19 May 2017

Accompanying the cities through adaptation

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung New York 100RC Resilient Cities Adaptation Bogota Colombia Mocoa Medellin
The offices of the Rockefeller
Foundation are located
on the 5th Avenue in
Since the beginning of our trip, in several places, we heard about the 100 Resilient Cities program. In Sydney and in Hawaii for instance. We were told that the network was pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, based in New York City. Spending some days in the Big Apple, on our way back to Europe, we wanted to have a talk with someone from the head office. We had the chance to meet Isabel!

100RC and the Rockefeller Foundation

A quick reminder may be necessary. We previously talked about resilience in our article Hawaii in search of resilience. What is resilience? It is the capacity of a city to face stresses or shocks, and retrieve from them. In particular climatic events… “The 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) organization allows cities to think and drive their transformation towards resilience,” Isabel says. Isabel Beltran is an Associate Director of 100RC, City and Practice Management. She is in charge of the relation between 100RC head office and 6 of the 13 Latin American cities: Cali and Medellin (Colombia), Quito (Equador), Panama City (Panama), San Juan (Puerto Rico) and Santiago de los Caballeros (Dominican Republic). She supports these cities in their adaptation to climate change, among other stresses.
One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung New York 100RC Resilient Cities Adaptation Bogota Colombia Mocoa Medellin
Here is Isabel!
100RC network counts 100 member cities today. Isabel explains: “Before the creation of the program in 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation had been working for 20 years on the concept of resilience and adaptation, especially with Arup, a consulting firm. With 100RC, we are more visible and have a greater impact.” 100RC has offices in New York, Singapore and London. Since 1913, the Rockefeller Foundation aims at “improving the well-being of humanity around the world”.

“Cities are definitely at the front of climate change fight”

Isabel adds: “The main actions of the program are the following. First we fund the creation of a new innovative position in the city government for 2 years: a Chief Resilience Officer, who will lead the resilience moves. Then we provide the cities technical assistance for understanding the concepts and developing the transformation strategy. For that, an external company provides local assistance. We call this company the strategy partner. It can be an engineering company like AECOM or Arup.”

The program also consists of “developing partnerships with NGOs, the private sector or Think Tanks for instance,” Isabel explains. “Partners provide occasional and specific services to a city, pro-bono. Finally 100RC allows their members to be part of a network through which cities exchange.” Via an online platform, the cities are encouraged to communicate, sharing guidance, technical solutions, reports and data. The platform is a “great place for chatting, asking questions, creating relationships,” Isabel says.

She concludes: “We want to focus on these 100 cities which were selected and make sure of their success. Their solutions will inspire other cities. The Rockefeller Foundation wants to promote the resilience revolution. Cities are definitely at the front of climate change fight.”

AECOM, one of the super partners
One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung New York 100RC Resilient Cities Adaptation Bogota Colombia Mocoa Medellin
We met T. Luke in AECOM's
offices of Bogota.

Previously in Bogota, Colombia, we had the opportunity to meet T. Luke Young. T. Luke is a Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation Leader, working for AECOM. The firm is one of the strategy partners, which provide local technical support to the 100RC cities. “We work with 30 of the 100RC cities, 9 in South America, which makes us the most common partner,” T. Luke explains. “AECOM Colombia is recognized as a center of excellence for resilience and climate change adaptation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We help build adaptation solutions, draft plans, model solutions, diagnose risks, and establish monitoring and evaluation indicators. We also drive change in the field; we train experts and communities.” When we ask T. Luke what are the factors of success, he says: “One of the primary reasons Medellin in Colombia is successful is the continuance of resilience principles across city administrations. The implementation of solutions is a long term prospect.

Cable cars of Medellin. ©City of Medellin
For instance, implementing a new public transportation solution takes time. In Medellin the cable car system has generated very positive changes in terms of mobility but also social cohesion. In particular, it connected communities and brought increased access to education and employment,” T. Luke says.

“We have to learn to live with climate change”

T. Luke adds: “AECOM offers support not only to the 100RC cities. For instance, AECOM recently offered pro-bono support to the government of Colombia after the recent tragedy in Mocoa.” On the 1st of April, while we were in Colombia, a flash flood and landslides killed more than 300 people. It happened when heavy rains started in the region. Before the massive landslide, it rained 130mm in 3 hours, whereas the monthly average (for March) is 350mm. In our very first article, in 2011, we explained that in Colombia climate change will result in a global decrease of precipitations, but when it rains, rainfalls will bring more water than usual. This first article also explained the role of the Paramo ecosystem which serves as a natural water regulator. In that sense, the uncontrolled deforestation in the region of Mocoa is clearly exposed after the catastrophe.

Paramo of Chingaza National Park, not far from Bogota.
“The surrounding ecosystems must be rebalanced; water must be embraced,” T. Luke explains. “In 2010, there was a similar landslide in Gramalote, Norte de Santander region. AECOM helped the city to design a resilient urban plan and to adapt the new settlement. Today we are in a position to support Mocoa rethink its future. What will be done in Mocoa can serve as a model for the rest of the country.” He concludes: “The Dutch live with water! Here in Colombia, we have to learn to live with climate change and heavy rains.”

Cartagena and the ecosystemic services

In Bogota we also had the chance to meet with Felipe Gomez Villota. Again! Felipe is actually one of the first persons we met in the frame of the project One Climate One Challenge. In our first article of 2012 (Paramo mi agua), we talked about him and his previous missions at the Ministry of Environment. We met him again, 5 years later! Now he works for GIZ, a major German development agency, founded in 2011. GIZ is another organization supporting cities in adapting to climate change…

One Climate One Challenge Meza Gheung New York 100RC Resilient Cities Adaptation Bogota Colombia Mocoa Medellin
Meeting with Felipe!
Felipe explains that “GIZ works together with the Colombian government in order to drive projects, in multiple fields. The environmental policy and adaptation to climate change is one of the fields. Every year, the parties jointly select projects, according to the priorities of the Colombian government. Other countries provide the same kind of support via similar organizations: Norway and UK work on forests mainly, France on sustainable urbanism, Japan on technologies like satellites.”

Mangroves of Ciénaga de la Virgen, Cartagena-Colombia. ©Felipe Gómez Villota

“The ecosystems were damaged,” Felipe says. “And a city like Cartagena really needs the ecosystemic services. For instance too much of the mangroves was removed. They are natural barriers in regards to flooding in particular. We want to restore them in several places, like we want to restore vegetation in the city. The green points serve as natural water capture and storage; they also allow reloading of the aquifers. Our canals will be revitalized in order to better guide the water flows, and also reduce water speed. The City draining plan will integrate several of our recent recommendations.” Felipe concludes: “We closely work with the communities. They must be in the heart of the plan if we want to succeed.”

Cities are at the front of climate change fight, the challenge is immense, but fortunately there are plenty of motivated organizations accompanying them through adaptation!


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