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Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment in discussion at GCoM & ICLEI USA webinar

On April 13th, GCoM USA, funded by the European Union, held the first session of a webinar series aimed at GCoM signatories in the USA. The webinars are to be implemented by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability – USA, which operates as the Technical Support Facility for GCoM in the US. This first session addressed adaptation and resilience, focusing on how to conduct a Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA) and enhance communities’ resilience. 

Calyn Hart,  ICLEI  Program Officer, opened the session by highlighting the key aspects for cities joining the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), and requirements for cities within the adaptation pillar of their GCoM commitments, including the key components of CRVA.

The GCoM’s Common Reporting Framework (CRF) was developed to ensure consistent and streamlined measurement and reporting procedures across cities and regions. Therefore, the cities that commit to the GCoM have two years to report their progress and evaluate what was done correctly and what was not.

Angelica Greco, also an ICLEI Program Officer, explained the fundamental aspects of a Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA) and highlighted why cities should perform this important evaluation.

“A robust climate adaptation strategy addresses specific vulnerabilities and leverages existing capabilities, both of which are identified in a vulnerability assessment.” 

Representing the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Ned Gardiner, as Engagement Manager for the institution, spoke about the need to understand hazards and stressors for climate resilience. Gardiner highlighted the recent publications of the Working Group II and Working Group III contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment report, stating that humanity has a very limited opportunity window to protect future generations from the most severe impacts of climate change.

“To stabilize climate impacts within 1.5 degrees Celsius increase over historical levels will require systematic global cooperation at all levels of society, not just individuals and local governments, but working across federal and international efforts as well. Everyone, everywhere, has a stake in this effort to bend the curve to this increasingly unlikely idea of 1.5 degrees warming.” — emphasized Gardiner. 

Gardiner also presented the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, developed by NOAA, that includes the ‘Steps to Resilience’, a practical guide to help US cities identify and address climate risks and become more resilient.


Cities leading the way: the cases of San Antonio (USA) and Murcia (Spain)

María Cruz Ferreira-Costa,  Director of the Local Agency on Energy and Climate Change from Murcia City Council, Spain, presented the city’s 2030 climate change adaptation strategy.

According to María Cruz, Murcia is experiencing high temperatures, longer summers, and scarce rainfalls. The city has engaged with several European climate commitments to face these challenges. Murcia has been part of GCoM Europe since 2016. The process to prepare the 2030 strategy lasted three years, taking the time necessary to plan and the personnel and economic resources available.  

“We have produced a document that analyzes the reality of the municipality and proposes solutions, agreed upon by experts from all fields, to achieve a more resilient city in 2030” – explained María Cruz. 

She also pointed out that the city faces challenges in financing climate actions, and highlighted that just a very good adaptation plan is not enough. “If you don’t have a committed society and politicians to give a budget, it is challenging to take action”. 

San Antonio is also a GCoM committed city and compliant with the pillars of mitigation and adaptation. With the 7th largest population in the US and one of its fastest-growing cities, San Antonio, in Texas,  was represented by Murray Myers, the city’s Sustainability Manager. 

In his presentation, Myers showed projections for San Antonio through 2040, that predict additional days with temperature above 100 ℉, increasing the risk of heat illnesses, reducing  time spent outdoors on hot days, fewer inches of annual precipitation, reduction in water supply and food security issues.

To avoid this scenario, the city aims: to increase infrastructure resilience, strengthen the public health system, improve emergency management and community preparedness, promote, restore and protect green infrastructure and ecosystems, preserve local food security, increase resilience awareness and outreach, and ensure equity in adaptation.

Murray Myers said that even with a completed vulnerability assessment, cities will always have room for further improvement, and highlighted the relevance of collaboration to achieve resilience. He shared the lessons learned through the city’s CRVA process: 

“The implementation is the most difficult part,” said Myers, explaining that definitions of what resilience is and which part of the city’s administration should be responsible for it, vary a lot depending on whom you talk to, and therefore “requires constant collaboration between the different departments.”

The next session of this webinar series will take place on July 13th.

 You can access the video of the first session here and the presentations over here.

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