Published: 09 April 2018

Surrey academic co-convenes session on cities, practitioner evidence and climate change

The University of Surrey has co-convened a special session at the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Cities conference on the role of practitioner evidence in informing decision making on climate change, in partnership with the international engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald.

Conference tables and screens

Dr Candice Howarth from the University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management attended an important conference which aimed to inspire the next frontier of research focused on the science of cities and climate change. The IPCC Cities conference took place in Edmonton, Canada in March 2018 and brought together hundreds of scientists, practitioners and policy makers to discuss the future of cities under a changing climate.

Cities are rapidly becoming the focal point for action on climate change and provide an important mechanism through which to reduce emissions, design resilience to climate change and meet the Paris Agreement targets. To enhance action on climate change to address emissions, impacts and risks and to provide solutions there is a need to ensure that all the parties are communicating and sharing ideas. This will help deliver the transformative change that is required to address the challenges set out by the Paris Agreement.

Dr Howarth co-convened a special session ‘Interconnectivities and resilience: The Practitioner response to build solutions’ with Dr David Viner (Global Practice Lead on Climate Resilience) and Dr Anne Kerr (Global Head Cities) from Mott MacDonald. The session brought together scientists, practitioners and policy makers working on solutions to implement the international 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in cities globally, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the New Urban Agenda.

The session included demonstrations of the implications of “what if” scenarios in a visually stimulating manner, using state of the art modelling tools, to demonstrate for example the potential impacts of redevelopment and densification of a City such that populations increased by 30% in the next decade. This enabled discussion around where the risks would exist, what the potential impacts are, how these could affect the people living, working, visiting the city, and how resilience could be embedded to the system of systems which makes up a community.

A workshop style approach enabled the co-production of key elements which was fed back into the Conference’s research agenda, including

  • A discussion of the wealth of evidence available from the practitioner community and how this can be collated
  • The examination of how practitioner knowledge and evidence can be better incorporated into the IPCC and wider scientific process
  • The exploration of how the practitioner, policy and scientific community can foster collaboration
  • Discussion on the components required to establish a partnership-based platform to collate and disseminate information.

The global practitioner community comprising of advisory; local and national governments; finance; advisory; and infrastructure organisations is and will be responsible, through design and build, for the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the New Urban Agenda. The practitioner community has a great deal of embedded knowledge and expertise gained over many years of designing and building both large infrastructure projects that encapsulate how cities have evolved. Yet little, as a result of well documented mechanisms (Viner and Howarth, 2014) of this has fed into the IPCC process to date.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to change the conversation from the issues to the achievements, best practice and meaningful actions to deliver resilience in cities. The IPCC is in a position to facilitate a closer alignment of its activities with the New Urban Agenda and urban resilience by engaging more with evidence from the policy and decision-making communities working on the ground at the regional/local levels (Howarth et al., 2017).  Incorporating practitioner knowledge and evidence will help to greatly strengthen the IPCC process and positive impact of the report.

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