City2City
How to support Central Asia build resilience against climate change and natural disasters
This article advocates for increased exchange of knowledge and technology to confront the accelerating frequency and intensity of climate-related hazards. It highlights the World Bank’s Strengthening Financial Resilience and Accelerating Risk Reduction in Central Asia program for risk-informed investment planning through multi-hazard risk assessments to protect lives and livelihoods across the region.

How to support Central Asia build resilience against climate change and natural disasters

Originally posted on World Bank Blogs on 22 April 2022

Authors:

Naryn River, Kyrgyz Republic

Naryn River, Kyrgyz Republic

Every person visiting Central Asia is impressed by the beauty of its distinctive landscape and nature: majestic mountains, alpine lakes and rivers, and vast steppes. But that beauty is under threat—seriously impacted by unsustainable anthropogenic activity. The tragedy of the Aral Sea is a stark reminder of how fragile our planet Earth is. The effects of climate change caused by human activity on nature is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing us now.

The role climate change plays in exacerbating the intensity and frequency of natural disasters have long been established. More severe weather, wildfires, heat events, rise in sea level, and loss of ice caps are just some of the consequences of global warming that directly and indirectly endanger lives and livelihoods.

Central Asia is a region already particularly vulnerable to a variety of natural hazards, including floods, earthquakes, droughts, and mudslides. Over the past 30 years, the region suffered from 140 natural hazards—geophysical, hydrological, meteorological, and epidemiological events—that impacted more than 10 million people and caused more than $3.7 billion in damages.

We expect that with the increasing frequency and intensity of climate-related hazards and the growing exposure of people and assets to them, we will continue to see more climate-related disasters. In turn, the resources required for disaster response and recovery pose a significant burden on public finances and a huge toll on governments’ budgets, often diverting resources away from other much needed investments in infrastructure and services.

What can be done?

One approach is to work together as a region to coordinate our efforts in disaster risk management by exchanging knowledge, information, and technology, as disasters know no borders. There is also a need to shift the focus from response and recovery to prevention and preparedness, which would reduce the effects of disasters, enable more effective response, and thus better protect people and their well-being and safeguard developmental gains.

For the past three years, we at the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) have been implementing the Strengthening Financial Resilience and Accelerating Risk Reduction in Central Asia program (SFRARR, The Program), funded by the European Union. The Program supports all five Central Asian countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan— to improve financial resilience and risk-informed investment planning toward building disaster and climate resilience across the region.

A key focus of SFRARR is to enhance regional cooperation to better manage disaster risks in Central Asia. The Program partners with the Centre for Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction, which provides a platform for regional cooperation between the governments in Central Asia. The Program has also been backing the work of the Regional Scientific and Technical Council for Emergency Situations (the Council), established in 2019. The Council provides technical advice and inputs as well as supports and enhances knowledge exchange and collaboration on a range of disaster-risk issues including natural hazards, hydrometeorology, and climate change.

SFRARR will produce a regional multi-hazard risk assessment, which is the product of inputs from and exchanges between the five Central Asian countries. Such a hands-on process pulls together stakeholders and communities across the region for a common purpose and contributes to enhancing regional cooperation essential for better protecting lives and livelihoods.

Beyond that, SFRARR contributes to prevention and preparedness in Central Asia by helping the countries to better understand and quantify disaster and climate risks for improved planning and decision-making. For example, data on the assets exposed to disaster and climate risks were collected and shared while a homogenized database of structures, infrastructure, and crop assets was assembled. This material went toward producing the regional multi-hazard risk assessment. This information and the eventual risk assessment it underlies will allow countries to know the amount, location and types of assets at risk—critical to devising appropriate preventive and preparation measures. 

Next steps

SFRARR will be completed by the end of 2023. Looking ahead, we will continue our work on finalizing the regional multi-hazard risk assessment for the region, support related technical activities for the five countries as needed, as well as organize regional workshops to share achieved results. We know that SFRARR is only a part of the much larger ongoing efforts on managing disaster risks and building climate resilience in Central Asia. Governments, people and other development partners are also working hard on other initiatives and efforts in this area.

As the world celebrates the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day, it is important to remind ourselves of the fragility of our environment—we must invest in our planet today to ensure a brighter future tomorrow.

Retrieved from https://blogs.worldbank.org/europeandcentralasia/how-support-central-asia-build-resilience-against-climate-change-natural-disasters

For more information about the SFRARR Program, please contact Ms. Chyi-Yun Huang, Senior Urban Development and Disaster Risk Management Specialist, SCAUR at chuang@worldbank.org, or Mr. Stephan Zimmermann, Disaster Risk Management Specialist, GFDRR at szimmermann3@worldbank.org

Building climate change resilience in African cities: Why the UN’s New Urban Agenda is needed now
In this article, Oumar Sylla (Director of UN-Habitat’s Regional Office for Africa) shares the importance of the New Urban Agenda in engendering climate-resilient cities in Africa and around the world, while addressing multidimensional climate risks, through the mainstreaming of sustainable urban development, climate adaptation, job creation, livelihood opportunities, and improved urban well-being.

Building climate change resilience in African cities: Why the UN’s New Urban Agenda is needed now

Published in the New African Magazine on 20 April 2022

As population density skyrockets, megacities in Africa are likely to suffer the most from climate change. The UN’s New Urban Agenda holds the key for unlocking climate resilient cities in Africa and around the world, says Oumar Sylla, Director of UN-Habitat’s regional office for Africa.

Ministers responsible for housing and urban development from across Africa recently met in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss how best to respond to urbanisation on the continent.

In light of the upcoming High-Level Meeting at the UN on 28 April on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, national expert representatives of the Special African Ministerial Session on Sustainable Urbanisation and Housing made the case for working together to implement the framework in their respective countries.

The two-day African ministerial consultations towards the High-Level meeting were organised by UN-Habitat, UNECA, and the African Union with the support from the government of Kenya.

The New Urban Agenda was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador, on 20 October 2016. It highlights linkages between sustainable urbanisation and job creation, livelihood opportunities and improved quality of life, and insists on the incorporation of all of these sectors in every urban development or policy and strategy.

As part of this, ministers must work with their respective governments to double down on tackling climate change in order to fully implement the New Urban Agenda.

After all, Africa sits in the crossfire of one of the greatest challenges to face our global community. Accounting for only 3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, the continent is one of the most vulnerable to climate change and variability, further aggravated by sub-par infrastructure and disaster response services. The continent’s increasingly urbanised cities will therefore be on the frontline of climate change.

Building the resilience of urban areas in Africa

During the meeting, experts stressed the connection between climate change, housing, physical planning and the need for innovative finance systems to build resilience of urban centres in Africa – especially after the Covid-19 pandemic which has deepened inequalities in urban areas. Experts during the meeting stressed the connection between climate change in Africa, housing, physical planning and the need for innovative financing systems to build resilient urban centres, especially in the post-Covid era with increased inequalities.

Fortunately, international agencies like UN-Habitat are mobilising their partners in national and local governments, and offering their operational expertise, to push back against these daunting crises.

As the Director of UN-Habitat’s regional office for Africa, I want to encourage our African partners, and those from around the world, to reaffirm their commitment to the New Urban Agenda at the High-Level Meeting in New York, while also cooperating on innovative solutions to creating climate resilient cities.

The agreed conclusions among the African ministers of housing and urban development after this meeting is to renew commitments to the transformative conception of cities as potential engines of economic and social development in Africa pursuing the SDGs and the Agenda 2063. This an important building block towards Africities 9 and WUF 11 in consolidating the momentum for well-planned and managed cities in Africa.

Mitigating the impact of climate change

However, the challenge at hand must not be underestimated. African cities are already among the fastest-growing worldwide and simultaneously the most susceptible to climate threats. 

The urban population in Africa is projected to triple by 2050, increasing by 800m. Urban regions consume the most resources globally and contribute the greatest concentration of greenhouse-gas emissions, with enormous disparity among income levels.

As population density skyrockets, megacities in sub-Saharan Africa are likely to suffer the most from climate change. Research from the risk consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft indicates that cities like Kampala (Uganda), Lagos (Nigeria), Luanda (Angola), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) will be the worst affected.

In Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is susceptible to drought and water shortages, while in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is a low-lying coastal city that often experiences flooding, erosion, and storm surges. African small- and medium-sized cities, too, have limited adaptive capacity to deal with future climate impacts and the current range of extreme weather events. Sustainable development that is mindful of the risks of climate change is critical in an era of uncertainty – as outlined by the New Urban Agenda.

Of course, climate change also has the ability to create and exacerbate existing conflicts, particularly in areas such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Therefore, in order to support peace and security, ministers agreed to establish an urban recovery framework for post-conflict and disaster situations.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed inequalities in cities everywhere. Pre-existing urban challenges have come to the fore, such as spatial sustainability, whilst new vulnerabilities like insufficient digital infrastructure have been revealed.

Moving forward, the international focus must be on transforming African cities and settlements to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change by implementing the New Urban Agenda.

If well managed, urbanisation offers emerging economies infrastructure and economic development opportunities. If poorly managed, it can widen the divide between rich and poor and trigger adverse environmental as well as economic, security, and social consequences.

But there is hope. For more than 10 years, UN-Habitat has supported African cities to build their climate resilience, focusing on those cities vulnerable to transboundary extreme climate events.

The New Urban Agenda is key

By continuing to implement the New Urban Agenda – which offers guidance on implementing best-in-class urban management – UN-Habitat aims to accelerate the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Member states will gather in the United States this spring for the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly to review progress on implementing the New Urban Agenda six years after its adoption at the Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador.

UN-Habitat’s current Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif is a committed public servant and has clearly used her extensive knowledge and experience in city planning to develop UN-Habitat’s reputation both within and beyond the UN to generate effective change.

Under Mohd Sharif’s leadership, UN-Habitat is working to support urbanisation efforts surrounding housing, climate adaptation, response, and reconstruction within cities and localising the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). 

She and I both believe that the New Urban Agenda holds the key for unlocking climate resilient cities in Africa and around the world. Its vision is to provide a better quality of life for all in an urbanising world, which cannot come soon enough in the face of environmental degradation.  

Retrieved from https://newafricanmagazine.com/28060/

Cover Photo from Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/ridPhq6gtRM

UNDP and the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall Team Up to Green the Sahel for Sustainable Livelihoods
UNDP has signed a 5-year MoU with the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall (PAGGW) to support the Great Green Wall Initiative in the Sahel region, contributing to the preservation of biodiversity, increased climate resilience of communities, greater social cohesion, and income generation and economic opportunities, especially for women and youth, at the local, national, and regional levels.

UNDP and the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall Team Up to Green the Sahel for Sustainable Livelihoods

by UNDP Africa | Originally posted on 1 March 2022

Nouakchott, 1 March 2022 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall (PAGGW) have signed a 5-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to reinforce and operationalise collaboration towards the common goal of contributing to the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) in the Sahel region.

The signing ceremony took place in Nouakchott, Mauritania, with the Executive Secretary representing the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall and Luc Gnonlonfoun, Deputy Resident Representative (Operations) representing the UNDP Sub-Regional Hub for West and Central Africa.

The Sahel region is blessed with abundant human, cultural and natural resources, offering tremendous potential for rapid growth. With a population of over 300 million and a rising urbanisation trend, the region offers immense opportunities for the global market, including economic diversification, value-chain development, and livelihoods improvement. Despite this, the Sahel, like most of the world, finds itself amidst a climate emergency, faced with severe land degradation, drought, and desertification that have collectively contributed to the scarcity of arable land for agriculture, pastures, and water for animal husbandry.

This agreement signals a firm commitment from UNDP and the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall to put the region on track. The MoU builds on the high ambitions and expectations of both organisations to advance the GGW Initiative in the Sahel, strengthen the institutional capacity of the Pan African Agency, and contribute towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union's Agenda 2063.

"We welcome this partnership with UNDP, which will support our efforts to concretise actions for the implementation of the GGW Initiative through the formulation of the Multi-State programme in the eleven countries, which brings together all the regional projects of the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall and those of the States," said Ibrahim Said, Executive Secretary of the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall. "We hope this partnership would become a model for other projects in the various fields of actions related to the GGW Initiative", he added.

Through this agreement, UNDP not only recognises the necessity to restore lands and preserve biodiversity to face climate change but to contribute to the sustainable development and stability of the region by increasing the climate resilience of its populations, enhancing social cohesion, and creating income generation and economic opportunities, especially for women and youth, at the local, national, and regional levels.

"The Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall is a key actor not only in the framework of the Great Green Wall Initiative but more globally for the stability and sustainable development of the whole region; with substantial contributions on the peace and security nexus and the reinforcement of social cohesion," stated Luc Gnonlonfoun, Deputy Resident Representative (Operations), UNDP Sub-Regional Hub for West and Central Africa. "It should be emphasised that with the signing of this MOU, UNDP has high hopes for collaboration between our two institutions to strengthen the effectiveness of our actions in the countries of the Great Green Wall (GGW). This operational and strategic support will enable us to further engage with the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall in the implementation of the GGW," he added.

The partnership will run for the next five years and will focus on formulating and implementing a Multi-States programme led by the Pan African Agency. It will also focus on the co-development of a UNDP-PAGGW project aligned with the five priority areas of the Pan African Agency Priority Investment Plan for 2021-2030, namely:

  • Sustainable Land Management and Planning, Water Resources and Biodiversity
  • Climate Action and Green Economy
  • Resilient Economic Development and Security
  • Scientific and Technical Capacity Building
  • Information, Communication, Marketing and Advocacy

The partnership will enhance the leadership and institutional capacities of the Pan African Agency to best coordinate and implement actions that advance the initiative in the eleven countries - Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan.

Retrieved from https://www.africa.undp.org/content/rba/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/20211/undp-and-the-pan-african-agency-of-the-great-green-wall-team-up-.html

For more information, contact:

Thomas Pitaud, Programme Specialist, UNDP Sub-Regional Hub for West and Central Africa

thomas.pitaud@undp.org

Ugochukwu Kingsley Ahuchaogu, Communications Specialist, UNDP Sub-Regional Hub for West and Central Africa

ugochukwu.kingsley@undp.org

Connect with us @UNDPWACA

About UNDP

UNDP is the leading United Nations organisation fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations build integrated, lasting solutions for people and the planet. The UNDP Sub-Regional Hub for West and Central Africa (UNDP WACA) covers 24 countries, ranging from high and middle-income economies to least developed countries and countries in crisis and post-crisis situations. UNDP works with its national counterparts in the sub-region to support the implementation of national development priorities and achieve the sustainable development goals.

Learn more at www.africa.undp.org

About the Great Green Wall Initiative

The Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) responds to the climate and environmental challenges faced by the Sahel region. It is among the major regional initiatives opening opportunities to the region's untapped potential to transform its future and become a major player in the global economy. It has evolved from its initial focus on tree planting towards a comprehensive rural development initiative aiming to transform the lives of Sahelian populations by creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes across the continent. In recent years, this vision has evolved into an integrated ecosystem management approach, striving for a mosaic of different land use and production systems, including sustainable dryland management and restoration, the regeneration of natural vegetation, and water retention and conservation measures.

Learn more at www.greatgreenwall.org

Cities are major polluters: Can we make them climate neutral?
This article emphasizes the need for fast-growing cities to adopt clean energy and low-emission pathways in the struggle against climate change. It stresses the importance of equitable access to efficient and electrified urban transport, the decarbonization of buildings through energy efficiency and retrofitting, and highlights notable initiatives on climate-neutral cities from around the world.

Cities are major polluters: Can we make them climate neutral?

by DW News | Originally published on 11 April 2022 | Author: Stuart Braun

Spewing most of the world's heat-trapping gases, fast-growing cities need to be transformed into clean, low emissions ecosystems in the struggle against climate breakdown.

New York cityscape with tall buildings

New York's emissions have peaked but can it soon become climate neutral?

Around 85% of humanity will be living in cities by 2100. Many will inhabit sprawling megacities of more than 10 million people. But these urban jungles are climate killers. Built with high-emission steel and concrete, powered and heated with oil, coal and gas, cities are responsible for around 75% of global CO2 emissions.

The latest UN report proposing ways to address the climate crisis made special mention of cities. Urban building emissions — both operational and during construction — have risen by around 50% since 1990, according to the report. This means the sector must rapidly decarbonize if global heating is to remain within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Urban emissions could be reduced to near zero by 2050 if cities are powered by renewables, buildings are insulated and made energy-efficient, and transport is electrified. Greening cities will also capture CO2 and help combat deadly heat-trapping effects that are particularly problematic in large metropolises.

But with around 60% of the buildings that will make up cities in 2050 yet to be constructed, the dream of the climate-neutral city, with very low to zero emissions, is within reach, say experts.

Cities can lead on climate mitigation

Cities can be a microcosm of successful climate mitigation, says Rogier Vandenberg, acting global director of the Ross Center for Sustainable Cities at the World Resources Institute, a US-based non-profit. 

"A huge opportunity lies in cities due to the huge concentration of people, meaning you can decarbonize at scale," he said. "The solution is in cities."

But significant challenges remain, primarily in creating a shift to high-density, compact cities with people living closer together and reducing the need for cars. According to one popular metric, the goal is to be able to reach all amenities by foot or bicycle within15 minutes.

people riding bikes and scooters on a main street

Parisians live the dream of the 15-minute city during the pandemic as they abandon cars and even public transport in favor of cycling

Experiments have already taken place in the wake of the pandemic to reduce travel time and enable people to live and work locally, including Melbourne's 20-minute neighbourhoods and the Paris 15-minute city.

"We've already known for decades that cities function better, are cleaner, more sustainable, more equitable, if you create services in the proximity of where people live," said Vandenberg.

A new urban planning vision

But this will require a bold urban planning vision that shifts away from the horizontal sprawl evident in many major global cities. "You really have to think differently about how you plan, how you retrofit cities," said Vandenberg.

Equitable access to efficient, electrified urban transport will also also be fundamental if poorer urban communities are to be transformed into climate neutral cities.

Citizens in low-income countries currently spend around 35% of their income on transportation, partly because of urban sprawl and a lack of access to housing in areas where people work, noted Vandenberg.       

The Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, which aims to support climate neutrality in cities by 2050, is partly focused on the electrification of urban transport, including buses, in fast-growing African cities. The digitization of transport infrastructure will also be key in the effort to better fit transport availability to the needs of commuters.

But while transport is responsible for 20% of city emissions, according to Vandenberg, the elephant in the room remains buildings, which emit three times as much carbon.

More capital market and investor support is needed to construct low-emissions buildings and retrofit others to improve energy efficiency, he explained.

This includes universal standards for sustainable buildings that will inspire investment from pension funds and others looking to decarbonize their portfolios.

The benefits for the economy also need to be better understood. "Currently, the most jobs per million dollars invested is in retrofitting buildings," said Vandenberg.

Europe aims for carbon neutral cities by 2030

In European cities like Copenhagen, the dream is already being realized. The Danish capital is on track to be climate neutral by 2025, working over 10 years to remove the city's 2 million-ton annual carbon footprint through a new smart renewable energy grid.

Meanwhile, a program has been launched to make 100 European Union cities climate neutral and smart by 2030. The ultimate objective is to achieve climate neutrality across all cities by 2050. 

Estimates by Material Economics, a Swedish sustainability consultancy, suggest that the cost could be as high as €1 billion ($1.1 billion) for an average city of 100,000 people to become climate neutral by 2030. Help in accessing finance and know-how will be provided by the EU consortium, Net Zero Cities. 

cars and vans on a main city road

A Clean Air Zone enforces low exhaust emission standards in the city of Bath in the UK

Healthier cities 

With 85% of Europeans estimated to be living in urban areas by 2050, city mayors are realizing the "co-benefits" of climate neutrality, including cleaner air, improved citizen health and reduced noise pollution, said Matthew Baldwin, manager of the EU 100 Climate Neutral Cities project.

"People who live in cities are very climate conscious," he added. This is in part because urban dwellers see the costs of pollution firsthand. Many cities are also built on ports and are threatened by rising seas.

The EU's bottom-up climate neutral program engages with citizens to make them more aware of the co-benefits of climate action. "You can't do a climate neutral project unless you engage with citizens," said Baldwin. Such awareness extends to the need for energy independence in the wake of the war in Ukraine, both through upscaling renewable capacity and building efficiencies that can be quickly implemented.

"The European Commission is looking at all ways in which we can urgently switch our energy out of Russian hyrdrocarbons into renewables," said Baldwin. "What better place to start than cities, due to the density of their populations. You have shorter distances to travel in cities, it's easier to switch to public transport, walking, cycling and electromobility."

'Cities can go further and faster'

Cities globally are ramping up their ambition to become climate neutral in line with, and sometimes ahead of, the Paris Agreement emissions targets.

Some 30 cities already hit peak emissions by 2020 as part of the C40 Cities initiative that aims to support thousands of cities in becoming net zero by 2050 — among them Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Berlin, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Stockholm and Warsaw.

"Running our cities on renewable energy is the bedrock upon which an equitable, zero-carbon economy is built," said Eric Garcetti, chair of C40 and mayor of Los Angeles, last September. Already powered by 40% renewables, Los Angeles will reach 80% by 2030. A 100% clean energy grid is on targeted for 2035, while a full coal phase-out will see the last plant converted to hydrogen.

"Cities can go further and faster than nations as a whole," said Baldwin. "I feel we're going to go a lot quicker than we think.

Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/en/cities-are-major-polluters-can-we-make-them-climate-neutral/a-61438020

Curitiba Is Evolving But Remains a Model for Urban Sustainability
In this article, Professor Darío Hidalgo from Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogotá sheds light on numerous good practices in sustainable mobility and urban planning from Curitiba in Brazil. Curitiba has successfully implemented a central bus rapid transit system, urban forests and green spaces, zoning and building rights, road safety measures, and a shift towards electric buses.

Curitiba Is Evolving But Remains a Model for Urban Sustainability

Published on 13 April 2022 by TheCityFix - a blog by the World Resources Institute (WRI)'s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities

Author: 

Curitiba, a historic leader in bus rapid transit, continues to advance sustainable urban development and inspire cities around the world. Photo by Mariana Gil/WRI Brasil

I recently had the pleasure of re-visiting Curitiba, Brazil, thanks to an invitation from the Smart Cities Expo. I made my first pilgrimage in 2000, when Bogotá was implementing its bus rapid transit system, Transmilenio, and returned twice after that. Now, in my first non-virtual conference since the pandemic began, I was impressed all over again with the city’s efforts in sustainable mobility and development.  

Planned since the 1960s with high density along key corridors, Curitiba has a unique “trinary system” with a series of corridors built around a central bus rapid transit (BRT) line surrounded by two parallel general traffic roads, zoned for high-rise buildings and mixed use. The city has also maintained many beautiful plazas and parks dedicated to its multicultural heritage and trees, particularly the Araucarias of Paraná, or Brazilian pine. Curitiba has complemented these public green spaces with an extensive downtown pedestrian corridor full of activity and life, as well as architecturally iconic buildings, including the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, the Wire Opera House, the greenhouse and botanical gardens, and the Federal University of Paraná building.

Together, these elements make a city with high density nonetheless feel livable while also encouraging a low-carbon way of life – making walking, cycling and mass transit an accessible and appealing way to get around.

Curitiba continues to look to the future and adapt its transportation systems and design. The city is extending its BRT network with two new corridors with an investment of $247 million supported by the Inter-American Development Bank and the New Bank for Development. It is also shifting to electric buses and introducing information technology to create a new economy, under the “smart cities” concept. Curitiba is also working to adapt flood-prone areas of the city to climate impacts and relocate low-income housing to resilient developments. 

Despite its advances in sustainable public transport, the city still faces the challenge of motorization, with the highest rate in Brazil at 1.8 inhabitants per car. To improve road safety, the city has implemented a 50 kilometer per hour speed limit on most arterial roads (some are 40 kph), controlled automatically with traffic cameras. And as the number of cyclists has grown, the city has also worked to implement an extensive bike lane network. But improvements are still needed; some cyclists continue to use the direct BRT corridors, for example, which is unsafe for both cyclists and bus passengers.

Curitiba nevertheless remains widely regarded as a leader in sustainable urban planning, and particularly in transit-oriented development. Its successes are the result of multiple fortunate events: a strong work ethic inherited from extensive immigration waves; a group of planning professionals led by Jaime Lerner that questioned and shifted away from modern planning practices that prioritized the automobile and sprawled development; very strong continuity in local and state governments, with mayors nominated or elected several times, which helped sustain key policies and visions; and productive, collaborative dialogue with private sector leaders. The most notable factor may be having the same master plan since 1966, which has been updated and improved over the years to continue and build on the sustainable, people-oriented approach to development led by Lerner and his peers.

Of course, every city is different in size, characteristics and heritage, and no city can copy Curitiba exactly. But its good practices can be adapted to many contexts – as has been the case with BRT.  

Bogotá, for instance, adapted the Curitiba bus corridors for its own needs starting in 1998, thanks to the “out-of-the-box” designs by Pedro Szasz and Paulo Custodio, among others, working with Colombian professionals. The BRT in Bogotá is similar to Curitiba’s but able to carry four times as many passengers. Curitiba pioneered tube stations with prepayment and large bi-articulated buses, and Bogotá was the tipping point in adoption of similar systems elsewhere. Now, 181 cities around the world have BRT systems. It is one of the most enduring urban planning ideas to come out of Latin America and is transforming mobility around the globe.

The high capacity of BRT, its fast implementation and relative low cost makes it a critical component of integrated mass transit, along with metro rails. It is always important to evaluate alternatives using costs and impacts, with guides like this one from the World Bank.

Cities can also learn and adapt ideas from Curitiba’s focus on public green space and pedestrian corridors. The city’s mix of urban forests with recreational, sports and event space gives residents 64 square meters of open space per person. Curitiba’s economic approach to urban planning also offers lessons, like with zoning and building rights, which have created funding for urban improvements.

Through Curitiba’s enduring but ever-evolving approach to urban planning, the legacy of Jaime Lerner continues to push sustainable urban development in cities around the world.

A version of this article was originally published in El Tiempo.

Retrieved from https://thecityfix.com/blog/curitiba-is-evolving-but-remains-a-model-for-urban-sustainability/

Working towards safe, sustainable cities for women
This article discusses the urgent need to plan for women’s safety, mobility, security, and access to basic services, economic opportunities, and leadership roles, especially amidst accelerating climate impacts and migration. It highlights examples of women leading efforts on climate adaptation and resilience in their communities in Dhaka, with support from UNDP and Dhaka North City Corporation.

Working towards safe, sustainable cities for women

Originally posted by UNDP on 30 March 2022

Making cities like Dhaka women-friendly and climate-proof requires a whole-of-society approach. VISUAL: Afia Jahin

Authors:

  • Atiqul Islam, Mayor, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC)
  • Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh

How can Bangladesh respond to gender inequality and climate change—two of the world's greatest threats—in its cities?

We celebrate Women's Day every year to highlight women's achievements in all their forms—economic, political, social and cultural—and call for gender parity. This year, the focus was on "Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow." Specifically, it recognises how women and girls worldwide are leading the fight against climate change so that they can change lives for the better. 

So far, the focus has largely been on rural areas. However, women's roles in tackling the impacts of climate change in urban areas are becoming just as important. Cities are fragile, according to the Global Environment Facility (GEF). 70 percent of the global population will be living in urban areas by 2050—a time when cities will bear the brunt of sea-level rise, extreme heat, and greater food insecurity. Bangladesh is already considered ground zero for climate change and it is also rapidly urbanising, partly due to the climate crisis. Major cities like Dhaka are key destinations for climate migrants. Many of these migrants are women. On arrival, they often settle in low-income settlements that are prone to natural disasters that make them more vulnerable. So how do we start supporting change that turns women into problem-solvers instead of them having to only deal with the consequences?

We can start by asking if we are planning and designing cities keeping women in mind. Are women's needs and uses of public spaces and buildings adequately considered? Can they easily access basic services? Are there affordable and safe houses for single working women? Are the streets well-lit? Is there safe transport at all hours? What about clean public toilets? These are all seminal issues that need to be addressed for Dhaka to become a truly women-friendly city. Such disparities can limit women's mobility and opportunities for education and employment if left unaddressed. These challenges are also a hindrance from a development point-of-view since they often cause a challenge for organisations in the development, corporate, and other sectors in attracting females towards the workforce. Therefore, it is imperative that their safety, mobility, and security are ensured so that we do not lose out on the considerable professional talents of the women in our cities.

From a sustainability viewpoint, we can help women become our urban climate leaders by first addressing concerns around their basic needs and safety. The challenges are only growing as more and more urban residents compete for limited jobs, goods, and services. This can create conditions that heighten tensions in cities and affect women's well-being. We've seen that the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted systems meant to ensure women's safety and security, leading to increased domestic violence. It reinforces the point that we need to make our cities safer for women and make it free from any kind of violence they might face. This also means creating an environment wherein women don't fear reporting violence. 

Positive efforts are already being undertaken. For example, Dhaka North City Corporation's Urban Resilience project focuses on climate-proofing the city. Both of Dhaka's city corporations have also partnered with UNDP to improve livelihoods in poor urban communities through the "Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities Project" (LIUPCP) The project is part of a nationwide effort covering 19 cities and municipalities. Here, women from the settlements are leading on urban climate adaptation by investing in their communities' infrastructure. For example, as part of the project, women led the development of 449 infrastructure facilities including drains, streets, water pipelines and sanitation facilities in Dhaka alone. More than 60,000 women have benefitted from these facilities. Nationwide, women have had a say in developing more than 7,000 sanitation facilities and 10,000 infrastructure facilities with more than 900,000 women benefiting from these facilities. 

Moreover, UNDP, together with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Young Bangla—the youth platform for Centre for Research and Information (CRI)—has been running a nationwide youth- led campaign on women's safety in public places since October 2020, which has reached more than 7 million people till date.  UNDP has also recently helped NHRC to draft the Prevention of Sexual Harassment law to address women's safety and prevent gender-based violence in Bangladesh. 

While these are good efforts, making cities like Dhaka women-friendly and climate-proof requires a whole-of-society approach. In other words, it can no longer be left alone to local city governments and state institutions to tackle these massive challenges. Rather, all Bangladeshi citizens, especially young Bangladeshis, must be encouraged to contribute towards solutions or in their scale-up. It starts with raising greater civic awareness. Awareness campaigns in schools and across educational institutions on women's safety, creating women-friendly public spaces, and on climate change are one avenue to explore. A study where women from different walks of life are interviewed to get their views on what they would like to see change in the city is also another step that can be taken. This will additionally have the benefit of enabling them to get further agency on decisions which impact their lives.

Most importantly, women and girls must have a say in the solutions. Over 200 women pitched in when asked how to improve safety as part of UNDP's campaign. Some mentioned strengthening public reporting and surveillance systems including having more CCTVs. Some highlighted working with religious leaders, transport workers and shop owners to raise awareness and provide support. Others noted sensitising the entertainment media which tends to undermine women and their safety. Traditional, stereotypical understandings of manliness, which often borders on domination, aggression, and homophobia, needs to be challenged and redefined. It is also important that women encourage other women to move past traditional gender-based roles. 

As authorities and more citizens work together, these efforts will help safeguard women's well-being in urban areas and set women up to act on climate change. We must include their ideas, experience, and leadership everywhere decisions are made. There are numerous positive dividends to be earned. First, investing in gender equality allows women access to fundamental human rights including the right to live free from violence and discrimination. Second, gender equality and climate change goals are mutually reinforcing. Progress on one front affects the other, and vice-versa. These issues will be key to ensuring Bangladesh's progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. It will also help set the foundation for a prosperous and inclusive Bangladesh as it aspires to become a developed nation by 2041. To this end, we remain committed as partners to invest in safe, inclusive cities for women that contribute to a sustainable future for Bangladesh. 

Retrieved from https://www.bd.undp.org/content/bangladesh/en/home/presscenter/articles/2022/03/30/working-towards-safe--sustainable-cities-for-women.html

The Op-Ed was first published in The Daily Star - Click here to read the original publication.

6 Cities and Local Governments Accelerating Zero Carbon Buildings
Through their participation in the  Zero Carbon Building Accelerator (ZCBA), these cities and subnational governments across India, Kenya and Costa Rica will work closely with local implementing partners, WRI technical experts and the wider ZCBA network – including Konya and Gaziantep in Turkey and Bogotá and Calí in Colombia – to exchange knowledge and best practices. This collaborative effort will help them drive policy change and support pilot projects that facilitate building decarbonization and a built environment that is just, healthy and sustainable.

6 Cities and Local Governments Accelerating Zero Carbon Buildings

by  | Originally posted on 27 April 2022 in TheCityFix - a blog by the World Resources Institute (WRI)'s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities   

Sitabuldi Market in Nagpur, India, one of the new cities in the Zero Carbon Building Accelerator working to advance building decarbonization goals. Photo by Gppande/Wikimedia Commons

While building construction and operations are among the largest contributors to climate change, accounting for nearly 40% of energy-related CO2 emissions globally, they also remain the most cost-effective climate mitigation solution available. Every $1 invested in efficiency saves $2 in new electricity generation and distribution costs. As the latest IPCC report reminded us, building decarbonization must be a crucial pillar of global efforts to reduce emissions – and we have no time to lose.

Cities and subnational governments can be critical drivers of building decarbonization. In 2022, six new subnational governments have committed to decarbonize the built environment by joining WRI’s Zero Carbon Building Accelerator (ZCBA), funded by the Global Environment Facility and supported by the UN Environment Programme. Since 2021, the ZCBA has been working in Colombia and Turkey to create national roadmaps and align city action plans for building decarbonization. Now, the ZCBA will help develop local-level action plans in Costa Rica, India and Kenya that outline the steps to reach building decarbonization by 2050 and simultaneously deliver on co-benefits like improved air quality and green jobs. The ZCBA’s action plans will align with existing national and local climate goals and be tailored for the specific context of each subnational government.

The new ZCBA member cities and governments in India, Kenya and Costa Rica will define their own goals, analyze the gaps in their current situation and identify the unique actions needed to curb emissions and improve quality of life for residents through whole lifecycle building decarbonization. Establishing short-, medium- and long-term actions and developing local pilot projects as a part of the ZCBA will support these new governments in accelerating market transformation and the transition to a healthier, greener built environment.

India – Nagpur

Nagpur is the largest city in central India, already home to 2.5 million people and still rapidly growing. Supported by local partners ICLEI South Asia, the city joined the Building Efficiency Accelerator in 2018 and received deep-dive support in 2019 for energy benchmarking and audits to identify potential energy savings in existing public and private buildings, as well as for the development of locally tailored low-carbon building design recommendations and guidelines for municipal affordable housing.

After performing a citywide greenhouse gas emissions inventory, Nagpur found that its buildings sector, comprising of residential, commercial and public buildings, is still a major energy consumer and driver of city’s carbon emissions. Recently committing to the Race to Zero, the city will need to transform its building sector to achieve its climate goals. Nagpur plans to identify the actions it needs to enable deep carbon reduction in its buildings through alignment with national and subnational policies and building codes like ECO-Niwas Samhita (the energy conservation building code for residential buildings) and through the promotion of efficiency and decarbonization at every stage of the building lifecycle.

Kenya – Laikipia County

In 2019, the Kenya Green Building Society (KGBS) led the development of local green building guidelines and the incorporation of these guidelines into Nairobi’s building approval process as part of the Building Efficiency Accelerator. Laikipia County has proven to be a climate leader through commitments like the Under2 Coalition, in which members commit to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C with efforts to reach 1.5°C, and actions like Regenerative Agroforestry; Laikipia County has developed a model farm and school to promote sustainable, climate-resilient production systems that regenerate land through the use of trees and climate-smart agriculture. Laikipia County will now join the ZCBA to build on KGBS’ existing work in the country.

In 2021, Kenya committed to decarbonization and is on course to achieving a full transition to clean energy by 2030. The role of the built environment has already been outlined in the Kenya National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, but counties – who develop and implement the building codes – still need assistance in turning these national ambitions into on-the-ground realities. With support from WRI and KGBS, Laikipia County will work to implement the actions needed to meet these building decarbonization goals.

Costa Rica – Belén, Curridabat, Moravia and Santa Ana

In 2018, as a part of the Building Efficiency Accelerator, Green Building Council Costa Rica led the formation of the Costa Rica City Cluster, a working group for city leaders from Belén, Curridabat, Moravia and Santa Ana to work together to address barriers and implement strategies for improving building efficiency.

Each city has unique challenges and is at a different stage of implementation. Curridabat is revising its city master plan to include a municipal efficiency code. Belén, a city with a strong commercial industrial sector, is updating its bylaws for construction permits. Santa Ana is focusing on incorporating green building criteria and technical environmental requirements into its construction regulations. And Moravia is beginning to implement sustainable building strategies in its main Municipal Government Building. The diverse goals and experiences of this city cluster allow the cities to be a resource to one another as they advance their initiatives and provide examples for other cities looking to do this work no matter their size or scope.

The national government in Costa Rica has several ambitious climate policies in place, such as the National Decarbonization Plan, which the municipalities are not currently equipped to implement. As part of the Zero Carbon Building Accelerator, the Costa Rica city cluster of Belén, Curridabat, Moravia and Santa Ana will align their local action plans with national policies to identify transformative actions and the first steps needed for local implementation.

Through their participation in the ZCBA, these cities and subnational governments across India, Kenya and Costa Rica will work closely with local implementing partners, WRI technical experts and the wider ZCBA network – including Konya and Gaziantep in Turkey and Bogotá and Calí in Colombia – to exchange knowledge and best practices. This collaborative effort will help them drive policy change and support pilot projects that facilitate building decarbonization and a built environment that is just, healthy and sustainable.

Kayla Rakes is the Engagement Coordinator for the Buildings Initiative at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Retrieved from https://thecityfix.com/blog/six-cities-and-local-governments-accelerating-zero-carbon-buildings/

The Smart Citizen Kit: Harnessing Citizen Science (Innovation Type: Community Organized)

The Smart Citizen Kit is an open-source hardware device offered to citizens, incorporating low-cost sensors which provide citizens withthe ability to measure various environmental indicators. At the heart of the Kit is the Urban Sensor Board, containing modular hardwarecomponents which measure air temperature, relative humidity, noise, barometric pressure, ambient light, and particulate matter (PM).Citizens place the Kit in an outdoor location of their choice – such as a balcony, windowsill, or atop a building – and it detects andstreams the environmental data using WiFi to SmartCitizen.me. SmartCitizen.me is a custom crowdsourced digital map of environmentaldata collected via the use of Smart Citizen Kits – not just in Amsterdam, but now around the world. The Kit has been developed withreproducibility in mind, ensuring that it remains low-cost and accessible even as it scales in use. The Urban Sensor Board is also able toaccommodate the addition of a variety of third party sensors to measure other environmental indicators, such as the Smart CitizenStation, a full solution for low-cost air pollution monitoring. With these extendable capabilities, the Kit serves not only as a sensordevice, but as a potential base solution for more complex urban challenges. 

THE SMART CITIZEN KIT: HARNESSING CITIZEN SCIENCE

Innovation Type: Community Organized

Urban challenge

Idealistic smart city visions can be overwhelming for governments looking to transform their communities. They are often associatedwith costly IoT sensors and technocratic experts at the helm – but when citizens are equipped with the tools and skills to participate indata collection, thousands or millions of data points could potentially be leveraged by city researchers. With this vision in mind, theBarcelona Fab Lab innovation centre set out to develop a citizen science ecosystem to complement professional environmentaldatabases in Europe. With urban dwellers increasingly at the hands of contemporary urban health issues that were poorly documented –especially pollution and associated difficulties with breathing, allergies, and immune responses – citizen data was seen as pivotal tocampaigning for better government action based on evidence. 

Innovation process 

The Smart Citizen Project was first envisioned at the Fab Lab Barcelona, by researchers who believed in the power of data in spurringgreater political participation by ordinary citizens. The Smart Citizen Kit and accompanying data map interface was first piloted inAmsterdam in 2014, before it was reiterated and re-released, this time internationally.

Solution

Continuity

Having first piloted the Smart Citizen Kit in Amsterdam with 100 participants/kits in 2014 for three months, the Kit has since beenfurther developed by the Barcelona Fab Lab. Its second iteration was again piloted, this time as part of the European Making SenseProject, and is now available for purchase worldwide. There are now over 1900 unique kits around the world contributing to theSmartCitizen.me data map, and some 9000 registered users. 

Key takeaways

  • When equipped with the right tools, citizens are often committed to assist with data collection and proactivedecision making. When the Amsterdam pilot was first reviewed in 2014, it was apparent that the citizens who wereoffered kits were enthusiastic and consistent in their measurements of the living environment, albeit room forimprovement in the technical details of the Kit.
  • Visualisation is a valuable tool. For those less familiar with statistics and data, the ability to visualise trends incollected data and aggregate measurements is critical in ensuring that ordinary citizens too are able to use data tobetter inform future actions. Again, when the Amsterdam pilot was first reviewed, a visualisation of the noisemeasurements made was appended to the platform and better communicated citizens’ findings in this area.

Learn more about Smart Urban Innovations from around the world in the UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook: tinyurl.com/urban-innovations

Download the full PDF of the case study from the attached document.

ISTBAR: Greening the City through Mobility (Innovation Type: Institutional Pioneer)

With these ideas, Batumi City Hall and UNDP embarked together on the Green Cities: Integrated Sustainable Transport in the City of Batumi andthe Achara Region (ISTBAR) project, with support from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). It sought to promote more sustainable urbantransport practices through ground assessments and pilot projects, to help support longer-term policymaking at larger scales. An initial (i.)Household Mobility Survey assessed daily practices and attitudes towards transport amongst 1,550 families in 78 transport ‘zones’. Based onthese base parameters and on global best practices in transport demand/supply modelling, UNDP and Batumi City co-developed a (ii.) TransportModelling System, which helped determine feasibility and priorities for traffic infrastructure (roads, routes, interchanges) by simulating various commuter choice scenarios. The model informed the development of various (iii.) pilot projects, including new parking strategies, dedicated buslanes, and renovated and expanded bike lane networks. Altogether, these laid the ground for the first (iv.) Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan ofBatumi, a guide for policymakers based on technical mobility industry expertise, combined with the real needs of Batumi residents.

ISTBAR: GREENING THE CITY THROUGH MOBILITY

Innovation Type: Institutional Pioneer

Urban challenge

The city of Batumi is Georgia’s third largest, and a flourishing tourist hub for the nation. Its strategic port location and connectivity with key hubsin the region have led to exponential socioeconomic growth, emboldening city authorities to invest in a plethora of urban rejuvenation efforts andflagship projects – working towards a modern and progressive Batumi that adheres to the best possible environmental standards. To achievethese standards, Batumi has strengthened its linkages with external agencies and movements such as the Covenant of Mayors for Climate andEnergy (CoM). Greenhouse gas (GHG) data (inventories) also helped reveal the role of the transport sector as a significant emitter in Batumi, with49% of GHG emissions attributed to transport and 64% of the sector dominated by private transport. 

Innovation process

With municipal authorities eager to innovate and fond of new initiatives, UNDP Georgia identified a possible opportunity for partnership withBatumi City Hall in operationalising technical projects and policy initiatives in sustainable urban mobility – given the absence of a green mobilitystrategy, finances, and technical expertise within the government. Strong pre-existing relationships between UNDP Georgia and Batumi CityHall made this possible, especially in GHG reporting as part of the UNFCCC. Batumi City Hall also expressed their interest in piloting anddemonstrating the impact of innovative transport practices on citizen health, and enhancing all-round liveability. 

Solution

Continuity

The pilot projects are estimated to contribute to a 40% reduction in nitrogen monoxide. Successful pilots in both communications and transportinfrastructure have been identified for scaling up both within Batumi and across other Georgian cities. The Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan hasalso been raised in the City Council, which as an elected body has been pivotal in passing votes on municipal decisions pertaining to mobility, andincorporating feedback from the community into future iterations. These green mobility efforts have also transpired in the realm of the media,with public awareness campaigns and a comprehensive communications strategy being developed to accompany infrastructure enhancementswith changes in social attitudes and behaviour – through radio stories, educational programmes, and advertisements.

Key takeaways

  • Multi-scalar efforts and discussions are necessary for sustainable solutions. Although this project was concentrated inBatumi city, national discussions and the Georgia Strategy on Sustainable Urban Transport (2017) helped assess and future-proof the proposed initiatives and pilot projects in Batumi, as well as ensure their potential for scalability across the country. Asa result of these conversations, other Georgian cities like Kutaisi and Rustavi have also embarked on projects inspired byISTBAR's approach – and proven success in particular interventions and areas.
  • Public behaviour campaigns must be accompanied by infrastructural enhancements, and vice versa. Though ISTBAR’s effortsin public communications and encouraging healthy green lifestyles helped reduce some of the preferences for pollutingtransport modes identified during the Household Mobility Survey, these were unsustainable without enhancements to thephysical transportation network. In particular, the Survey revealed that there was an aversion to cycling albeit a pleasant urbanenvironment owing to an uncomprehensive bike network, and dilapidated and narrow bike lanes. This led to a portion of theStrategy being dedicated to the enhancements of bike lanes and the biking network in Batumi.
  • Political commitment from authorities is the key to success in innovative initiatives. Strong commitment from the Batumi CityMayor and other municipal authorities proved to be pivotal in seeing ISTBAR through – particularly when it came to difficult andinitially unpopular decisions, like with changes in parking policy and the reduction of the local mini-van fleet. The pilot projectswere especially important in advocating the concrete benefits strategies to policymakers, even through changes in leadership. 

Learn more about Smart Urban Innovations from around the world in the UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook: tinyurl.com/urban-innovations

Download the full PDF of the case study from the attached document.

Secret Grand-Mère Teas: Empowering Mothers (Innovation Type: Community Organized)

Together, these efforts culminated in Secret Grandmère, a social enterprise selling herbal and medicinal teas made from native Mauritian plants.Cultivating native plants helps to protect the many threatened endemic species on the island, whilst the tea recipes help preserve the localpractices of traditional medicine. The tea is produced and packaged by 20 women from the village of Chemin Grenier in a facility powered by solarpanels, which also produce additional electricity to sell to the grid to generate additional income – allowing the tea to be sold at competitivemarket prices. To grow enough plants for production, an innovative buy-back system was devised, where seedlings are sold to an additional 50-verfamilies of independent growers who cultivate the plants organically, and earn income by selling the leaves back to the business. First sellinglocally, the SGP soon helped network and identify opportunities to expand sales overseas. A dehydrator, co-funded by the British HighCommission, was then purchased to improve tea shelf-life and increase production. In 2012, the project was awarded a second grant to fund theinstallation of 48 solar panels, making it the first and only NGO in Mauritius to be appraised for small-scale energy production. 

SECRET GRAND-MÈRE TEAS: EMPOWERING MOTHERS

Innovation Type: Community Organized

Urban challenge

APEDED (Association Pour l'Education des Enfants Defavorises) is an NGO based in Chemin Grenier village in Mauritius. It provides disadvantagedchildren with free pre-primary education. In 2007, the mothers of many of these children lost their jobs after local textile mills closed, and fewalternative employment opportunities existed. They needed an income-generating activity that would keep them close to their families.Furthermore, Mauritius is home to many plant species that are endemic to the island but threatened due to changing climatic conditions –revealing opportunities for creative innovation in the realm of local biodiversity.

Innovation process

Anooradha Pooran, the founder of APEDED, noticed the mothers of the children at her school were struggling to provide basic necessities for theirchildren. Together, they brainstormed various ideas to generate income whilst also combatting the effects of climate change, drawing on localknowledge. They approached UNDP GEF-SGP (Global Environment Facility–Small Grants Program), who created a space for the women to refinetheir ideas and encourage innovation. With this support, the community devised the idea of producing herbal teas from native plants. An initialgrant from GEF-SGP in 2007 helped set up a nursery on the roof of the children’s school. The Ministry of Agro Industry and Food Security thenprovided training to the women on organic agricultural techniques including composting, pest management and irrigation. 

Solution

Continuity

Today, the project still employs the same 20 women, and indirectly provides income for 5000 families across the island. It has attractedinternational media attention, and the women have gained communications and entrepreneurial skills, some even setting up their own smallbusinesses selling candles and soap. Even with increased production, the facility’s solar panels still produce excess electricity that is sold to thegrid. The 14,065 kWh of electricity produced annually save 10 tons of carbon emissions and 52 trees. The tea brand continues to be soldcompetitively as a result, and is also now HACCP certified. Production is at 20,000 packets per month; over 50+ varieties of tea produced from 35different native plants are sold across Mauritius and internationally in 8 countries – with plans to expand to other international markets with afocus on reaching younger audiences. A resource book about traditional medicinal practices used in the tea recipes will be developed in comingmonths. 

Key takeaways

  • The UNDP GEF-SGP was able to act as not only a funder, but also a broker, making introductions, finding partnerships andguiding the business through each phase of the project. The combination of a very committed founder who works closely withthe local community, along with the time investment and resources of GEF-SGP, has led to Secret Grandmère's ongoingsustainability and success. 
  • Public authorities, from local to national level, not only responded to the initiative’s needs, but actively helped to promote andscale it. They expanded the legal framework to allow for the NGO to sell back to the grid; they made connections in the businesscommunity; they even incorporated the teas into official events. This way, the government acted as both partner and enabler invarious capacities, generating a conducive environment for a community-led initiative to thrive and scale. 
  • The project originated from the impacted community and continues to be led by it. It is sensitive to the needs of thecommunity; for instance, the buy-back programme does not directly employ the growers (many of whom are caregivers whowant to stay home), but still provides them a steady source of income. The project also taps into the local desire to preservecultural practices and natural resources. Those involved in the project possess intimate knowledge of local "grandmothers'secrets" (hence the name of the project) – and are personally invested in its continued success. 

Learn more about Smart Urban Innovations from around the world in the UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook: tinyurl.com/urban-innovations

Download the full PDF of the case study from the attached document.