Experts discuss cities and climate change at Fifth Urban Research Symposium

At the Fifth Urban Research Symposium held from June 28-30 in Marseilles, France, experts gathered to advance the research agenda on climate change from a city’s perspective.


At the Fifth Urban Research Symposium held from June 28-30 in Marseilles, France, experts gathered to advance the research agenda on climate change from a city’s perspective. The symposium is an annual event sponsored by the World Bank with the support of a wide range of partners.  

Over 600 participants from 82 countries came together to present their work, share experiences, and debate various aspects of climate change as they relate to cities. Themed “Cities and Climate Change: Responding to an Urgent Agenda”, the symposium underscored the international community’s willingness to tackle this urgent global challenge.

Among the issues discussed were the impacts of city and urban growth on climate change; how to effectively measure the effects of climate change on urban quality of life, city assets, and local and national economies; alternatives to increasing the resilience of cities; and related costs and incentives required for successful implementation. Participants called for new tools to finance adaptation and mitigation policies; tools which are accessible to local governments and which take into account the uniqueness of the territories they will be used in.

Cities Alliance Senior Urban Finance Specialist, Thierry Paulais and Juliana Pigey of the Urban Institute co-authored one such paper titled, Adaptation and Mitigation: What Financing Is Available for Local Government Investments in Developing Countries?The paper looks at specific sources of funding available for climate change adaptation and mitigation investments of cities. It argues that these funding sources are insufficient, highly fragmented and not really tailored to local governments. The authors also point out the mismatch between the needs of the recipients and the financing tools available to them.

Another paper on Building Climate and Disaster Resilience into City Planning and Management Processes, presented by the World Bank trio of Zoe Trohanis (Infrastructure Specialist), Fatima Shah (Urban Economist), and Federica Ranghieri (Environmental Specialist) discusses the ongoing application of the “Climate Resilient Cities” framework in East Asia, Middle East, and Africa. The authors stress that to ensure sustainable programs of climate change resilience the following must be in place: information and sensitisation; leadership and institutional coordination; stakeholder consultation and ownership; and incentive structures for political agents to absorb costs now for benefits that will be realised later.

The Cities Alliance-supported working partnership on Cities and Climate Change was presented during a plenary session of the symposium. This partnership between the Cities Alliance, UN-HABITAT, United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Bank will allow these key development partners to join forces on addressing issues related to cities and climate change.

A handbook and a collection of research papers based on the symposium will be produced in the very near future. The handbook will focus on practical applications of dealing with the challenge of climate change and cities and will target decision makers. The collection of research papers will be the ones deemed to be the most relevant and cutting-edge among those presented. They will be targeted primarily towards academics and researchers.