Cities and Climate Change (Global Report on Human Settlements 2011)/climate Change and Cities (First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network)

By Hebbert, Michael | The Town Planning Review, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Cities and Climate Change (Global Report on Human Settlements 2011)/climate Change and Cities (First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network)


Hebbert, Michael, The Town Planning Review


Cities and Climate Change (Global Report on Human Settlements 2011), UN-Habitat, 2011, xviii + 279 pp, London, Earthscan/Routledge, £90 (h/b), £34.99 (p/b)

Climate Change and Cities (First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network), Cynthia Rosenzweig, William D. Solecki, Stephen A. Hammer and Shagun Mehrotra (eds), 2011, xxiii + 286 pp, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, £30 (p/b)

The near-simultaneous appearance of Cities and Climate Change and Climate Change and Cities marks a fresh phase in the emergence of '3C' as a policy field: two substantial reports written in plain English by international expert teams, each with a global frame of reference, well supported with statistics, tables, case study materials and research bibliographies. Both go onto the recommended reading list because despite the similarity of their titles there is little overlap in their contents - the one complements the other.

Cities and Climate Change is the eighth survey of human settlements published by UN-Habitat since its establishment in 1978. The format of these volumes is dual-purpose: the front end contains thematic chapters on a policy topic, this time climate change, the back end holds a statistical annex of 16 data tables on demographic, economic, social and physical dimensions of the state of urbanisation, viewed at three levels of resolution: by world region, by UN member state and by selected cities. The seven chapters on climate change clearly reflect their provenance in an agency whose mandate is achieving the urban development and shelter goals and targets of the UN Millennium Declaration. The scene is set with a brief introductory outline of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific consensus on atmospheric CO2, and a valuably thorough survey of its institutional consequences: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, their various multilateral and bilateral offshoots and the crowd of non-governmental constituencies who have gained admittance as observers and lobbyists to international climate change negotiations - BINGOs, ENGOs, farmers' organisations, IPOs, LGMAs, RINGOs, TUNGOs, women and gender NGOs and YOUNGOs. For RINGOs, BINGOs and so forth, please consult the identification chart on page 27; the actors who matter for the purposes of this review are LGMAs (local government and municipal authorities). It is helpful to approach the C3 agenda from this angle, with cities jostling amid a throng of non-state actors inside a set of mechanisms designed by and for national governments.

The remainder of Cities and Climate Change is organised around the themes of mitigation and adaptation, asking what they involve and then running through the range of policy measures available to achieve them. Gradually an argument takes shape around three propositions: first, that the impacts of climate change will continue to fall most severely upon those least responsible for causing them, the poor of the global south; second, that in a realistic prognosis for the politics of climate change, the vested interests of wealthier nation states will continue to trump the claims of environmental justice; and third, by contrast, that cities have the potential to shiftthe global outcome by performing as laboratories for innovative experiments in less carbon-intensive and more resilient development. The argument is that cities as generalpurpose authorities are able to act holistically and coordinate across sectoral and administrative entities; as collective actors, they have the ability to learn from each other across national boundaries; as political communities they can reach beyond conventional structures of power to engage the people; and in carbon-accounting terms, the spatially compact and mixed-use city demonstrates that high quality of life need not imply high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Even as the report enumerates the constraints on urban governments, its tone remains up-beat and positive, and UN-Habitat's own pilot programme, the Cities and Climate Change Initiative in Esmeraldas (Ecuador), Kampala (Uganda), Maputo (Mozambique) and Sorsogon City (Phillipines) is offered as an example of how international agencies can support municipal renaissance. …

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