ICLEI invites Southeast Asian cities to rebuild better together

“While we must prioritize efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not forget to continue and strengthen efforts to overcome another crisis facing humanity—the climate crisis.”

This was the message of Mr. Victorino Aquitania, Regional Director of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability Southeast Asia Secretariat (ICLEI SEAS), during the organization’s recently concluded webinar aiming to inspire SEA local governments to take leadership to combat the climate and ecological crisis.

Conducted virtually last 15 October 2021, the “Rebuilding Better Together: Platforms for Low-Emissions, Resilient, and Nature-based Development” webinar gathered over 260 representatives from over 90 local governments throughout Southeast Asia. The event consisted of three technical sessions, each dedicated to these three ICLEI-led initiatives: Cities With Nature (CWN); Cities Race to Zero (CRtZ); and Cities Race to Resilience (CRtR).

It was co-organized by the City Government of Makati, Philippines and the Hang Tuah Jaya Municipal Council, Malaysia

Reintegrating nature into urban development

The session on CWN featured discussions from Ms. Ingrid Coetzee, Director of Biodiversity, Nature, and Health of the ICLEI Global Cities Biodiversity Center and ICLEI Africa Secretariat; Ms. Stefania Romano, Global Coordinator of Cities With Nature and Regions With Nature; and Councilor Amanda Stone of Yarra City, Australia.

Discussing the importance of nature in sustainable development, Ms. Coetzee said “Life depends on nature. Not only will we lose our economies because we will no longer have natural resources, but without clean air or water, life as we know it will stop.”

As such, protecting the urban biodiversity should be one of the immediate concerns of local governments moving beyond this pandemic. CWN serves as a platform where governments embarking on this journey can network and utilize proven tools and resources in their nature-based development efforts.

“CWN has a commitment platform where stakeholders can pledge their local targets,” said Ms. Romano. “They can then move towards achieving these via our tools and resources hub.”

“Soon, we will also have a City Biodiversity Index tool, where cities can do baseline measurements of their current biodiversity profiles and then monitor and assess them over time,” she added.

Councillor Stone attested to the importance of joining CWN in Yarra’s reintegration with nature. She said “We just joined two years ago, but we’ve already got policies and action plans to share on the CWN registry. The resources provided are also really excellent, helping us restore habitat values along the Yarra River and bringing nature back into harsh urban environments using nature-based solutions.”

Eliminating emissions one sector at a time

The CRtZ session was led by Mr. Cesar Carreño, Head of Climate Data at ICLEI; and TPr Mr. Rozaidi bin Mahat, Head of Sustainability at the Hang Tuah Jaya Municipal Council.

The Race to Zero campaign hopes to halve global emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2050 by rallying climate leaders from both the public and private sectors.There are currently over 1,000 cities and regions from all over the world who have pledged to reach net-zero as soon as possible.

“Race to Zero is an initiative that sets a criteria, timeline, and framework towards greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and avoidance,” explained Mr. Carreño. “ICLEI then provides guidance to help climate targets thrive and grow beyond mitigation.”

One of the Southeast Asian cities which has recently pledged to CRtZ is Hang Tuah Jaya (HTJ) in Malaysia. Signing in June earlier this year, HTJ is now consolidating all city initiatives related to climate change towards this commitment.

Answering what benefits cities can get from joining CRtZ, Mr. Rozaidi said “This initiative helps us speed up the implementation of climate actions, as well as provides us a reporting platform through which we can share our initiatives to the world. In doing so, we can gain global recognition for our local efforts.” 

He added, “The most important part is that cities all over the world can work together to fight climate change. Through CRtZ, we can form a community where we can support each other.”

Developing holistic resilience

Heading the CRtR discussions were Dr. Kate Strachan, Senior Professional Officer for Climate Change and Coastal Management of the ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center and ICLEI Africa; and Honorable Abigail “Abby” Binay, Mayor of Makati City, Philippines.

Cities, being home to over half of the world’s population, are at the forefront of experiencing climate disasters. Dr. Strachan shared that by 2050, over 970 cities around the world will see summer temperatures of around 35°C. Over 800-million urban residents will also be affected by coastal erosion and flooding in the same period.

As the sibling campaign for CRtZ, CRtR aims to rally leadership and support from cities, regions, businesses, and investors to help build cities’ resilience and enable them to adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

“Joining CRtR allows cities to have access to the best planning resources, helping them better integrate climate change adaptation and resilience into all aspects of urban planning,” said Dr. Strachan. “They can also share their best climate resilience practices and demonstrate their city’s leadership in this global movement.”

Echoing this statement, Mayor Binay said “The CRtR offers a valuable platform for knowledge and learning exchanges that will inspire innovation and foresight among cities in the crafting of policies and action plans geared towards resilience and sustainability.”

The Makati Mayor added “ Being part of this global movement has exponentially increased our chances of succeeding, not only in realizing our climate goals, but also our sustainable development goals. Through it, we can benchmark with other cities in the region and exchange best practices with them.  

Make your pledge now

Conducted in partnership with other key organizations, CWN, CRtZ, and CRtR exemplify ICLEI’s commitment to mobilizing local governments towards inclusive, resilient, and green sustainable development. 

For cities who would like to know more about and join the three initiatives, please refer to the following focal persons from ICLEI SEAS:

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