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By: Ambika Chawla

As the Biden-Harris administration designates climate change as a policy priority, increasing attention will be given towards advancing federal legislation on climate change, while also strengthening the capacities of city governments to introduce ambitious climate mitigation and adaptation policies/initiatives. The Biden-Harris administration has also promised to make environmental justice a priority.   

Indeed, city governments are uniquely positioned to tackle pressing challenges as they are in closer proximity to their communities. In this way, city governments can more effectively develop policies, programs and other initiatives which respond directly to the concerns of their communities.  

In the United States, and globally, we find that cities are implementing innovative climate action plans. Not only are cities playing an important role in developing strategies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but they are also introducing creative actions to build urban resilience to climate change. 

Boulder, Colorado, for example, has adopted its “Climate Action Plan (CAP)” with the goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, while transitioning to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Boulder is also home to the nation’s first voter approved tax dedicated to addressing climate change, known as the Climate Action Plan Tax. 

The city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 and recently developed a city-wide “Resilience Strategy” with the aim to diminish the city’s vulnerabilities while increasing its resilience. 

And, Da Nang, which is one of the fastest growing cities in Vietnam, has designed its Green Growth City Development Strategy (GG-CDS), an urban masterplan which aims to create the first climate resilient city in Vietnam and in the Asia-Pacific region. 

These colorful and exciting examples demonstrate the many ways in which city governments, globally, are taking bold actions to tackle climate change. 

In tandem, we live in a rapidly urbanizing world. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population is predicted to be living in towns and cities, with almost 90% of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa. Fast-growing megacities include Karachi, Dhaka, Shanghai, and New Delhi. Chinese cities are also growing at breakneck speed.

Finally, environmental justice organizations across U.S. cities are taking bold actions to address environmental inequalities in their communities. For example, organizations such as Groundwork USA are working to ensure that communities of color have greater access to green space in cities, particularly given the considerable health benefits (both psychological and physical) that urban nature brings to city residents.

Urban Climate Innovations

Based on my expertise in urban development and climate change, I recently developed my company “Urban Climate Innovations,” a woman-owned business which aims to catalyze low carbon, climate resilient, and equitable cities around the world. 

When I worked as a youth ambassador on climate change for UN-Habitat (the cities branch of the United Nations) I became passionate about raising policymaker and public awareness about the role of city-level governance to tackle pressing challenges. 

In this role, I had the wonderful opportunity to represent the concerns of young people, globally, at the UN climate conferences in Bali, Indonesia, Copenhagen, as well as in Bonn, Germany.  

My collaborative relationship with UN-Habitat continued and led me to Hanoi, Vietnam, where I led the development of the UN’s official policy report on cities and climate change for Vietnam. This was a wonderful and fulfilling role where I worked closely with UN officials from Vietnam, South Korea, and the Netherlands. 

I continue to engage with UN-Habitat as a member of the steering committee for the Urban Economy Forum, a coalition of city leaders, UN representatives, and urban development practitioners working to develop urban economies that adhere to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

More recently, I have become passionate about informing the public about environmental injustices occurring in communities. I have also written about how we can create a more diverse and inclusive environmental movement. My work has been published by Yes! magazine, Ensia, Environmental Health New, Green Biz, Daily Climate, Next City, among other media.  

My company, Urban Climate Innovations (UCI), excels at designing compelling and engaging policy reports which inform decision makers and the public about transformative solutions to our world’s most challenges. 

At the heart of Urban Climate Innovations (UCI) is a process of listening to the voices of underrepresented communities and including their opinions in policy documents.

UCI also possesses expertise on all facets related to climate change law and policy, including legal issues in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, renewable energy law and policy, and climate adaptation policy. 

If you are connected to an organization working on any of the above issues, please do not hesitate to contact me to learn more about the services offered at UCI, or if you would like me to be a guest speaker!  

You can learn more about Urban Climate Innovations at my website: www.urbanclimateinnovations.org. The site includes my policy reports, articles, and testimonials from colleagues, globally, who have collaborated with me in the past.   

Thank you to Eco Women for giving me the opportunity to share my story about my career and about my company! Keep up the great work! 

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Ambika Chawla has professional experience in the areas of youth empowerment, climate change, urban development, and environmental law. She has collaborated with UN agencies, research institutes, and non-profit organizations in six countries across the globe. Ambika is passionate about advocating for healthy, equitable, climate resilient, and green towns and cities around the world.