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  • Writer's pictureEnyenaweh Research

Three Critical Issues in Climate Resilience Development Planning for Urban Local Governments

Climate data is important, it allows urban local governments to plan, prepare and respond to shocks or stressors accentuated by climate change. Nowhere is this information more critical than in growing cities of Sub-Saharan Africa, literally bursting at their seams. Cities such as Lagos Nigeria, Nairobi Kenya and Dar-es Salaam Tanzania besieged by intense population pressures are often also faced with weak service delivery systems. Often, these stressors are exacerbated by a weak governance structure that limits the capacity to address climate risks and vulnerabilities confronting these cities. Indeed, climate change puts in sharp relief service delivery and governance challenges confronting growing cities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Limited access and unavailability of climate information will detract gains from climate adaptation efforts. Moreover, evidence used for policy action is still a big challenge in many African countries. Thus, while climate change is a very present evil, motivating urban local administrators to collect, collate and use available climate information is a challenge that needs to be addressed. A persuasive argument might then be to motivate city administrators to know what their climate realities are, especially as it impacts on their daily existence, and issues they most care about. This is a win-win situation- even if the likelihood of a large-scale natural disaster seems minimal at present; this exercise has benefits beyond resilient planning.

Urban upgrading in Makoko, Lagos Nigeria, 2017 (Photo: Enyenaweh)

Suffice to say, if climate resilience is the goal, Urban local governments will benefit from these three actions

1. Discerning what climate risks face the city

Cities face particular climate risks depending on several factors, including geographical location, population density, environmental services and service delivery systems. Moreso, implications of these risks differs in different contexts. For example, water is expected to be the major climate challenge to confront cities in the immediate future. The trajectory of its consequences for arid and coastal cities differs. For coastal cities such as Lagos Nigeria, flooding and rising sea levels combines with poor solid-waste management practices in low income neighborhoods to occasion outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and dengue fever. In Lagos, the pressured public health system is ill-equipped to respond if these outbreaks occur on a mass-scale. Across Lagos, lands are subsiding from sea level rises and flooding, which is also occasioning the collapse of built infrastructure. It is not only the built environment that is on this trajectory of destruction; displacements, intra and inter-city migration occasioned by these events is also leading to break-up of social structures. Much more ominous for Lagos are the consequences of increasing migration, evidenced by population densities of 2000 people per square meters in certain neighborhoods. The social and political implication of these densities is grave. Discerning the short, medium and long-term consequences of these climate risks is a first step in climate resilience planning.

2. Assessing which service delivery sectors face the most vulnerability from occurring/anticipated climate risks. The Lagos example above highlights broad consequences of sea level rise and flooding on the built environment and social fabric of the city. Pursuant to the first action above, a second level enquiry would be to downscale implications of these risks to particular public service, economic, social and political consequences. Climate risks such as flooding, heat, drought, tidal inundation and sea level put an added layer of stressors on existing service delivery challenges. Assessing vulnerabilities from climate risk will aid cities in mainstreaming resilience into other development and service delivery plans, as well as prepare them to respond to short and medium term climate events. Climate events that occasion huge costs in lives and property are often long term stressors that coalesced into a shock. Thus, these assessments and response plans will enable cities to build redundancy within their structures in the event of a shock.

3. Institutional coordination for climate-sensitive development planning and service delivery is the third issue of critical concern. From the above, it is obvious that there is not a single trajectory of consequences for climate risks confronting cities in sub-Saharan Africa. The multiplicity of these consequences and implications for different sectors, public services and social grouping imply a need for collaboration across governments and service agencies. To achieve climate resilience, institutional coordination at the service agency level and across different levels of governments becomes critical. It is imperative that agencies providing complementary services interface to design resilience action. Climate events occur across jurisdictional borders and shocks occurring in a particular neighborhood or municipality would definitely have multiplier effects on another. Indeed, institutional coordination is as important for service delivery as it is for managing climate-induced conflict. Weak collaboration between these levels of government especially at the sub-national level will weaken the ability to respond to broad consequences of climate risks

Addressing the above issues is a first-step in pooling information for resilience action. Indeed, climate data for resilience planning extends beyond scientific information, to data on service delivery, and the built environment - information that enables cities to plan and prepare for social, political and economic outcomes of climate risks and vulnerabilities.

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