Resilient Cities Asia Pacific 2019 opens strong with a firm message on multilevel action for resilience

The 4th Resilience Cities Asia Pacific Congress, organised by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability and hosted by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, opened today at the Hotel Eros, New Delhi. Gathering more than 200 participants from over 70 cities from over 25 countires across the globe. RCAP 2019 provides a platform for multi-stakeholder discussions and peer learning on the opportunities and mechanisms of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Outcomes of the RCAP 2019 shall be reported to the NDC Conference which will take place in Berlin, Germany and the Resilient Cities Congress which will take place in Bonn, Germany in June 2019.

Mr. Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI and Executive Director of ICLEI South Asia officially welcomed the delegates to the three-day event. In his speech, Mr. Kumar shared that RCAP 2019 is the fourth event in the series of Resilient Cities Asia Pacific Congresses, with the first three held in Bangkok, Thailand in February 2015; Melaka, Malaysia in March 2016; and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam in December 2017. RCAP aims to surface practical, implementable solutions that will produce lasting impacts on resilience and urban development for the cities in Asia Pacific through dialogues and partnerships.

Towards multi-dimensional and innovative low emission development strategies

RCAP 2019 was also graced by the presence of the Honorable Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu. At the inaugural session, the Vice President urged cities represented in the Congress to strive towards adopting multi-dimensional and innovative approaches to promote low emission development. He also stressed that there is a need to push for green infrastructure and to promote resource efficiency and circular economy as means to achieve climate-resilient urban development.

“We need to change our development paradigm and aim for climate resilient development, moving away from traditional metrics of measuring development. The new urban infrastructure should be low-carbon, green and climate resilient,” Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu stated.

Also present during the inaugural session is Mr. Puneet Kumar Goel, Commissioner of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC). He shared that SDMC is striving to provide its citizens with a “Clean and Green Delhi” and to achieve this, the municipal corporation is working on strategies towards integrated waste management, renewable energy, and increasing green spaces within the city.

Stressing their firm support for the Congress, Mr. Goel shared, “I believe, environmental management and climate change requires collective action from all sectors of the society, common citizens, corporates, civil society organizations and government institutions… I hope that everyone would take advantage of the cross-learnings at this event and contribute to development of ‘Climate Resilient Societies’.”

Ms. Bedoshruti Sadhukhan, Senior Programme Coordinator of ICLEI South Asia, offered a word of thanks for the partners, organizations, participants, and the network for their support for the Congress.

Local governments for climate action

In the Special Plenary Session immediately following the Inaugural Ceremony, ICLEI General Secretary Gino Van Begin reiterated the significant role that local governments play in forwarding climate action at all levels.

“With the Paris agreement in place as well as through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, local and regional governments have now a central role as partners to nations to achieve the targets set by the international community. They can and should help nations in the design and implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). And they can set their own complementary commitments to make our cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable (SDG 11),” Mr Van Begin stated.

Ms. Tamara Mona, Chargé d'Affaires of the Embassy of Switzerland in India, echoed the need to support cities in resilient and low emission urban planning. “Cities of the future must be livable, sustainable and responsive to transforms and changes,” she noted.

Further, Mr. Raimund Magis, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to India and Bhutan, noted that strategies to promote resiliency and ensure low emission development are always encouraged and supported by the European Union (EU).

"The EU attaches high importance to the multilateral framework: Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework on disaster risk reduction. The EU is integrating these internationally agreed objectives in its own policies," Mr. Magis added.

Speaking from the perspective of a local government, Kinlay Dorjee, Mayor of Thimphu Thromde, Bhutan and member of ICLEI’s Global Executive Committee, reiterated that congresses such as the RCAP are meant to enable local governments to learn from each other and take strategies that they can apply into their own contexts, preferences, and needs. He also shared the priority sectors that his city is working on specifically their strategies to promote integrated waste management, disaster risk reduction and management, and sustainable transport.

Ending the session with a thoughtful note, Mr. Dorjee encouraged everyone to not only look at the technical aspect of addressing climate change but to consider cultural and social resilience as well. “In urban planning, we should not forget social and cultural resilience. We should strive to make our citizens happy. Happiness is an element of development,” he noted.

RCAP 2019 will take place from 15-17 April 2019. Live updates from the sessions are available via the Twitter handles of ICLEI Southeast Asia Secretariat, ICLEI East Asia Secretariat, ICLEI Ocenia, and ICLEI South Asia.

UN Agencies Discuss Local Governments’ Role in achieving SDGs, NDCs

The United Nations session at the 4th Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific Congress 2019 brought together representatives from various UN agencies like UNDP-GEF, UNESCAP, UN-HABITAT and UNIDSR to discuss the role of local and sub-national governments in the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Sendai Framework and the New Urban Agenda of 2016.

The session, organized by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, witnessed discussions on the need for localizing the global frameworks; ensuring that targets that go along with Sustainable Development Goals consider local contexts, challenges, and realities. Participants at the session also agreed that there is a need to develop indicators that are relevant and are in line with the national capacities, analyzing country progress based on national targets developed to achieve SDGs.

Speaking on the panel, Animesh Kumar, Deputy Chief, UNISDR said, "If we keep on making development investments and do not take care of disaster risks, we will never achieve sustainability.”

Reiterating the role of local governments in forwarding climate action, Ms. Usha Rao from UNDP said, "to achieve resilience, I can't emphasize enough the significance of the role of cities…and local governments are at the center stage of these actions”.

Some of the gaps identified at the session were severe shortage of finance and local manpower at city level and the limited linkages of SDG indicators with local goals. Cities with big development plans often lack not just natural resources but also technical capacity to implement such plans.

Closing the session with a nod to inclusive and effective communication and outreach, James Mathew, Deputy Director General (Stats.), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India shared, “Good governance should be inclusive and participatory. A lot of areas are not aware of the developmental agendas, for that communication and outreach is required.”

Local governments, experts, and partners discuss strategies to integrate resilience into local development plans and programs

100 Resilient Cities, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) and ICLEI South Asia organized a session on Transformative Actions to Enhance Urban Resilience at the 4th Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific Congress 2019 held at Hotel Eros, New Delhi. The session delved into the integration of urban resilience actions within municipal development projects and plans.

“The initiatives of 100 Resilient Cities and NIUA are focusing on institutionalising resilience actions in urban development processes in India," said Raina Singh, Senior Fellow, Urban Resilience Unit, NIUA, India.

The speakers discussed how urban resilience need to be an integral part of urban planning and infrastructure development. The participants agreed that there should be a sense of accountability and ownerships of resilience strategy among local governments to foster long-term success. Consequently, local governments shall also be assisted to access long-term finance mechanisms for resilience strategies.

Sharing their innovative strategies to forward resilience planning, Kamlesh Yagnik, Chief Resilience Officer, Surat said, “Our city has a resilience strategy with goals and initiatives identified like mobility, housing, water and economy. We are also working on social resilience to bring a strong social fabric. We are now thinking about how to protect and enhance this social fabric.”

Some of the challenges discussed at the session were lack of continuous engagement with relevant stakeholders, limited involvement of private sector, lack of infrastructure is increasing the vulnerability and suchlike.

“Funding is very important for resilience. Cites can mobilise funding though their own budget, even if it is minimal instead of relying solely on state or national level funding,” said Mahesh Harhare, Chief Resilience Officer, Pune, India.

Asia Pacific cities shares learnings and experience in forwarding low emission development in the region

The Asia LEDS Partnership, in cooperation with ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, organized the session, Low Emission Development Strategies for the Asia Region at the 4th Resilient Cities Asia Pacific Congress which took place on 15 April at the Hotel Eros, New Delhi. The key theme of the session was how these low-carbon initiatives all have a role to play in not only helping countries meet their NDCs, but also raising ambition. The importance of raising awareness of low-carbon development, such as the long-term benefits of public transport, was reiterated as a critical part of successful implementation.

The first panel shared insights on unlocking small-scale sustainable energy projects through strategic finance models, the challenges and opportunities of sustainable transport transitions, accelerating climate resilient action plans in cities, and the Asia LEDs partnership. This session was moderated by Marylaure Crettaz, Head, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the panel included: Reto Dettli, Director, econcept, Switzerland; Martin Buck, CEO, SNZ Consulting, Switzerland; Chetan Nandani, Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Rajkot Municipal Corporation, India; Jayant Prasad, Executive Director, cKers Finance, India.

The second group of panelists, meanwhile, shared how NDCs are being approached in five Asian countries including Vietnam, Bhutan, China, Sri Lanka and Mongolia. Each country revealed a variety of approaches and its own unique challenges. A key lesson was that NDCs can be a key driver of low-emissions development in the Asia region, however countries must decide how to integrate local issues. The representative from China, Mr. Hongxing Xie, Director of Bluetech Clean Air Alliance, highlighted the great steps forward that major Chinese cities have made on air pollution over the last five years leveraging issues in the local context. By using air pollution as an entry point to low-carbon change, Mr Xie said “we believe air quality can be the strongest driver for low carbon schemes in a lot of developing countries, especially countries facing air pollution challenges like in India and others in south-east Asia.“

This session was moderated by Maryke van Staden, Manager, Low Emission Development Pathway, ICLEI World Secretariat and Director of ICLEI’s carbon Center and the following served as panelists: Bui Hong Phuong, Official, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Government of Vietnam; Leki Choda, Planning Officer, Transport Development Division, Road Safety and Transport Authority, Bhutan; Jambaa Lkhagva, Director, Energy Market Research and Cooperation Division, Energy Regulatory Commission, Mongolia; Hongxing Xie, Director, Innovation Centre for Clean-air Solutions and Bluetech Clean Air Alliance Secretariat, People’s Republic of China.

Both panels struck some key issues on sub-national approaches to low-emissions development and reinforced that even across the different sectors and various countries in the Asia-Pacific region, small approaches that are considerate of the local context can grow to have big impacts in the long-term.