RCAP 2017: Summary and Highlights

Day 1:

ICLEI offices in the Asia and Pacific in partnership with Ministry of Planning and Investment, Government of Vietnam, Asia LEDS Partnership, and LEDS Global Partnership (GP) hosted the Resilient Cities Asia Pacific 2017 in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with an aim to forge partnerships and the ultimate goal of identifying implementable solutions and creating lasting impacts for cities in the region.
The first day of Resilient Cities Asia Pacific Forum 2017 started with a successful note as cities, experts, and development partners took on discussions on urban resilience and climate change adaptation.

The day kick started with an inaugural session to signify the forum’s commencement and reflect on the key messages and legacy of RCAP 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand and RCAP 2016 in Melaka, Malaysia.

ICLEI Secretary General Gino van Begin noted the significance of events like the RCAP as these serve as critical inputs to what is being discussed at the global level. “The ideas we generate, the issues that we talk about, and the solutions we formulate here are ultimately taken up in global processes specifically in terms of resilient cities. We are formulating a feedback loop system and this helps us integrate the local and regional governments into the global discussion,” van Begin said. Underscoring the role of local actors as the Paris Agreement entered into force in 2016, van Begin shifted the focus on local and regional governments saying they have “secured a clear leadership role in the advancement of climate action.”

Speaking from a city’s perspective, Mayor Kinlay Dorjee of Thimpu, Bhutan reported their active participation to RCAP in the last two years. Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness is mainstreamed into the institutions of Bhutan and they believe that one can pursue happiness through urban resilience. Thimpu is focusing on waste management making sure to sequester methane from their wastes to reduce carbon emission. Social resilience is also a key issue as Mayor Dorjee says, “We need to work as a team to achieve our goal to become more resilient and fight together youth issues and climate resilience together.”

Director General of Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment Dr. Pham Hoang Mai offered the adaptation context for this year’s host city, explaining that it is a key issue since Ho Chi Minch will reach 10 million inhabitants in the near future. The forum is a chance for them to learn how to build a resilient megacity from their peers especially Bangkok.

Linkaging the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the New Urban Agenda into prompting resilience in Asia Pacific Cities, Curt Garrigan, Chief of UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) put forward that resilience makes connection across many development goals; as such, achieving the SDGs is also a matter of looking into resource mobilisation. Having an integrated approach in planned urbanisation presents opportunities for innovation. Garrigan pointed out that resilience has a unique way of connecting urban issues together.

Reiterating integration and the need for cooperation, Ron Benioff, LEDS GP Director said, “We need to work on the development of clean energy systems, diversify energy supply and promote more distributed energy system. More distributed energy system would make cities more resilient. Investment in the energy system and climate change is investing in resiliency.”

Representatives of past host cities reflected on the previous fora held Bangkok and Melaka. Supachai Tantikom, Chief Resilience Officer, Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, Thailand reported that since the first RCAP, Bangkok worked on their Resilience Planning and was able to launch this in 2016. They are now in its implementation phase and while this proves to be challenging, it is also a worthwhile endeavour.

Datuk Zainal bin Hussin , the Mayor of Melaka, proudly shared the Melaka Call which urges for the national government to enhance their support to the subnational government in ten action points.

“Together with ICLEI, we adopted Melaka Call which urges for the national government to enhance their support to subnational government in ten action points. Urban researchers, the private sector, local governments and young professionals adopted the Melaka Call to create a lasting impact in urban development,” said the Mayor.

Lastly, Mr. Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI World Secretariat and Executive Director of ICLEI South Asia welcomed everyone to the forum and expressed his gratitude to all participants, partners, sponsors, colleagues, and others.

Plenary Sessions:

Plenary Session 2: Post COP23 Deliberations

The first plenary session of RCAP 2017 brought together representatives from various UN agencies to discuss the role of local and subnational governments in the implementation of the NDCs as per the Paris Agreement of 2016, as well as the impacts of the UNFCCC COP 23 on ongoing dialogues of urban resilience.

ICLEI Secretary General Gino van Begin shared the success of the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders which ICLEI co-hosted for this year’s COP noted the significance of Paris Agreement as it came into force this year, saying that it is "unstoppable and irreversible". Cities and regional governments are invited to take on the challenge of scaling up local climate action as van Begin explained, "This is the perfect time to engage local and regional governments in delivering national commitments and raise ambitions globally."

Liam Fee, Climate Change Specialist at the UN-Habitat shared the recently published Sustainable Urbanization in the Paris Agreement- a global review of NDCs as compared to urban content.

He noted that urban challenges in Asia are directly concerned with adaptation and issues on flood, drought, and sea level rise threatens the region.

Jenty Kirsh-Wood of UNDP Vietnam underscored three things: ambition, finance, partnerships in planning and implementation of adaptation strategies operationalization of these three key areas should involve not only government agencies but the private sector, academe, and other stakeholders as well.

Pooling a number of different agendas together – the commitments should be based on the government’s own planning system – which can be a key to achieving success.

In terms of partnerships, many cities now are struggling to raise finance. Risk transfer, insurance and more creative mechanisms are needed to address resilience.

Parallel Sessions:

Parallel Session A:
A1: City Climate Action Planning
A2: Regional Networking for Collaborative Action to Build Inclusive Urban Resilience
A3: Adaptation in the Mekong Delta – Shaping the Road from Paris to Implementation in Vietnam: The City Perspective

In the City Climate Action Planning session, a CapaCITIES project session supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), themes that were discussed included public transportation specifically bike-sharing systems in cities, the use of e-rickshaw, and others.

Major challenges in this sector are vehicular growth to combat the GHG emissions in the city, knowledge sharing and capacity building of the local authorities, and lack of localized measure to combat the impact of climate change.

Baskar Srinivasan, Smart City Project, Coimbatore, India raised points like how the city has initiated formulating a climate change action plan to identify possible interventions to build resilience in the city for various urban systems. These planned interventions are setting the tariff for wastewater, mapping, and geotagging areas, and developing aquifer maps. Projects to elevate Coimbatore as a smart city are the development of waste processing plants, establishing solar power ambient environment monitoring systems, rejuvenation of water bodies, and promotion of bike sharing.

Asok Bhattacharya, Mayor of Siliguri, discussed the major concerns of the city which includes high growth rate of vehicles. He also focused on the fact that Siliguri is excluded from all the national level missions and therefore, it requires financial and technical help from the external supports.

"There is a need to develop plans which have balanced approaches. And we must think global but act local", he said.

Chandra Singh Kothari, Mayor of Udaipur, emphasised on the causes of climate change in Udaipur cities. Moreover, he discussed the efforts of Udaipur Municipal Corporation towards low carbon resilient development which includes door to door waste collection, development of Udaipur as a solar city, and replacement of regular street lights with LEDs. He also discussed the proposal to establish citywide cyclic tracks.

Bringing in talks to the issue of collaboration, the Mercy Corps Indonesia, and ACCCRN.net organised another session on Regional Networking for Collaborative Action to Build Inclusive Urban Resilience. This session delved into understanding the need for collaborative actions for social inclusion. Cooperation and integration are factors to make urban climate change to be successful.

Phong Tran, Technical Lead, ISET Vietnam spoke about city resilience challenge which includes lack of coordination. According to him, coordination is important to agree on an agenda to be put out. “We support cities to develop climate resilience and coordinate urban-related issues. We need rapid urbanization in Vietnam,” he said.

“Trans boundary river basin planning has been tried before in Vietnam, but the associated institutional and political changes have not been sustainable. The success of the project relies on key stakeholders having strong internal or external incentives to resolve river basin conflicts through negotiation,” he added.

Nyoman Prayoga, Flood Resilience Manager, Mercy Corps, Indonesia presented Garang watershed as a case study where he discussed the challenges at length. Some of the problems faced are – water quantity (floods, drought), water quality (river pollution and high level of sedimentation), and land soil stability (land erosion and landslides) among others.

“We want to make sure we are able to support the government. We aim to achieve the cross-boundary coordination, enabling them to make more dialogues,” he said.
The third session was about Adaptation in the Mekong Delta –Shaping the Road from Paris to Implementation in Vietnam. The focus was on adaptation and resilience in the Mekong Delta with focus on urban planning and integration.

The gaps identified here are: lack of data and access to it, bringing strategies into implementation from the technical perspective, financing, and institutional frameworks.

Nguyen Thi Dieu Trinh, Department of Science, Education, Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Government of Vietnam said, “We expect to create an urban network. The Mekong area is subject to a lot of risks especially the urban coastal areas are very susceptible.”

Pierre Fritzsche, German Meteorological Service said, “Climate change is changing cities and one has to prepare for that. Climate solutions are one approach. The provider of data needs to give guidance on climate predictions and projections and to evaluate the data and integrate into planning. There is the need to prepare the data but also cities have to be ready for the challenges”.

Parallel Session B

B1: Transformative Actions Program
B2: Resilience Planning and Practices in Secondary Cities
B3: Promoting Circular Economy through Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities

Parallel sessions B focused on cities as they share stories on urban resilience financing.

The increase of urban population has put more pressure on resources which are finite and limited. This gap highlights the cities’ vulnerabilities in sectors such as water, transport, energy, and others. To counter this, Asian cities have started initiatives to create enabling mechanisms for developing a more resilient city. The session also had secondary cities share their experience in urban development planning in the context of innate vulnerabilities, disaster risk reduction and management, and basic infrastructure.

One of the highlights of the parallel session is the vision of Jambi, Indonesia, to become an “ecologist city”. To achieve this, they are making reforms on waste management, green spaces, and green transportation. However, these initiatives are implemented on a small scale basis. Mariani Yanti from Jambi, Indonesia said that it is important to note that the projects do not have to be implemented widely as small-scale project can also produce great impact for cities. Similarly, Coimbatore, a city in India, is carrying out the installation of rainwater catchment system and high calorific waste to energy.

As promising as these initiatives may sound, financing is still a challenge for most cities. One of the solutions is project feasibility. Alexia Kelly from the Electric Capital Management proposed that there is a need to build capacity for project feasibility. In addition, Alexia Kelly also said, “creditworthiness is the important element for local governments to drive climate finance. Municipal authorities should explore opportunities that exist around blended capital and impact investing”.

In another initiative under the Nexus project, some cities are financially assisted to promote resource efficiency or circular economy concept. The project’s objective is to improve city resilience through the integrated resource management on solid waste management, wastewater management, energy efficiency and urban planning and land use. Cities working on this project are Ulaanbaatar, Tanjungpinang, Naga, Nagpur, Korat, Chiang Mai and Da Naang.

Innovative technology is applied in the projects, such as wastewater management using vacuum sewer, thermos-technical retrofitting of the building, climate change resilient housing and maximum yield technology. To the success of this project, coordination is the key factor. Haryo from The Ministry of Public Works Indonesia said, “We need to create a better communication between national, sub-national, local governments and engineers”.

Highlighting the importance of vertical integration, especially the role of the national government in developing resilient cities, ICLEI Southeast Asia Regional Director Victorino Aquitania said, “If we do not communicate our problems to the national government, the problem will not be appropriately addressed.”

(Published on ICLEI South East Asia website with contributions from ICLEI South Asia team)

Day 2

Plenary Sessions:

Plenary Session 3: Financing Urban Resilience

The session brought together bilateral and multilateral agencies that are involved in financing climate action for local and sub-national governments. The session linked financial institutions’ priorities with cities’ needs and capacities for implementation of resilience actions. Integration of climate initiatives in development finance mechanisms were discussed.

Susan Jose, Environmental and Resilience Specialist, Cities Development Initiative Asia (CDIA) highlighted that CDIA ensures climate change and resilience aspects in development and project preparatory studies by examining climate risks and vulnerability, capacity development delivering training evaluation, assessing environment and social safeguards.

She talked about the CDIA’s services which include preliminary engineering design, feasibility study, financing arrangement, support in project implementation, operation and maintenance, trainers’ training for the national governments, tracking the progress of the implementation after 2-3 years of completion of project.

Pranab Baruah, Principal Specialist, GGGI said, "Funding for integrated projects that could bring both climate adaptation and mitigation benefits is increasing, because the goal is to achieve overall resilience."

Ruth Erlbeck, Project Director, Integrated Resource Management in Asian Cities: the Urban NEXUS, GIZ pointed out their struggle with banks. She emphasised that one of the problems is the very long procedures for loan approval which can take several years as the banks prefer mono-sectoral projects over multi-sectoral projects. Moreover, in most cases, the cities are not entitled to get loans directly from donor agencies or the banks. Therefore, they need assistance from the national level. 

"Bureaucracy continues to become our challenge to come up with more innovative solutions that might be more sustainable. Thus, funding mechanism highly depends on cities’ leadership and commitment to enable the environment," she said.

Plenary Session 4: Implementing NDCs to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The session brought together agencies and departments from national governments to discuss how the implementation of NDCs in different countries can facilitate the achievement of SDGs.

David Oehmen from the Cross-cutting Support and Outreach, Adaptation Programme said, "Every slide here had references to SDGs. They are getting where they are supposed to be. We are on a good way from what I saw from this conference."

Talking about the same, Yeon-Hee Park from ICLEI, Korea said that the people in Korea are particularly concerned about sustainable development issues, and that they are waiting for a revised plan from the government.

"Our government doesn’t officially announce sustainable development policies but they do work towards it. I think without a concrete dialogue it is not possible to achieve anything. We must remember one of the key takeaways from the COP23 is to keep communication open," she added.

Nanda Jichkar, Mayor of Nagpur, India believes that to implement NDCs to achieve SDGs is a two-way flow.

"In Nagpur, we do have visionary leaders. We just need to have a follow up on strong policies decided by the central government," she said.

Arnab Roy, IAS, Principal Secretary, Government of West Bengal, India said to “we should implement the SDGs and build NDCs into SDGs so that both the goals are reached”. He also believes that ownership of program is key.

On the other hand, Sujith Ratnayake, Ministry of Mahaveli Development, Government of Sri Lanka pointed out the struggle to reach the planning stage.

"Our leaders know the basics of climate change, but they are not aware how to approach the planning stage. We need to strengthen the planning structure," he said.

While the key gaps identified are the horizontal and vertical challenges in the institutional coordination, different focal points for NDCs and SDGs, data sharing constraints between ministries, lack of capacity and awareness in the sub-national levels; the possible solutions discussed at the session included the need for good local frameworks, ways to support local action, communication between local and national government, and a sense of ownership from the national level to the citizens.

Plenary Session 5: Resilience the way forward

The final session in the forum explored the way forward in enhancing urban resilience. Gino van Begin began the session with inviting everyone to join the ICLEI World Congress which will take place in June, 2018 in Montreal, Canada.
Emani Kumar, Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, presented the summary of the two-day conference and learnings from it.

The session also discussed the contributions that can be made to the 9th World Urban Forum and the ICLEI World Congress to be held in 2018.

Nguyen Tuan Anh, Deputy Director General of the Department of Science, Education, Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Government of Vietnam expressed gratitude to the experts and speakers who participated.

He said that the RCAP can’t discuss all the challenges we are facing vis-à-vis urban resilience but we were able to look at where we stand, and how we should head towards the right direction.

"MPI believes that by research and action, implementing NDCs on adaptation can help achieve the SDGs. The RCAP 2017 served as an interesting platform to exchange ideas with the private sector, research institute and development partners," he further said.

After deliberations and discussions, the Ho Chi Minh commitment was adopted to achieve sustainability not only at regional, state or city levels but also at individual level.

Parallel Sessions C:
C1: One Planet City Challenge: Regional Perspectives
C2: Peri-Urban Ecosystems and Urban Resilience
C3: Supporting Urban Resilience in Asia Pacific Cities

In C1 session, cities discussed the One Planet City Challenge coordinated by the WWF annually all over the world, with focus on the cities and their actions on resilience.

Erlinda Creencia, from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, City of Santa Rosa, Philippines described Santa Rosa’s vision and mission, the changes city has experienced from rural to urban, from agricultural to industrial, and their action plans in solid and water waste management, charcoal briquetting facilities, and material recovery.

She also pointed out that the city has presented an advocacy campaign with more than 1000 stakeholders to address climate change. Le Duc Chung, Belgian Development Agency (BTC) and Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) Joint Action to tackle Climate Change and Green Growth Finance for Support Programme, Vietnam shared the efforts that have been carried out in three provinces. Some activities undertaken at the central level include establishment of baseline, assessment of institutional and technical capacity, planning climate change action plans, revision of urban master plan.

He also highlighted that they have conducted social economic assessment, climate change maps, and done research on hydrology. And based on that, three provinces started with pilot projects to assess the adaptability. They will then provide financial support to these provinces.

C2 session focused on the impacts of climate change on peri-urban ecosystems and their importance in building urban resilience.

Ajay Kumar Singh, Project Coordinator, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG), India spoke about how peri-urban ecosystem is degenerating. Some of the reasons for the same include rapid urbanisation population growth, government policies, poverty, and failure to include ecological services in evaluating ecosystems resources, illegal construction on the flood plain, soil mining, and increasing input cost among others. He also said that a rich ecosystem and biodiversity is needed for building resilience.

A A Khan, Officer on Special Duty, Directorate of Environment, Government of Uttar Pradesh shared the green plan for the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which includes reforestation of degraded forests and catchment areas, decentralised based forest management, agro-forestry, eco-tourism, and wildlife protection to name a few.

He further discussed the relevance of peri-urban ecosystems which provides space for water harvesting, agriculture production, livelihood for local poor, goods and services. 

While talking about urban resilience, Denia Syam, ACCCRN.net pointed out, "Resilience building is not a technical but a governance problem. There is a gap between city and surrounding ecosystem administrations."

Sunandan Tiwari, Senior Program Manager, ICLEI World Secretariat spoke about peri-urban as an important component in urban planning such as economic perspective creating and securing jobs. He also said that the multi-governance between urban and peri-urban area is critical.

Nivedita Mani, Coordinator, GEAG, India emphasised that the peri-urban ecosystem is a critical factor touching upon resilience, economy, gender, food security for both rural and urban area. She also made a point on how peri-urban and ecosystem should be gender sensitive.

The session on ‘Supporting Urban Resilience in Asia Pacific Cities’ focused on going beyond the planning phase and successfully build resilient cities, local governments should take ownership of the resilient strategies and raise requisite resources to enhance the adaptive capacity and mitigation of climate risk.
Saurabh Gaidhani, City and Practice Management, Asia Pacific, 100RC spoke about the shocks and stresses that can lead to a social breakdown but can also bring opportunities for cities to evolve and in some circumstances, transform above the Business as Usual path of development.

“By 2030, ASEAN is expected to have 373 million urban population and ASEAN will need $2.6 billion of finance for building the necessary infrastructure”, he said.

Supachai Tantikom said that resilience is about surviving and thriving regardless of the challenge. He further said that urban resilience is the capacity of individuals, institutions, and systems within a city.

He mentioned that they want to improve city flood resilience but the biggest challenge is implementation because this will be done by the local government, and as a CRO they do not have an operation mandate.

Phong Tran explained the first phase of the project was to establish institutions to coordinate with the different departments on the cross-cutting issues of urban development and resilience. Based on the conducted risk assessment and working with different departments, better understanding of the areas to focus on the further resilience strategy was gained, he pointed out.

"The important point when it comes to developing resilience strategy is to narrow down the action plans according to the available resources of the local government and integrate and mainstream the resilience strategy into the formal implementing process," he said.

Yumi Nishikawa, City Solutions, Asia Pacific, 100RC talked about the struggles of the cities: political and infrastructure timelines seldom align, lack of incentives department with the government to work holistically throughout the project cycle, project financing cycle, sustainability issues of several of recommended solutions and learning from the best practices.

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