities. 

In his daily work, Yann Françoise, Head of the Climate Energy and Circular Economy Division, City of Paris, said good climate data has to be meaningful to the region and the people living there. “In convincing our council to invest more in our cities, we must demonstrate the business case and communicate it with confidence to our decision-makers.” 

Jenny Gerbasi, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Deputy Mayor of Winnipeg, highlighted the important role of the federal government and municipalities in Climate innovation and quantitative tools to access and to measure impact and progress. “We must address the capacity of smaller communities and strengthen information-sharing in Winnipeg and throughout the FCM.” 

Martina Otto, Head of the Cities Unit, UN Environment, said that the city is the new platform to bring in new disciplines and turn science, including social science, into tools that are easy to use. 

Increased communication, collaboration and citizenship emerged as key proposed outcomes from the event: 

— Increased communication, drawing on complex science to deliver tools that people can understand, will: 

  • Keep cities informed of the relevant science 
  • More clearly communicate findings with a human face for the voiceless and break down the silo 
  • Provide insight on the value of investing 
  • Maximize the narrative around the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement in recognizing the role of science on these issues as part of the UN system 

— Increased collaboration with different stakeholders (corporate, finance, political) and across various science areas on urban issues will: 

  • Co-design inclusive science solutions for cities 
  • Design simpler tools to access adaptation initiatives – usually more difficult than mitigation measures 
  • Challenge the development community to create programmatic long-term assistance 
  • Work with academia and municipalities so citizens can access scientists and see that science helps their basic needs 

— Increased citizenship, or getting science closer to the people, will: 

  • Demonstrate the links between science and action – so we know what to do and how to do it 
  • Draw on the power of recognition, celebrating the success of scientists encourages others 
  • Bring scientists together with citizens to work on bottom-up projects promoted by neighborhood associations 

This event was co-organized by C40 and UN-Habitat on behalf of the CitiesIPCC partners. For more information about the conference, go to

Bard Rama, Director of Operations, IPCC Working II Technical Support Unit

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