For cities to become climate-resilient, they need to invest in capability building
In The News
30 Nov 2022
As cities grapple with transforming and adapting to meet the challenges of the climate crisis, there’s a crucial need to also assess if people have the skills and capabilities to face the issues at hand. Working in, and between, complex systems requires working in a new way and as it stands, a lot of the key institutions are not investing enough in developing these capabilities.
At COP27, we brought together experts and stakeholders working across climate and environmental issues to discuss what these capabilities are, why they are important and what is needed to ensure they are prioritised across the board as a vital part of helping to achieve climate transformation.
Reham Youssef, Policy and Partnerships Team Leader at UNDP, began the conversation by explaining how UNDP in Egypt moved towards a collective learning process as they were looking at ways to make Egypt’s tourism sector more sustainable. “We began by looking inwards and trying to change our mindsets and capacities in order to be able to shift the development system itself” she noted, highlighting that this engaged process of learning was done with stakeholders both within and outside the tourism sector.
This approach was unusual for the organisations involved; authorities often focus on short-term wins, looking for fast outcomes and results on the ground. However, this is not the reality for tackling climate issues and as Emma Presutti, Strategic Innovation Designer at Chôra Foundation noted, “If you can’t hold the complexity of a problem, you are not going to be able to effectively intervene.”
Speaking from practice, Axel Grael, Mayor of Niterói, Brazil, noted the complexity and long-term investment needed to deal with the climate challenges facing cities like his. In 2010, Niterói experienced a severe storm, causing landslides that killed over 100 people. Governing over a vulnerable city means you have to be able to adapt and respond to ongoing crises and importantly, think of innovative ways to revive areas affected. That’s why following the landslides, Axel noted that a local currency programme was started in the affected area to help revive the economy. “It’s important that citizens see they are a priority”, noted Grael.
One of the big factors that plays into whether a city can respond to something like this is access to capital, both public and private. But is private finance open to working in this way? Raj Kalia, Global Director, Co-lead Capital & Investments at Dark Matter Labs, notes that finance institutions have to learn to move away from a top-down approach to funding projects as this will not create the most impact. “The only way to allocate capital efficiently is to have people who know where the pressure points are on the ground”, Raj said.
We know that governments have to adapt their ways of working, and finance needs a mindset shift – how do we make these mindset shifts in order to have different ways of working emerge? Solla Zophoniasdottir, Director of Learning at EIT Climate-KIC, argued that participation and collaboration are vital skillsets to making that happen, but these take a lot of practice investment for people to feel comfortable working in them. Presutti agreed, noting that “organisations rarely structure themselves in a way that is conducive to do this kind of strategic learning”.
But what can happen if the practices of collaboration and participation are invested in? Eduardo Noboa, Strategic Sustainability Advisor at The BMW Foundation / Herbert Quandt, talked about how developing these skillsets can allow collective reflection to take place, which allows a deeper and more diverse understanding of a topic to emerge. He also noted that collective anticipation can emerge; “allowing people to come together to imagine the future collectively, integrating different perspectives” that will, ultimately, create more sustainable practices that work for all citizens in a city or region.
Watch the session from COP27 back here.