CitiesIPCC conference opens with global call for collaboration and science-based solutions

Credit: CitiesIPCC
The event in Edmonton, Canada, will highlight the role that cities around the world can play in slowing climate change.

This announcement was originally posted on the website of the CitiesIPCC conference. You can see that version here. For more information about Future Earth's involvement in the conference, visit our conference web page.

Today, scientists, policymakers, researchers, and development experts opened the inaugural CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton, Canada. The conference is a unified call to advance global understanding of climate change, its impacts on cities, and the critical role localities play in solving this challenge. It commenced with remarks by Mayor of Edmonton Don Iveson, Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips, Canada Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Secretary-General Emilia Saiz, and Head of the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand Shobhakar Dhakal, who called for a global, collaborative research agenda to empower cities around the world with the scientific, technical and policy knowledge necessary to move quickly to find and implement solutions to climate change.

They also announced a series of research papers from the CitiesIPCC Scientific Steering Committee, including five commissioned research papers and a separate batch of four research papers published in Nature and Nature Climate Change. These papers frame some key issues being discussed at the conference this week.

Co-sponsored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the conference will assess the current state of academic and practice-based understanding of cities and climate change, forge stronger partnerships among the more than 750 leaders, innovators, and influencers attending, and chart a course for increased global collaboration on scientific research, funding, and knowledge-sharing. This work will support a new special report on climate change and cities prepared by the IPCC and develop a blueprint for new scientific research supporting effective climate action strategies in cities around the world.

“With over half the world’s population, cities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as well as being a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. So cities offer particular opportunities for mitigation and adaptation. The IPCC wants to encourage research into cities and climate change for its future assessments, and the CitiesIPCC conference in Edmonton is an essential stage in that process,” said Dr. Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC.

“The climate-related realities we face make it all the more relevant that local governments remain steadfast on enacting science-based policy. Cities continue to listen to hard scientific evidence as they prepare their communities for the many risks associated with climate change and this conference is a shining example of bringing together the scientific community with practitioners and politicians,” said Don Iveson, Mayor of Edmonton.

“The mayors of the world’s great cities are committed to urgent and bold climate action. As they develop their climate action plans to deliver their share of the Paris Agreement goals, mayors need the strongest possible data and research to guide them. Whether understanding the impacts of climate change on our cities or identifying the benefits that accompany climate action, science and cities need to collaborate as never before. CitiesIPCC will be a key milestone in our collective effort to realise the ambition of the Paris Agreement,” said Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40 Cities.  

“The CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference marks a unique opportunity for urban practitioners and scientists to come together and begin the hard task of connecting a global debate to local realities, and to the lives of ordinary people,” said William Cobbett, Director, Cities Alliance.

“The world’s cities are hubs of innovation – home to people exploring new ideas for how to design infrastructure, ensure the health and wellbeing of urban populations and merge science and art. CitiesIPCC is an important step in mobilizing that tremendous wisdom and creativity to solve the most pressing challenges facing our cities,” said Amy Luers, Executive Director of Future Earth.

“When it comes to acting on climate change, the stakes are high and the science is clear. Local and regional policymakers increasingly feel the need to translate the latest scientific evidence into actionable intel that will allow them to enact the most efficient and cost-effective measures to keep their communities safe and to do their part in curbing climate change. The CitiesIPCC Cities and Climate Change Science Conference is the first real forum where researchers and mayors from all over the world have an opportunity to discuss how to turn science into policy, while providing important feedback for the next IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Cities,” said Gino Van Begin, Secretary General of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

“The future city can be clean, green, fair, inclusive, healthful and should be,” said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).

“There needs to be a link between scientific research and policy development. Local and Regional Governments’ networks can play an important role in facilitating dialogue between policymakers and researchers in the future,” said Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).

“We know that cities have the potential to be positive drivers of innovation and climate action but to harness this we will need comprehensive and cohesive data to guide us and targeted activities with partners across the spectrum. As our world becomes increasingly urban, we must ensure our cities expand in a sustainable manner if we are to have any chance of meeting the commitments in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the New Urban Agenda,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT.

“Cities represent the next frontier in climate science. There is a need for both long-term projections of climate change over decades and centuries to help us design resilient and sustainable cities of the future right now. And we also need very localized weather forecasts and climate predictions on timescales from hours to years to decades in order to optimally manage complex urban systems and protect life and property,” said Dr. Deon Terblanche, acting director of the World Climate Research Program (WCRP).

The three-day conference, organized by a Scientific Steering Committee made up of engineering, science, humanities, and urban development experts, will focus on four major themes:

  • Cities and Climate Change – Global commitments like the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development goals, New Urban Agenda, and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction require cities to implement new sustainable development plans to adapt and respond to climate change. This theme will explore gaps in knowledge of climate mitigation and adaptation in the context of meeting these global commitments, including the costs of climate action/inaction, equity and justice issues related to climate change, and the imperative for actions resulting in low-carbon, climate-resilient, sustainable development.
  • Urban Emissions, Impacts, and Vulnerabilities – Cities are some of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, and as such, experience some of the worst effects of climate change. This theme will explore current and future urban emission drivers, urban climate impacts, and climate risks and vulnerabilities to provide science-based pathways for cities to pursue emissions reductions and resilience strategies.
  • Solutions for the Transition to Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Cities –  With the advent of advanced technological and scientific solutions to climate change, this session will explore the transformative nature of cutting-edge sustainable development strategies. The theme will include discussions about disruptive technology, urban infrastructure and design, and institutional innovation.
  • Enabling Transformative Climate Action in Cities – City climate action takes place in the context of diverse social, environmental, economic, and developmental realities. This theme will explore new and existing avenues for enabling climate action that addresses poverty and inequality, re-shapes power relations, and re-conceptualizes our vision of what cities are, could be, and should be.

In addition to the IPCC, the other CitiesIPCC partner organizations providing practical support to the Cities and Climate Change Science conference are C40 Cities, Cities Alliance, Future Earth, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment ), UN-Habitat, and World Climate Research Program (WCRP).