From talk to action on #water4cities

article1-again“Let us take the declaration from this aerotropolis to the world,” said Dr Meggan Spires, ICLEI Africa, during her final reflections on the LoCS4Africa congress.

She was referring to the Ekurhuleni Declaration on Water and Sanitation for Cities – a landmark commitment endorsed by mayors and national associations of local government from across Africa, who were gathered at the three-day congress that was hosted in partnership with the  City of Ekurhuleni, South Africa.

The South African Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, welcomed the Declaration and celebrated the role that LoCS4Africa plays in convening these discussions. “Without these meetings we would be isolated in our cities, never hearing about new climate solutions.”

The congress kicked off on World Water Day, 22 March 2017, welcoming over 400 registered delegates, representing 53 cities from 40 different countries.

“We have in our midst over 40 Mayors and executive heads of local governments, and leadership from many major city networks,” said Spires.

Discussions at the event focussed on water and sanitation in the context of building climate resilience at a local, city level in Africa.

“Cities are central to society and water is central to cities”

Spires reflected that civil society, researchers and government must work together, from the ground up, if they are to find solutions to water challenges. It is also imperative that cities don’t always wait for perfect solutions before taking action.

“Fixation on borders, boxes, silos and semantics is not helpful to our cause,” she explained. “It became clear [at LoCS4Africa 2017] that we need to be thinking about catchments and their wetlands, about city regions, and about breaking down delineations such as ‘rural’ and ‘urban’.”

Another key message was that major global agreements and frameworks, including the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, can only be achieved if they are translated into tangible plans at a city level.

“Key ingredients of success include driven city champions, empowered politicians, and clear principles of engagement where values and power relations are acknowledged,” said Spires.

“Small conversations for global impact”

As Prof Bruce Hewitson (University of Cape Town) said during the event, small conversations between individuals working in any sector of society that relates to water, sanitation, cities and climate resilience, are incredibly important to mobilise action.

Feedback from a number of delegates affirmed that the LoCS4Africa 2017 congress facilitated many such focused dialogues during sessions, workshops and networking events.

At the final congress dinner, Mayor Sunael Singh Purgus (Pamplemousses, Mauritius), put it eloquently: “We are a family and our problems are shared, so we must put our hands together and work as one to find solutions to the water and sanitation problems we have as cities of Africa.”

ICLEI Africa and its partners in action are hopeful that these conversations and big commitments will lead to tangible action, to be once again shared and cemented at LoCS4Africa 2019.



Unlocking water and climate financing for cities

image-tapPlanning for climate change adaptation is one thing, but securing finance for implementation can seem daunting if current finance strategies continue with business as usual. This was the scope of the “Unlocking Water & Climate Financing for Cities” session on the third and final day of the LoCS4Africa 2017 congress.

Distinguished speakers gave presentations on some external funding opportunities available to cities and subnational governments. These opportunities were accompanied by helpful tips on how cities can adapt their existing revenue streams to mainstream their climate adaptation and sustainability projects.

Anthea Stephens from the Cities Support Programme in the National Treasury of South Africa gave an overview of the impact of climate change on city  finances as well as national government. She emphasised that climate change should be viewed as a market failure, and that the cross-cutting nature of the phenomenon means that cities should align multidisciplinary strategies into their budgets.

Dr. Mandy Barnett, who directs climate change adaptation at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), gave much needed information on how cities can better adapt themselves to secure external funds.

She listed some South African municipalities that were able to do so, for example the Umgungundlovu District Municipality which secured $ 7.5 million from the Adaptation Fund for their uMngeni Resilience Project with help from SANBI, which acted as the implementing entity.

Karen Shippey, from the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs & Development Planning, presented some research on how municipalities finance environmental projects and how they can make savings to fund such initiatives in the long term.

“Look at how you are spending public funds and making sure that the operational life of it makes sense,” she explained to the room. “Recognise that you can build your local economic development by making sure that you apply sustainable public procurement principles.”

Facilitator Florencio Mareru of WaterAid, Mozambique, said the session answered many common questions that cities have, such as where to start, and how to adapt their existing finance models.



How local governments are building resilient African cities

article-3day3African cities are building resilience to climate change and natural disasters through improved regulations, inter-sectoral cooperation and robust community engagement.

Institutions like ICLEI, the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) are working with local governments and non-governmental organisations to further global resilience and disaster risk reduction (DRR) objectives.

“We need to change the narrative around African cities and towns needing to be helped out; they should be seen as leaders in DRR, biodiversity and resilience,” said Meggan Spires, Senior Manager at ICLEI Africa.

This leadership was demonstrated by the solutions for DRR presented by speakers from Kampala, Yaounde, and Praia, who are all signatories to the Sendai Framework.

In these municipalities, UNISDR has helped local authorities to change policy, adopt new regulations, and connect with communities to reduce disaster risk.

Similarly, cities are building resilience through green building standards – green in both the practice of building, and the buildings themselves.

This is through the action of GBCSA and ICLEI in promoting the Green Star building standard and the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Building Efficiency Accelerator programme, respectively.



LoCS4Africa 2017 saw the launch of 4 key #water4cities initiatives

4. launch composite
World Water Day and Day 1 of the LoCS4Africa 2017 Congress saw the official launch of AfriAlliance – The Africa-EU Innovation Alliance for Water and Climate – in Africa to bridge the gap between water needs and climate solutions.

LAB: Wetlands SA video
Ms. Ulrike Irlich from Local Action for Biodiversity: Wetlands South Africa (LAB: Wetlands SA) was proud to launch a video by ICLEI’s Cities Biodiversity Center showcasing children promoting the benefits of protecting wetlands in South Africa. This video launch coincided with a presentation about LAB: Wetlands SA, where Irlich outlined the projects that involve several South African municipalities.

The African Water Adaptation through Knowledge Empowerment (AWAKE) project, was launched by Dr Meggan Spires at LoCS4Africa2017. It aims to better understand the barriers to and opportunities for uptake of climate resilient water management technologies, in Southern African city regions. It builds on the FRACTAL project.

GCRO green infrastructure handbook/video
The Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO) has launched a new video and book on green infrastructure – the video is highly engaging and explains why green infrastructure matters.



Big data for climate action in African cities

African cities need to innovate when it comes to collecting, collating and checking data for planning purposes.

An example of this, presented at LoCS4Africa2017 by Eng. Mussa Natty, is the Ramani Huria initiative in Dar es Salaam, which maps flooding at city level.

His presentation formed part of the SUReWater4Africa sessions at the congress, which focussed on the value of data for cities, as well as integrated local planning.

“There’s a need for integrated and effective coordination between city departments that focus on, for instance, the environment, water, sanitation, roads and stormwater drainage; but also between key actors in the sector in order to streamline planning,” said SUReWater4Africa project manager Tarryn Quayle.

The project’s full name is “Sustainable Urban Resilient Water for Africa: Developing Local Climate Solutions”, and it helps cities enhance resilience at the local level by supporting sustainable urban water planning. Its focus is particularly on mitigating flooding and drought in African cities. SUReWater4Africa is an ICLEI Africa project funded by the European Commission.



LoCS4Africa 2017 host City of Ekurhuleni a leader in #water4cities

Against the backdrop of uncertain urban water and climate futures, the City of Ekurhuleni has measures in place to identify opportunities for climate adaptation solutions.

Ekurhuleni is the aerotropolis; we are the gateway of the province with our extensive road infrastructure. We are the manufacturing hub and we recognise that the effects of climate change are real and have no borders. – Hezekiel Nkosi (HOD: Environmental Resource Management and Development, City of Ekurhuleni.)

Attend meetings from national, provincial and local government as often as you can. We put ourselves into national and provincial meetings … we made sure that Ekurhuleni got the latest information. – Freddie Aucamp (Divisional Head for Strategy and Planning for City of Ekurhuleni.)