International Workshop on Urban Responses to Climate Change


International Workshop on Urban Responses to Climate Change – A Focus on the Americas

September 26-27, 2007 | New York City, NY USA

The topic of the first UGEC workshop is how cities respond, fail to respond, or could better respond to climate change. Recent international attention to climate change highlights the interactions between urban areas and global and regional biophysical processes. It also provides an excellent opportunity to assist urban areas to better respond to the challenges created by climate change. Human beings have always had an intimate relation with climate. The development and collapse of civilizations have a strong link with environmental management and, in particular, with climate management. Mankind has undergone several climate adaptation phases, particularly evidenced in the human settlements (housing and urban space). Technological advances have gradually transformed the capacity for adaptation to adverse climate conditions in urban areas. Changes have been particularly dramatic in the last century, where the adoption of mechanical means has facilitated the prioritization of aesthetic aspects over functional aspects in urban design and adaptation to climate. Those changes have been based on significant energy costs (air conditioning, new materials), and new architectural and urban forms.

Attention to the bidirectional relation between urban areas and climate has focused on the impacts of urban areas on climate change, in particular, the effects of green house gas emissions and the so-called heat island effect. Unfortunately, less attention has been provided to the impacts of climate change on urban areas. The increasing frequency and magnitude of climate related natural disasters in urban areas during the past decade are some of the clearest indicators of the magnitude and significance of those impacts. There is, however, a broad range of pathways through which climate change affects urban areas. These impacts depend on a number of factors, including the vulnerability of peoples and places and their capacity to adapt.

Some international efforts have begun to focus on urban areas as key actors addressing the challenges of climate change, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation. The recent C-40 summit that brought together leaders of 40 major cities around the world and other similar events, propose a series of actions in this direction. Despite the benefits of these initiatives, there is still an incomplete knowledge and discussion that would facilitate expanding these initiatives to a larger number of urban areas around the world, particularly middle and small cities. This workshop seeks to create a constructive discussion in this direction. Attention to the responses of urban areas to climate change during the workshop will explore the compatibility and coherence between mitigation and adaptation responses. The workshop will focus particularly on two aspects: what do we know about the role of different actor (public sector, private sector, social sector, informal sector, and international organizations), their actions and their involvement in the responses to climate change in urban areas; the deficiencies and resistance of institutions to respond to climate change and what are the windows of opportunities to overcome them.

The regional focus of this first UGEC workshop will be the Americas. Future UGEC workshops will rotate their regional focus. This will facilitate the development of regional focuses, securing funding opportunities for the workshop, facilitate the discussion during the event, and obtaining concrete results from each workshop. This first workshop is expected to have several types of products: develop a first contribution from UGEC to the debate on climate change, explore the development of new research proposals covering key area on this topic, develop three joint publications (an article in a leading journal, a UGEC working paper, an opinion letter), enhance the attention to global environmental change in urban areas and the contributions from UGEC to the study and practice of this topic through media communications.

The workshop will bring together 20 scholars and practitioners from the Americas and it will take place at Hunter College in New York City on September 26 and 27, 2007.

Organizers: UGEC (Bill Solecki, Roberto Sanchez-Rodriguez, Michail Fragkias)
Partners: Hunter College, CUNY, CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities (CISC)

Workshop Report (UGEC REPORT No. 1)

List of Participants:
Andrea Lampis, Assistant Professor at the University of Los Andes
Anthony Bigio, WorldBank, Urban Specialist, EDI Urban Team Coordinator
Bill Solecki, Professor and Chairperson, Hunter College
Chris Boone, Associate Professor and Graduate Dean, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University
Cynthia Rosenzweig, Research Scientist at NASA
George Martin, Professor, Department of Sociology, Montclair St. University
Michail Fragkias, Executive Officer, UGEC
Monirul Mirza, Adaptation and Impacts Research Group (AIRG), The Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Toronto
Patricia Romero, Professor, Environmental and development issues, Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM)
George Martine, Consultant, UNFPA
Peter Marcotullio, Research Fellow managing the Urban Programme, United Nations University
Ricardo Jordan, UN-ECLAC, Divisionn de Desarrollo Sostenible y Asentamientos Humanos/ Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division
Paul Kirshen, Research Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Tufts University
Ricardo Silva Toledo, Undersecretary for urban issues for the State Government of Sao Paulo in Brazil
Roberto Sanchez, Director of UC Mexus, University of California, Riverside
Robin Leichenko, Associate Professor, Dept. of Geography, Rutgers
Esther Fuchs, Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science, Columbia University

Background Material for Participants

Workshop Agenda and Short Bios

1st Set

2nd Set

3rd Set

Other Background Material