Equator Prize 2022 winners showcase Indigenous and local solutions for people and planet

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August is a day to celebrate the contributions of the 476 million Indigenous peoples worldwide, with the theme of the role of Indigenous women in preserving traditional knowledge.

Equator Prize 2022 winners showcase Indigenous and local solutions for people and planet

Originally published on 8 August 2022 by UNDP


Women from the Sunkpa Shea Women’s Cooperative in Ghana carry tree seedlings. The Indigenous, women-led cooperative sets an example for sustainable commodity production. Photo: Equator Initiative/A Rocha Ghana

International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August is a day to celebrate the contributions of the 476 million Indigenous peoples worldwide, with the theme of the role of Indigenous women in preserving traditional knowledge.

As the world faces a twin planetary crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change, scientists and policy makers are racing to find solutions. Increasingly, they are recognizing that the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and of local communities could well provide some answers and viable, cost-effective solutions. For example, the authors of a recent national environmental assessment in Australia have for the first time recognized the importance of Indigenous knowledge in avoiding catastrophic fires, and a new federal program in Canada provides funding for Indigenous coastal guardians, in recognition of their unique knowledge. This is a radical departure from the past, when the knowledge and efforts of Indigenous peoples have been marginalized or discredited.

The emerging recognition of the importance of Indigenous knowledge of the natural world is part of a broader dawning awareness that there are cracks in our global capitalist system – cracks that if allowed to continue to grow, pose an existential threat to humanity. The front-page headline from the Financial Times in 2019, “Capitalism. Time for a Reset,” summarizes what is needed – a profound transformation in the global status quo on how we protect, restore and manage natural resources, respect Indigenous rights, women and youth, and how we transform our business and economic systems.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Equator Prize, a UNDP-led partner initiative that recognizes Indigenous peoples and local communities from around the world who use sustainable nature-based solutions to achieve their local development needs. Joining 264 winners from the past, this year’s 10 winners, selected from a pool of over 500 nominations from 109 countries, represent the profound social and economic transformations needed to reset our current trajectory.

This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is a timely reminder of the profound transformations we need now, and the need to foster the vital role of women in the intergenerational transmission of knowledge at the core of Indigenous identity, culture, and heritage. This year’s Equator Prize winners are an inspiration that these transformations are already underway, and that effective women-led nature-based solutions and traditional practices are at hand.

Safeguarding Indigenous rights, safeguarding our future

The RED TICCA "Territorios de Vida en Argentina" is a consortium of Indigenous peoples throughout Argentina that conserves more than 3.5 million hectares of “Territories of Life,” through the largest Indigenous Conservation and Conserved Area network in the country. This network allows them to maintain their legal rights and ensure that their cultural values are integrated into public policies.

Building resilience through seed diversity

The Associação Rede de Sementes do Xingu from Brazil brings together women from 25 Indigenous and agricultural communities to collect and commercialize over 220 different species of seeds for large-scale ecological reforestation of the Amazon and the Cerrado. In doing so, they have generated more than $700,000 in local incomes, financially empowering Indigenous women throughout the region.

Creating new legal frameworks for inclusive governance of natural resources

The Mbou-Mon-Tour initiative from the Democratic Republic of the Congo has developed an Indigenous-led system of ecosystem conservation that promotes the coexistence of Indigenous peoples and local communities with local Bonobo populations, an endangered species, through a legal framework of local community forest concessions designed to protect native biodiversity and respect local customs.

Restoring nature, restoring our future

The Coordinadora Nacional para la Defensa del Ecosistema Manglar of Ecuador (C-CONDEM) promotes community reforestation of mangrove forests, reclaiming areas deforested by industrial aquaculture and promoting an alternative model of sustainable and inclusive land use. The women-led initiative has pushed for national and global restoration of mangroves, which helped lead to the proclamation of a UNESCO International Day for the Conservation of Mangrove Ecosystems.

Putting Indigenous women at the forefront of conservation efforts

The Organización de Mujeres Indígenas Unidas por la Biodiversidad de Panamá in Panama is an Indigenous, women-led organization that builds capacity in biodiversity, climate change, and traditional conservation techniques, with a focus on protecting jaguars and preserving both their territory and culture.

Creating a generation of Indigenous youth leaders

The youth-led Mauberema Ecotourism, Nature Conservation, Education Research & Training Center in Papua New Guinea is breaking barriers in the field of conservation by leading a consortium of Indigenous community-based organizations to conserve their ecosystems, and is partnering with local universities to encourage Indigenous youth to become the future of conservation workers in Papua New Guinea.

Planning for a nature-positive future through sectoral plans and laws

The Organisation Écologique des Lacs et de l’Ogooué of Gabon (OELO) has successfully created a sustainable solution to freshwater resource management in and around Gabon's largest Ramsar site - the Bas Ogooué by creating the first community-written sustainable freshwater fisheries management plan. The plan, signed into law in 2018, has improved the lives of local fisherfolk and created numerous alternative economic opportunities in the region.

Changing narratives about people and nature

The Ocean Revolution Moçambique initiative is empowering the local communities surrounding Inhambane Bay to play a central role in deciding how to best conserve their marine resources. By encouraging the community to become an active participant in their conservation efforts, the organization is reshaping ecotourism and rewriting the narrative about the role of nature in local development.

Creating a new, nature-positive economy

Working in the Trincheira Bacajá Indigenous area in Brazil, Associação Bebô Xikrin do Bacajá has developed a sustainable production system of coconut oil. The Xikrin women have turned the community’s ancestral knowledge into an income-generating opportunity that funds the conservation of their lands.

Building community-centred sustainable supply chains

The Sunkpa Shea Women's Cooperative of Ghana, an Indigenous, women-led cooperative, is setting an example for sustainable commodity production through their shea butter production cooperative. The group managed to integrate their organic production into international supply chains, while improving the lives of 800 women.

Learn more about the winners on the Equator Initiative’s website, and join us for a celebration on 30 November at the virtual Nature for Life Hub.

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Webinar: Using technology to deliver environmental goals

Many cities have ambitious environmental goals. They also have more federal funds to help. How can they maximize the impact of their efforts? During this webinar we’ll explore how cities are approaching this opportunity.

Webinar: Using technology to deliver environmental goals

WHEN: 17th August 2022 from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm EST | CONTACT: Event website 


Many cities have ambitious environmental goals. They also have more federal funds to help. How can they maximize the impact of their efforts?

During this webinar we’ll explore how cities are approaching this opportunity including:

  • Using streetlight upgrades to reduce energy usage by up to 80 percent and improve the urban environment
  • Using traffic analytics and AI to reduce congestion by 30%
  • Tracking and sharing air and noise pollution data with citizens
  • Exploring how government funds can be leveraged to help


Ubicquia webinar speakers

Register here:

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Engaging Youth in Climate Action: Pragmatically Moving Forward

How can we pragmatically and meaningfully engage youth in city climate action? Join UrbanShift for a lively discussion on this topic on August 12, International Youth Day.

Youth Climate Strike. Felton Davis / Flickr.


Young people must be involved in critical decisions concerning their future and given an active role in addressing the climate emergency. Join UrbanShift for a lively discussion on this topic on International Youth Day.

12 Aug 2022, 8:00AM GMT
ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability


“Youthwashing” was widely raised as a concern at COP26 by several youth groups, signifying that young people were invited to events with an important political scope but excluded from debates and decision-making processes. Fridays for Future activist Dominica Lasota explains that young people are in high demand to bring their perspective to national and global platforms, but once they begin to demand solutions, the doors close.  

The youth of today will have to deal with the legacies of past and current leadership; they must be meaningfully engaged in critical decisions concerning their future and given an active role in addressing the climate emergency at the local, national and global levels.  


  • Eric Mohamad AtthauriqAssistant for Economics and Development, Bandung, Indonesia 

  • Yuwei ShaoProgram Manager, China Youth Climate Action Network 

  • Shamoy HajareProgramme Management Officer, Human Rights and Social Inclusion Unit, Global Solutions Division, UN-Habitat 

  • Mustapha Kemokai, Head of Sanitation, Freetown City Council, Sierra Leone - UrbanShift city

  • Smt. Hemali BhogawalaMayor, Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), India - UrbanShift city

  • Maryke van StadenDirector of ICLEI's carbonn Climate Center, ICLEI World Secretariat 

This webinar will be delivered with simultaneous interpretation in Mandarin Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia, and Gujarati. Please contact Karishma Asarpota for more information.

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Financing Urban Transformation: Don't Leave It Up To Cities Alone
To achieve more equitable, resilient, low-carbon societies, cities need big changes to critical infrastructure and systems. But ample research shows they can’t raise the investment needed for those big changes on their own. Municipalities depend on higher levels of government to create a fiscal environment that strengthens their capacity to raise revenue and tap into external funds, especially for large projects.


International development institutions have a crucial role to play in the multilevel effort to finance green, low-carbon urban infrastructure projects, as does the private sector.

Johannesburg was able to confront a deficit in critical infrastructure with the national government’s help, but closing the urban finance gap remains a significant challenge around the world. Kim Davies/ Flickr.

National governments, in turn, cannot by themselves create all the capacity needed, especially in developing countries. International development institutions have a crucial role to play in this multilevel effort, as does private sector finance – which, if enabled by these public actors, may be the biggest lever of all in closing the urban finance gap.

The State of Urban Finance

How much money will cities need to achieve the objectives set out for a more sustainable, equitable world in the Paris Agreement, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and New Urban Agenda? The sectors that need to change are manifold, ranging from public transit to land use, to affordable housing. As a result, estimations of the actual amount needed to transform our cities vary. But one consensus exists: It is more than what cities currently have at their disposal or could generate on their own, especially in less wealthy countries. Even national governments, which currently finance around 60-65% of urban infrastructure in developing countries, fall far short in the face of annual financing needs of $4.6-5.1 trillion per year, leaving an estimated gap of $1-3 trillion.

Studies have shown that private investment can – and must – help meet these needs. The sector is currently projected to contribute about half of the annual infrastructure finance gap between 2015 and 2030. At least part of the prescription for cities, then, seems simple: improve enabling conditions to capture as much of this private investment as possible. This means improving own-source revenue collection, getting the municipal balance sheet in order, and setting up transparent and efficient budget mechanisms to enhance creditworthiness in order to issue bonds, access loans and enter into public-private partnerships.

Climate Finance Infographic 1

This is, of course, easier said than done. In reality, the high upfront costs and long timeframe of many infrastructure projects often create major barriers to private investment. This is where the national government as regulator and enabler comes in. National governments can create positive regulatory environments and help address persistent market failures and lack of capacity and expertise on municipal project financing by both the local government and private investors. They can also leverage the broader experience and financial depth of international development institutions.

National Government as Regulator and Enabler

In its role as the primary regulator and rule setter, the national government not only determines the scope of local spending responsibilities and revenue collection ability but also sets the regulatory framework within which a city can or cannot access capital for investment.

Take Johannesburg, the first sub-Saharan African city to issue both a municipal and a green bond. The local government was able to raise finance at the capital market to confront a deficit in electricity, water and transportation infrastructure in townships due to a clear national regulatory framework that permits municipalities to borrow while releasing the South African government from any liabilities for the debt incurred.

In contrast, the efforts made by Kampala, Uganda, and Dakar, Senegal, to consolidate their finances and improve their credit rating to launch municipal bonds have been futile. Dakar ran up against a last-minute government intervention, and Kampala against inefficiently low legal debt limits. Municipal bonds are one option for cities to raise finance at the capital market – the preferred experience of U.S. municipalities – but long-term tailored loans should not be discounted as a viable option to enable infrastructure development either.

The second role national governments must play is as enablers. A major reason for cities’ inability to leverage private finance is their lack of capacity to prepare projects in a way that appeals to investors, as well as their low creditworthiness, a measurement of trust in a city’s financial management.

While national governments are hesitant to act as direct guarantors for municipal debt, there are other ways for them to enhance investors’ trust in cities. Municipal Development Funds such as the Colombian FINDETER, public-private partnerships like the Tamil Nadu Urban Development Fund or credit enhancement facilities like the Indonesia Infrastructure Finance Facility are examples of vehicles established by national governments to mobilize private capital, often in cooperation with private sector actors and development institutions.

Recent work by the Coalition for Urban Transitions outlines public financial “readiness” and scaling mechanisms and instruments, the two strands of activities necessary for national governments to help cities scale up investment in sustainable urban infrastructure.

Climate Finance Infographic 2

The Role of International Development Institutions

Particularly in developing countries, resources and experience with bridging the city-private investor divide are limited. If national governments are unwilling or unable to support cities in developing creditworthy projects, international development institutions can step in at various stages of the process.

These institutions directly provide capital to some of the country-specific mechanisms like the Tamil Nadu Urban Development Fund or act as guarantor for municipal bonds, as the World Bank did for Johannesburg. Additionally, capacity-building programs such as the World Bank’s City Creditworthiness InitiativeUrbanShift and the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities, work with partner cities and in global outreach to improve integrated city planning and management, setting the foundations for accessing finance.

At a more concrete project level, project preparation facilities such as the City Climate Finance Gap Fund, the UN-Habitat Cities Investment Facility and the C40 City Finance Facility support municipalities in understanding and meeting investor requirements and act as intermediaries. They fill a significant gap, as project preparation costs are estimated to amount to 3-10% of total project investment costs and are unlikely to be covered by investors.

While a relatively recent phenomenon, these project preparation facilities are promising. The 20 projects that have to date received support from C40 City Finance Facility have an aggregated investment potential of $650 million in climate-proof urban infrastructure and are inspiring replication around the world. In 2021, for example, the Ecuadorian housing ministry launched a call for climate financing proposals, with the winners receiving technical assistance to advance their projects to a bankable stage and presenting at the World Urban Forum in June.

Long-Term, Multi-Level Action

There is clearly both demand for and supply of sustainable urban infrastructure finance, but the disconnect between both is currently so strong that it is unlikely we will see a flood of market-based investor-municipality transactions any time soon. Long-term, multi-level action, from local to national and global, is vital to building more sustainable and equitable cities, as outlined in the World Resources Report, Towards a More Equal City.

While cities must lead in increasing investment in urban services and infrastructure, national governments must take on an active role by channeling international and earmarked national funds. Where cities possess strong governance and financial management capabilities, national governments should focus on creating enabling regulatory environments. The international community must further scale up its various strands of direct support to local governments and ensure the continuity of project preparation and capacity-building facilities. Finally, the private sector, apart from coming through on prioritizing sustainable investment, needs to help develop innovative financing structures and investment vehicles that accommodate the specific circumstances of urban infrastructure investment and the tremendous need of the moment.

Julia Gaus is a Young Professional in Development Cooperation, GIZ, and former Visiting Fellow with the Research & Knowledge Exchange team at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

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Heatwave relief: What can hot countries teach us about keeping cool?

From sunshades to white roofs, and cooling payments to checks on the vulnerable, here's how hot countries deal with heat risks

Heatwave relief: What can hot countries teach us about keeping cool?

From sunshades to white roofs, and cooling payments to checks on the vulnerable, here's how hot countries deal with heat risks

by Laurie Goering | @lauriegoering | Thomson Reuters Foundation

Originally published on Tuesday, 19 July 2022 

LONDON, July 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As global warming - driven by our use of oil, gas and coal - spawns more deadly heatwaves worldwide, what can newly sweltering countries learn from heat-hardy ones about ways to stay cool?

With the mercury soaring this week, from Europe to Asia to the United States, here are a few ideas:


We know that white clothing is cooler on a hot day - similarly, using light-coloured roofing material or painting roofs white can help hold down the heat inside buildings.

In steamy Indonesia's industrial buildings, "cool roofs" are being used to drop indoor temperatures for workers by up to 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit), heat experts say.

In hot South Asian nations like India and Bangladesh, painting roofs white is becoming far more common too, particularly in neighbourhoods where many residents struggle to afford air-conditioning or the power bills to run fans.

It could also be time to ditch sweltering black tarmac surfaces. During the summer Olympics in Tokyo last year, the marathon route was covered in light-coloured reflective paint to try to keep temperatures bearable for runners.

Los Angeles also has experimented with painting streets white.


As we all know, it's cooler in the shade, so adding sun canopies to exercise areas and public squares and creating shadier parks, streets and pathways can help people as they go about their daily activities.

Tel Aviv in Israel has installed light-coloured fabric sun shades in some of its public areas that can also carry light-weight solar panels. These illuminate the squares at night, making them safer and more attractive to use round-the-clock.

Medellin in Colombia has created a "green corridor" system designed to ensure many residents can get where they're going on foot or by bicycle largely in natural shade.

The city now has 30 green corridors of trees and other vegetation that provide an interconnected 20-km (12-mile) network of shady routes. 

People collect water from a fountain in Green Park in London, Britain. July 18, 2022 . REUTERS/Kevin Coombs


In countries not used to heatwaves, few people have air conditioners - and for those on limited budgets, even running lots of fans can be expensive. 

But low-energy, low-cost options to cut heat abound, among them taking advantage of the cooling effects of water.

In sweltering eastern India, the poorest families use jute sacks soaked in water - arrayed on their tin roofs or hung in doorways - to cool their homes. Many also leave clay jugs of water outside on hot days, to assist those passing by.

In the Indian city of Ahmedabad, a pioneering heat action plan triggers a wide range of measures when temperatures hit dangerous levels, including deliveries of water to slum areas where supplies may be unreliable.

In newly hot places, planning ahead to ensure water and power supplies stay on is crucial to battling heat - and in cities short of water, spray parks can be more a more water-efficient way to cool people than swimming pools.


As global temperatures rise, cooling is increasingly recognised as a service that is as essential for health and safety as winter heating.

In New York, city officials have responded to worsening heatwaves by distributing cooling systems to some low-income seniors.

The city also is petitioning the state government to give poorer families financial aid to pay summer utility bills - just as some now receive help for winter heat.    

As well, it is considering setting a maximum permitted indoor summer temperature for rental properties, as it sets a minimum level for winter.

Berlin, meanwhile, is launching a "heat aid" programme for its homeless residents, with showers, sunscreen and drinks offered free to help keep those living on the streets safe.

A man drinks water from a public drinking establishment during a heatwave in Nijmegen, Netherlands July 18, 2022. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw


The elderly, very young and people with pre-existing health conditions or disabilities can be particularly vulnerable to heat-related health problems, as can residents of inner-city communities with little access to parks or other cool spaces.

In some Australian cities, Red Cross workers now make calls to vulnerable people on hot days - and dispatch emergency services if they go unanswered.

Buenos Aires also reaches out to elderly residents with phone calls and texts when the heat rises.

Everywhere, simply checking on vulnerable neighbours during hot periods can help keep them safe, heat experts say.


In some dangerously hot places, including some Indian cities, holidays for medical staff are suspended during heatwaves.

Spanish cities, meanwhile, are experimenting with placing ambulances at the beach to handle heat-stroke cases quickly.

Heatwaves can also affect mental health, particularly if people are unable to sleep - and can lead to an increase in work accidents and domestic violence.

Ensuring staff are in place to deal with calls for help can reduce risks, heat specialists say.



In normally cool places unaccustomed to dealing with deadly heatwaves, many people rejoice at hot days - and are slow to recognise the risks as they become more severe.

Better warnings such as Britain's new heatwave alert system - which issued its first-ever "red alert" ahead of this week's heatwave - help people gauge the risks and give them time to prepare, from stocking up on fans and ice to changing travel plans.

Some experts have also suggested that naming heatwaves - as is done with hurricanes - could help raise wider public awareness of them as potential disasters.

Related stories:

Heatwave Harry? As temperatures soar, naming the threat may save lives

Hit by heatwaves, cities test fresh ways to cool residents

City 'heat officers' take aim at climate change's 'silent killer'

(Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit

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Electric Bus Commitments in Mid-sized Colombian Cities Are Adding to National Momentum

To build on existing political will and bus infrastructure, the Accelerating Electric Bus Adoption in Colombia project, funded by UK PACT Colombia and executed by WRI Mexico and Clean Energy Works, is providing direct technical assistance in bus electrification to three mid-sized cities in Colombia – Monteria, Neiva and Pasto – and helping coordinate among actors at the national level to support these cities’ goals for more sustainable, resilient transport.

Electric Bus Commitments in Mid-sized Colombian Cities Are Adding to National Momentum

By  and  | Originally published on TheCityFix - a blog by the World Resources Institute - on July 7, 2022   

Transmilenio buses at a depot in Colombia, where three cities are working toward electric buses as a catalyst for a more resilient and equitable transport system. Photo by Daniel Cano

Cities are increasingly trying to discern what post-pandemic resilience will look like, especially in terms of mobility and public transport. And in Colombia, cities are known for their innovations in public transport systems — like Bogotá’s bus rapid transport and Medellín’s Metrocable.

In February 2022, WRI and partners gathered over 50 stakeholders across Colombia in Bogotá for a workshop that pushed participants to discuss themes ranging from financing to existing laws that affect electric bus procurement and operations. Attendees from government, financial institutions, public institutions, academia and more talked about obstacles that have hindered electric bus procurement in the past, including regulation challenges, fleet financing, legal provisions, coordination and technical capacity. The conversations focused on national-level challenges and potential solutions, bringing in knowledge from across the country.

Drawing insights from this workshop and turning the focus from national to local, a team from WRI and the Colombian Ministry of Transport visited Monteria, Neiva and Pasto to present the proposed electrification strategy. In each city, we spoke with the mayor’s office, secretaries, operators and civil society representatives about our analyses around charging, route optimization, finance and environmental impact for their context. We had found that each city had their own challenges in finding suitable places for charging infrastructure, modifying bus routes to accommodate charging time, and financing baseline operations in the wake of COVID-19. In Monteria and Pasto, we were able to visit the existing bus depots, guided by the bus operators, and experience firsthand the bus routes that would be transitioned to electric.

Conversations with the bus operators also revealed some of the challenges these cities have faced during the pandemic – in particular, loss of bus ridership. In Monteria, ridership dipped so low that two operators, Sinu Movil and Monteria Movil, merged their fleets to capitalize on ridership and cut financial losses. As public transport fleets try to bring riders back and compete with other modes, like motorcycle taxis, electric buses can offer residents a safe, zero-emission, comfortable option. While electric buses may be more expensive up front, in collaboration with Clean Energy Works, WRI was able to seek out both public and private financing and co-financing opportunities for the cities. Additionally, we explored various business models in each city, with financing models to back up our recommendations that delved into both capital and operating costs.

In both Pasto and Neiva, city officials committed to pursuing electric bus procurement recommendations. An immediate and important next step for the cities is to identify funding opportunities and financial assistance for the procurements, which was initiated through the process with Clean Energy Works. In March, the WRI team returned to Pasto and Neiva to host framing workshops focused on setting goals, identifying impacts and risks, and creating a stakeholder map to further assist the cities.

The team was also able to visit a new state-of-the-art electric bus depot in Bogotá to see how the electric bus rollout is going there. Based on conversations with city stakeholders, public transport systems there were similarly crippled by COVID-19. So far, COVID-19 relief packages in Colombia have focused on providing basic needs rather than expanding transport. Despite this, the Transmilenio system in Bogotá has grown its bus fleet to 2300 buses, 655 of which were electric in February 2022, and has continued to innovate and expand.

The Transmilenio electric buses are equipped with technology to promote public safety; each bus has seven video cameras with a live feed, so if there are any incidents, the driver will be notified in real time. One of the benefits of electric bus procurement is that cities see this as an opportunity to modernize their public transport systems. In the cities we visited, this included updates like air conditioning, route and service improvements, and safety improvements such as security cameras and better 360-degree vision for drivers.

Our visit to Bogotá showed the promise of electric buses, and our work with Monteria, Neiva and Pasto showed the willingness among Colombia’s smaller cities to follow in this path. These cities are keen to modernize their transport systems to be more resilient and sustainable, and they see electric buses as a catalyst for a more resilient and equitable transport system.

Sarah Cassius is an Electric Mobility Research Analyst at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Lidia Henderson is an Electric Mobility Research Associate at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

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How can Europe adapt to extreme heat?

Intense heatwaves will become more common in Europe as the effects of climate change worsen. What solutions have other heat-stricken regions used to alleviate the risks?

How can Europe adapt to extreme heat?

Originally posted by DW News on 17 July 2022

Intense heatwaves will become more common in Europe as the effects of climate change worsen. What solutions have other heat-stricken regions used to alleviate the risks?

a young man pours a bottle of water on himself

Countries across Europe are bracing themselves for a sweltering wave of heat over the next week, with mercury bulbs in some regions expected to register record temperatures.

In Spain, where temperatures have already spiked at 46C (115F), authorities have warned of health risks resulting from exposure to extreme heat, and urged people to stick to shaded or air-conditioned spaces and drink copious amounts of water.

"It is affecting large parts of Europe and it will intensify," World Meteorological Organization spokesperson Clare Nullis told a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

As the effects of climate change continue to worsen and bouts of extreme summer heat become the norm in Europe, warnings like these will become less and less exceptional. The continent's historically mild climate is changing rapidly, and that poses myriad challenges as countries attempt to adapt.

These are problems familiar to some of the most heat-prone areas in the world. Many of the solutions they have developed to beat the heat might offer useful models for Europe as well.

Changing how we live and work

Many people in Europe are still thinking of high temperatures as a novelty and unaware of the dangers they pose to health. Health authorities like the British National Health Service have been urging the public to change their habits, avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm and learning to spot the early signs of heatstroke.

In heat-stricken regions across the world, even more comprehensive awareness campaigns and community-driven responses are used to encourage people to change their habits of working, socializing and exercising during dangerously hot periods.

Ahmedabad in western India, which suffers from regular bouts of extreme heat, has developed a series of Heat Action Plans in the last decade that coordinate responses between the state and local communities. When a heat alert is issued, warnings are delivered by TV, radio and text message, and a special heat hotline is advertised in public spaces.

Community health groups are tasked with reaching the vulnerable; employers are urged to provide shade and rest for workers, many of whom labor outdoors; and temples, libraries and bus stops are repurposed as cooling centers and water distribution points.

Indien | Obdachlose in Neu-Delhi

Homeless people take refuge in the shade of a bridge on a blistering day in Delhi

Employers in Europe will have to change their attitudes to working outdoors or in poorly ventilated spaces, even if it comes at the cost of productivity. German unions have already suggested that on particularly hot days, workers should be entitled to extended lunchtime breaks in sheltered places provided by their employer.

"[Employers] have to protect their workers and then governments have to ensure that workers are protected as well… whether it's siestas, getting flexible working hours, starting earlier or providing more frequent breaks," Sari Kovats, a professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told DW.

Heat-proofing heathcare systems

Summer has traditionally been a period of relative calm for European health services, but with extreme heat occurring every more frequently, healthcare systems need to prepare for increases in patients caused by heatwaves.

Studies have found that heatwaves increase emergency rooms visits by at least 10%, as many people arrive reporting symptoms of dehydration, heat stroke and nausea. Over-65s are particularly at risk, meaning large sections of Europe's ageing population are highly vulnerable.

On current trends and without further adaptation, annual deaths related to extreme heat in the EU could rise from around 2,700 per year to 30-50,000 in 2050, according to a European Commission paper published last year.

A woman sits on Po's dry riverbed

The intense heat is drying out riverbeds across Europe

Preparedness has increased across Europe since the deadly summer of 2003, when temperatures over 40C led to hospitals in France being overwhelmed by patients, particularly the elderly. Now cities like Paris have extensive surveilance systems and special Heat Action Plans.

But Kovats said awareness of the health dangers of heat can still be improved.

"There's sort of a lack of awareness amongst frontline staff, nurses and doctors... and there's also a lack of awareness in the general public, so people often don't perceive themselves at risk," she said.

The state of Odisha in eastern India has achieved success in reducing heat deaths since a deadly heatwave in 1998 that killed more than 2,000 people. There, text messages and billboards are used to issue public health warnings to vulnerable people when temperatures reach dangerous levels, while hospitals create temporary wards for heat-related illnesses and boost staff numbers.

A tourists holds a paper umbrella to protect herself from the sun near the Colosseum in Rome

Umbrellas are an increasingly common sight in summer in Europe

Because intense heat can damage power grids, healthcare infrastructure needs fallback measures. Hospitals in Alabama and California have lost power during heat waves, resulting in soaring indoor temperatures. Newer hospitals in the US are required to have backup power generation to guarantee continued air-conditioning.

Cooler, more sustainable cities

Vietnam's capital Hanoi has incorporated cooling into its 2030 development masterplan, which ensures that existing green areas are protected from the city's rapid expansion, and aims to increase the density of tree and water coverage in the center by seven times per person. As a result, urban temperatures are predicted to be roughly the same in 2030 as they were in 2011, despite an expected increase in population of 2.5 million.

Cities also need to reduce temperatures indoors, especially in homes and workplaces. Air conditioning is a common solution, but is expensive and environmentally damaging.

The Mahila Housing Trust, which operates across 10 cities in India, works with women in low-income areas to help them find affordable solutions to overheated homes. Painting walls and roofs with reflective paint can repel up to 80% of sunlight's energy, and adding creepers, soil and potted plants on top of homes can reduce temperatures inside by as much as 2.5C.

Ahmedabad-based architect Yatin Pandya has looked to traditional forms of architecture to find sustainable solutions for dealing with heat. Many western-style buildings in cities like Bangalore are  constructed with steel and glass exteriors and require constant air-conditioning. But centuries before this was an option, Indian homes used awnings and bay windows to provide shade, and courtyards and shuttered windows to create cooling airflows.

"It's not about turning the clock backwards, but vernacular [architecture] gives you a lot of insight into the local responses in the pre-electricity days," Pandya told DW.

 "Those were very simple logical principles which today can easily be adapted."

Edited by: Sonia Phalnikar

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WUF11 closes with calls for urgent urban action

After five days of debate and discussion, with 400 events featuring 700 speakers from government, civil society, communities, academia and the private sector, the Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland closed. New friendships and partnerships were formed, new agreements reached and bold ideas formulated among the 17,003 people from 155 countries who attended WUF11.

WUF11 closes with calls for urgent urban action

Originally posted by UN-Habitat on 1 July 2022

After five days of debate and discussion, with 400 events featuring 700 speakers from government, civil society, communities, academia and the private sector, the Eleventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF11) in Katowice, Poland closed. New friendships and partnerships were formed, new agreements reached and bold ideas formulated among the 17,003 people from 155 countries who attended WUF11.

Photo: IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director

The closing ceremony in the Spodek Arena concluded with the torch for WUF12 being officially passed to the Egyptian government, represented by General Mohammed Sharawy, Minister of Local Development, in a short signing. 

“What we have witnessed here was a rich experience with many inspiring topics,” he said. “I am extremely proud that Cairo is the first African city to stage the World Urban Forum since Nairobi staged the first event in 2002.”

The enthusiasm generated by participants throughout WUF11 was however balanced by warnings that there could be no further delays in taking urgent action to deliver sustainable urbanization, given the multiple crises confronting world cities. 

Addressing the closing ceremony in the Spodek Arena, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, said: “The climate emergency, pandemics, the housing crisis, violence and conflict, all converge in cities.

“If we want to transform to a better urban future, we will have to increasingly deal with urban crises. We have no excuse not to be prepared.

“We don’t have much time to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal targets of 2030. We have only 7.5 years, 90 months or 2,742 days left to implement the New Urban Agenda in order to achieve the SDGs. So, what shall we do? The time to act is now.”

Ms Sharif announced that the global observance of the World Habitat Day this year will be on 3 October in Belkiser, Turkey.  She also opened a call for the expression of interest to host the World Urban Forum in 2026.

IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Martha Delgado, President of the United Nations Habitat Assembly at the World Urban Forum 11

Photo: IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Martha Delgado, President of the United Nations Habitat Assembly at WUF11

The Executive Director warmly thanked Małgorzata Jarosińska-Jedynak, State Secretary at Poland’s Ministry of Regional Development and Funds, Marcin Krupa, the Mayor of Katowice, and the local organising committee. 

“The Government of Poland as well as the city of Katowice have exceeded all expectations helping us make WUF11 a most memorable and accessible event,” she said.

Ms Jarosińska-Jedynak responded that WUF11’S Declared Actions must be a basis for action. “This is the time for bold steps and bold action,” she said. “The World Urban Forum has given us energy and enthusiasm to push for change in our cities for a better future.”

IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Mahmoud Shaarawy, Minister of Local Development, Egypt, and Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, sign the WUF12 agreement

Photo: IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera, Mahmoud Shaarawy, Minister of Local Development, Egypt, and Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat Executive Director, sign the WUF12 agreement

Speakers acknowledged the special Urban Crises Track created at WUF11 on responses to conflict and disaster, prompted by the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine, and Poland’s hospitality to an estimated three million Ukrainian refugees.

The Executive Director thanked the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, H.E. Collen Kelapile, for leading the Group of Friends of Sustainable Urbanisation and UN-Habitat in New York, which is putting its full weight behind the New Urban Agenda. 

She acknowledged the contributions of H.E Madame Martha Delgado, President of the UN-Habitat Assembly and Co-Chair of the Advisory Group, for her work to bring the key messages from all the constituencies of WUF11 to the UN-Habitat Assembly next year.

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Beyond remittances: diaspora play a key role in crisis-response

Large diaspora communities have grown out of emigration from the region. Their engagement has grown beyond traditional remittances for their individual families into concrete development support, such as poverty reduction, economic growth or post-crisis recovery. Diasporas have also been a significant asset in supporting humanitarian action in their places of origin.

Beyond remittances: diaspora play a key role in crisis-response

Originally posted by UNDP on 22 July 2022

Author: Oxana Maciuca, Regional Human Mobility Adviser at UNDP's Istanbul Regional Hub

The Moldovan diaspora has sent money and products to support Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. Photo: UNDP Moldova

Every 10th person in the Europe and Central Asia region is an emigrant, either temporary or permanently.

This region is a valuable source of migration both internally and outside its borders. Out of over 250 million of people, at least 10 percent are emigrants. People leave their homes for many reasons, ranging from economic and social to conflict-related and political. While many go to Europe, 80 percent of migrants in the ECIS actually choose to move within the region itself, with Turkey, Kazakhstan and Russia being main destinations.

The region is also experiencing the highest share of remittances as proportion of GDP, reaching a historic high in 2021 of US$74 billion [1]. This means that every year, around 25 million migrants send money home to around 100 million people who benefit from these flows. It is unquestionable that remittances are a vital source of income as well as a means of reducing poverty in the region. Yet there is much more meaning beyond this statement. 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, diasporas have played an increasingly front-and-center role in assisting their communities. For example, Viorica Chelban, a Moldovan migrant residing in the UK, returned temporarily to her native village to support local doctors’ in their fight against the pandemic. She brought professional protection shields, designed a local action plan and provided daily support to doctors in treating the patients, until the situation was stable again.

The Uzbek diaspora in Europe launched the “Solidarity with Uzbekistan” campaign which raised $50,000 to provide food aid to 500 families in four regions of the country, assist people suffering from Covid-19, and tackle the consequences of the pandemic. The Armenian Diaspora held a videoconference between leading radiologists of New York University  School of Medicine and Armenian doctors to learn and exchange about global trends, most effective methods of treatment, recent scientific publications and their implication in practice, as well as US efforts to use artificial intelligence for tackling the pressing issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Albanian Diaspora donated 5,000 COVID-19 tests to the Ministry of Health and Social Protection in order to expand testing.

In a crisis context, this engagement alleviates negative effects on home countries and fellow citizens.  Diaspora communities have extensive knowledge, expertise, organizational abilities and accountability. Most importantly, they understand firsthand the demands of their compatriots. That is why their help goes far beyond financial support. They can contribute to the transfer of skills and knowledge and should be seen as valuable partners for Government and development agencies in providing complex and tailored responses to major events, such as a global pandemic or large refugee movements.

Ukrainian diaspora responds

Take the current war in Ukraine. In the first 4 months after the onset of the crisis, over 14 million people, most of them women and children, were forcibly displaced. The Ukrainian diaspora, estimated at some seven million and already actively engaged since 2014, provided immediate and crucial support. Through its over 1,000 Ukrainian Diaspora Organizations around the world, it responded by delivering economic, social and information services as well as humanitarian relief assistance. Initiatives include collecting food and clothes and sending money to buy basic necessities, as well as raising funds for post-war rebuilding. Ukrainian diaspora also initiated campaigns in their host countries to support women with accommodation, employment and documentation, and to enroll children and youth in kindergartens, schools and universities.

Diasporas now helping neighbors

The war in Ukraine is drawing unprecedented support and solidarity by diaspora communities of neighboring countries as well, such as Moldova, Poland and Hungary. Moldovan diaspora mobilized $160,000 to support the hosting of Ukrainian refugees in their native countries.  

Moldova is no stranger to diasporic support for its country’s ongoing development, transforming emigration into a driving force for local development. Through its network of over 160 Hometown Associations, members of the diaspora have contributed to over 300 local initiatives and projects in their communities, impacting over 350,000 people. Despite the impact the war in Ukraine has had on the Moldova, it has shown tremendous support. While national and local public authorities quickly responded to the immediate needs of the refugee population, numerous constraints dramatically challenged their capacities to address the steady inflow and additional interventions and support were needed.

Within three months, 29 hometown associations helped local authorities and communities provide the necessary assistance to refugees from Ukraine. And a big part came from the diaspora, who responded with financial and in-kind support.

Building resilience to respond to crisis

The rapid response was also possible thanks to UNDP Moldova’s Migration and Local Development Project, which was already working through the associations to connect Moldovan emigrants with their native localities. Such efforts have built strong trust and social cohesion at the local level, and also boosted diaspora engagement, keeping those abroad connected and invested in their place of origin. Together, UNDP, partner localities and associations have hosted more than 13,800 refugees so far.

Across the region, there are many examples where diasporas shared crucial information, gave advice and created an open dialogue to inspire other diaspora members to develop their own initiatives against the pandemic. These practices demonstrate how effective diaspora engagement strategies can quickly be leveraged to respond to crisis situations.

Initial engagements piloted by UNDP have forged the relationships to build more systematic cooperation between diaspora and local governments which were especially important during unforeseen crisis circumstances. These types of practices can be replicated to go beyond emergencies and accelerate the implementation of the SDGs. Working with governments to develop an institutional approach for engagement and interaction with the diaspora, we can create more sustainable and impactful relations.

[1] Number calculated based on the World Bank estimations as well as countries' national available data 

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In Ukraine, recovery can’t wait: Clearing landmines and rubble makes it safer for displaced families to come home

In Ukraine, recovery can’t wait: Clearing landmines and rubble makes it safer for displaced families to come home

Originally posted by UNDP

a> on 2 July 2022

“It is still terrifying to bring kids here.”

Olexander Krushynskii lives in Bucha in Kyiv Oblast, 25 kilometres west of the capital. The terrifying place he speaks of is a children’s play area. “We have no idea what the situation at the playgrounds is. There are many more locations where shells and mines are being found.”

Following the withdrawal of Russian forces, many residents who had fled the fighting are coming home to cities and towns like Bucha, eager to resume their normal lives. One of the major obstacles they face is the unknown number of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive ordnance left behind in the war. Clearing away these explosive remnants of war – along with the mountains of rubble left by the fighting – is a critical step in the early recovery process.

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About 25 percent of Ukraine’s territory has been affected by the war. The cost from damage and destruction of buildings and infrastructure is estimated at over US$100 billion. Photos: UNDP Ukraine/Oleksandr Simonenko

“The challenge we are facing now is the demining of the surrounding forests and fields,” says Taras Dumenko, head of the administration in Hostomel village. “Also, the removal of debris, restoration of the residential infrastructure and of residential buildings.”

Local authorities estimate that around 1,800 buildings were destroyed. “We are facing enormous hardship right now, because Hostomel is 50 percent destroyed,” resident Oleksandr Nevychenko says. “The community where I live is 90 percent destroyed.”

About 25 percent of Ukraine’s territory – roughly 160,000 square kilometres – has been affected by the war. The cost to Ukraine’s economy from damage and destruction of residential and non-residential buildings and infrastructure is thought to be over US$100 billion.

As previously occupied areas become accessible, UNDP teams are finding thousands of explosive devices left behind, posing immediate danger for civilians. A UN Flash Appeal for Ukraine estimates that 14.5 million people are living in areas contaminated with explosive ordnance.

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According to UN estimates, about 14.5 million people in Ukraine are living in areas contaminated with explosive ordnance. Photos: UNDP Ukraine/Oleksandr Simonenko

“The priority is to enable the safe return of civilians,” says Oleksandr Sushchenko, Team Leader for Energy and Environment with UNDP Ukraine, who works on a demining and debris removal project focusing on towns around Kyiv.

The State Emergency Services of Ukraine is a critical player in making streets, forests and playgrounds safe for civilians. Since March 2022, the SES have cleared close to 150,000 items of explosive ordnance left in the conflict.

“The Emergency Service is creating 80 new demining units [approximately 400 staff], but there are problems with equipping these units,” says Yevhen Kyrychenko, a representative of the SES. “One such unit should have at least two pieces of equipment and protective clothing for the staff and the engineering equipment for demining. We also really need specialized engineering equipment for the removal of construction debris.”

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Since March 2022, the State Emergency Services of Ukraine have cleared close to 150,000 items of explosive ordnance left behind in the fighting. Photos: UNDP Ukraine/Oleksandr Simonenko

Even as the war continues, UNDP is working closely with the Government to put in place the foundations for recovery and reconstruction, because recovery and resilience building can’t wait until the fighting stops. These early actions are critical for preserving the country’s hard-won development gains as much as possible.

A big part of the equation is making it safe for some of the almost 12 million people who have been forced from their homes – approximately 6.3 million are internally displaced, while more than 5 million are refugees outside Ukraine’s borders – to come home again. Spontaneous homecomings have started, with 5.5 million Ukrainians returning from other regions of Ukraine and abroad.

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Clearing away these explosive remnants of war is a critical step in the early recovery process, making it safe for those who fled the fighting to return. Photos: UNDP Ukraine/Oleksandr Simonenko

Mapping and removing explosive devices is a top priority, as is clearing debris from destroyed buildings and infrastructure and addressing the large number of damaged and unstable structures at risk of uncontrolled collapse. In Irpin, a town north of Kyiv, UNDP teams have assessed 410,000 tonnes of rubble requiring removal. Roads must be cleared and some buildings demolished to make areas safe for reconstruction and to open access routes for humanitarian assistance.

Comprehensive area-based recovery planning is critical to create a safe environment for those wishing to come home, UNDP’s acting Resident Representative in Ukraine, Manal Fouani, said during a visit to Hostomel. “It’s important that we listen to people’s needs, we prioritize and plan with government authorities, with civil society, and all active stakeholders and we connect to the national recovery and development plan that the government is putting in place,” she said.

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During a visit to Hostomel, UNDP’s acting Resident Representative in Ukraine, Manal Fouani, said UNDP's work must connect with the governments national recovery plan. Photos: UNDP Ukraine/Oleksandr Simonenko

Like the recovery work itself, Hostomel resident Nadiya Dovhopola can’t wait. “I hope our city will recover as soon as possible, and the school rebuilt quickly,” she says.

Demining and debris clearance must respond to this sense of urgency, yet it cannot ignore sustainability concerns. Removed rubble is sorted, processed and screened for contaminants. When safe, it can be reused for quick repairs and green reconstruction, cutting costs and reducing the strain on natural resources. The process also injects money back into the economy and helps to build back the cities better and greener than before.

“I see the future of our community,” Hostomel administration head Taras Dumenko says. “It will be a blooming suburb of Kyiv, an example not only for Ukraine, but also for the whole world. It will rise like a Phoenix from the ashes, and shine with new colours.”

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Footnotes: UNDP is the lead UN agency for mine action in Ukraine and has been supporting demining work in the country since 2016. Our work on mine action coordination, emergency explosive ordnance clearance and debris removal is made possible by contributions from the Governments of Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

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