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In this Issue #6:

  • Catching our breath and an agenda for Paris 
  • Acting Now on Adaptation: IPCC report Chapter 8 on Urban Areas 
  • Tracking the Energy Revolution 
  • Canadian provinces unite with California on climate action
  • Featured network: Sustainable and Education Policy Network 

Catching our breath after Lima

It was close, very close as many of the long-running fissures emerged during the climate change negotiations in Lima.  Many hours beyond the official closing time, negotiators finally agreed on what has been described by many as a ‘watered-down’ text, with much work still to be done. Yet, there were lots of interesting and notable developments as we described in a briefing prepared the day after the event (for an excellent and more technical review of the formal negotiations, please see this paper by the Wuppertal Institute).

SSG is already beginning to implement a workplan for this year leading up to Paris, including:

  • Continuing this bi-weekly newsletter on the latest developments in science and policy for municipalities
  • Supporting a declaration by municipalities on climate action leading up to Paris: the form that this will take is currently in development which could range from a call for support from higher levels of government to a commitment to increase the level of ambition by local governments;
  • Organising a side event on district energy, particularly relevant to municipalities in Paris;
  • Working with Meeting the Climate Change Challenge, a research project in British Columbia, to describe the efforts of municipalities in BC on climate action;
  • As a fun, creative and inclusive contribution, organising rock concerts with famous musicians in NYC, Montreal and culminating in Paris to raise awareness on climate change.

We are always up for collaboration on these and other projects, so please be in touch.

Acting Now on Adaptation

In November 2014, the Fifth Assessment report was published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Chapter 8: Urban Areas focuses on the state of the knowledge on potential impacts of climate change on urban centers and their populations and enterprises, what measures are being taken to adapt to these changes (and protect vulnerable groups), and what institutional and governance changes can underpin adaptation.

One of the key conclusions is “the importance of city and municipal governments acting now to incorporate climate change adaptation into their development plans and policies and infrastructure investments.”

In 2011, the world had 23 “mega-cities” (cities with populations over 10 million).  Today, there are 35.  And global urban population is expected to increases by 1.3 million every week. But over 60% of the world’s urban population is in urban centres with less than 1 million inhabitants, and it is here that much of the growth in urban population is occurring.  It is also here that much of the potential to address climate change lies.

City and Municipal Government’s Role

Chapter 8 indicates that the level of funding needed for sound urban adaptation could exceed the capacities of local and national governments. Much of the investment will have to come from individuals and households, communities, and firms through their decisions to address adaptation and resilience.  The effectiveness of these relatively small-scale decisions by households, communities and firms depends in large part on what local governments do, encourage, support and prevent. It will fall to city and municipal government to provide the scaffolding and regulatory framework within which other stakeholders contribute and collaborate. Adaptation in urban areas will depend on the competence and capacity of local governments to not only build the foundation for resilience, but also mobilize new resources.

Why Now?

A key finding of Chapter 8 is that a scientific evidence base in each urban center is essential for effective adaptation action, which includes local risk and vulnerability assessments and information and data, in order for local governments to consider current and future risk and adaptation and development options.  Unfortunately however, limits to understanding and predicting impacts of climate change at a fine-grained geographic and sectoral scale are identified as a major key uncertainty, prompting the question: Shouldn’t urban adaptation plans wait until there is more certainty about local climate change impacts?

Chapter 8 eloquently addresses this question:

“More reliable, locally specific, and downscaled projections of climate change impacts and tools for risk screening and management are needed. But local risk and vulnerability assessments that include attention to those risks that climate change will or may increase provide a basis for incorporating adaptation into development now, including supporting policy revisions and more effective emergency plans. In addition, much infrastructure and most buildings have a lifespan of many decades so investments made now need to consider what changes in risks could take place during their lifetime.”

Tracking the Energy Revolution

Clean Energy Network for Canada have released the results of a review of the scope of the clean energy revolution  in Canada. Clean energy is growing rapidly driving $25 billion of renewable energy investment and 37% employment increase over the past five years. The review provides some interesting factoids including:

  • In 2013 Canada hit a record high, putting up one new wind turbine every 10 hours.
  • Clean energy jobs are growing incredibly fast. In 2013 thirty-seven percent more Canadians worked in the renewable energy industry than in 2009.
  • As a result, by 2013 the clean energy sector—encompassing manufacturing, power production, energy efficiency, and biofuels—accounted for more direct Canadian jobs than the oil sands.
  • With growing selection, incentives, and public-charging networks, electric vehicle sales doubled between 2012 and 2013.

The report notes that the growth is due in large part to public policy leadership by Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Canadian provinces unite with California on climate action

British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario issued a joint statement with California to work together on ambitious plans to reduce GHG emissions. The leadership role that Quebec and Ontario will be further highlighted through two upcoming events this year:

1. The Summit of the Premiers and Territorial Leaders to be hosted by Quebec in April, 2015

2. The Climate Summit of the Americas to be hosted by Ontario in July, 2015


Featured network: Sustainable and Education Policy Network

SSG is a member organisation of this major research project. SEPN is exploring the relationship between sustainability and education policy in Canada. During Lima SEPN issued a report on the state of the fossil fuel divestment movement in higher education in Canada.

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Next briefing

  • Revisiting OECD critical paper Competitive Cities and Climate Change from 2009
  • The rise of renewables
  • Solutions: a selection of best practices of our Pathways to Paris site
  • And more!


A briefing prepared by SSG’s Office of the Research

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