Emily Matingo, a climate change scientist in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, argues that there is need to understand better how climate change affects the urban areas and maintains that, ‘’Climate Change impacts are increasingly being felt in urban areas. If we as a nation are able to attain the goal of climate resilience, there is a need for interventions to address climate change effects both in rural and urban set ups.”
How are urban areas being affected by climate change?
As a first step to address these issues, the Climate Change Management Department, under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate have initiated consultative workshops and engagement with Urban Local Authorities through the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing. Consultative workshops to identify climate change impacts in urban areas were carried out on the 23rd of November 2017 and on the 1st of February 2018 in Harare and Bulawayo respectively, with a number of urban authorities in attendance.
At the workshop, Linia Mashawi from the Meteorological Services Department shed light on some of these impacts. “Climate change is leading to more frequent and intense extreme weather events not only in rural areas but in urban areas. As a result, this has given rise to the country experiencing more frequent and intense storms and hail storms which have had subsequent impacts such as damaging infrastructure, cars and crops’’. In agreement, Emily Matingo added that ccities are already susceptible to the impacts of climate change, with potentially serious consequences for human health, livelihoods, and assets, especially for the urban poor.
How should climate change adaptation in urban areas be tackled?
Despite these climate risks and the impacts that are already felt, many urban areas have not yet taken action to address climate change. Matingo emphasized the need for climate change adaptation to be addressed using a holistic approach and treating it as a cross-cutting issue that affects development. This means that climate change adaptation should form the centre-piece of any development plan, strategy, policy, budget or activity, taking into consideration how the achievement of the set development goals may be affected by climate change.
She also explained the importance of planning ahead and taking proactive action, rather than waiting for a problem to arise. One of the key issues of adaptation action that she highlighted was that the adaptation strategies should be sustainable and not pose any other damage in the medium to long term. In addition, she also stressed the need to both strengthen urban planning and as well as ensuring ecosystem health in order to absorb climatic shocks and hazards. The combination of ecosystem management and urban planning helps in reducing the vulnerability of urban communities as the effects of climate change are often enhanced by other social, economic and environmental challenges.
From the consultative processes with urban authorities, it was agreed that for climate change resilience in urban areas was to succeed, the following measures may help cities cope with different climate change impacts:
Conducting urban climate risk profiling.
Strengthened legislation to support climate change planning and action.
Water harnessing and provision, including reducing water loss, in anticipation of reduced rainfall and drought.
Securing sanitation and drainage in anticipation of extreme rainfall.
Climate resilient infrastructure/housing in anticipation of extreme weather events.
Public health and emergency management taking into account climate change hazards.
Urban agriculture plan that takes into account sustainability and climate change hazards.
Urban renewal strategy that takes into cognisance climate change. This includes environmental protection e.g. wetland management.
Strengthening risk governance and integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change into development planning.
Revising building codes – Putting in place risk informed building codes for climate proof/disaster resilient infrastructure and e.g. newly built homes should have provisions and should be mandatory to have renewable energy and water harvesting facilities etc. Climate proofing all infrastructure against extreme weather events (houses, road networks, power lines and stations)
Land use planning and zoning and rebuilding of insurable houses. Land use planning and zoning should discourage the poor siting of houses i.e. houses on wetlands and in waterways.
Early warning systems and tailor made impact based forecasts and meteorological products.
At the end of the consultations, the participants concluded that there is need to step up the efforts to manage risks and build long-term resilience for cities, municipalities, towns and local boards. Delegates also emphasized the need for significant investments into urban climate change adaptation and called on development partners to work with in resource mobilisation for climate change resilience building projects in urban areas.