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Improving climate resilience in Latin American cities

November 29, 2019

Climate change represents a serious threat to the small and medium-sized cities that have been rapidly expanding across Latin America over the past decade. Ciudades Resilientes al Clima en América Latina (the Climate Resilient Cities initiative), a strategic alliance between IDRC, the Climate Development Knowledge Network, and the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, was created to strengthen decision-making and scale up effective climate resilient development to improve the livelihoods of those most affected by climate change in Latin America.

Results from research carried out in 13 small and medium-sized cities in seven Latin American countries highlight the complex interactions between the social, economic, and environmental drivers that influence urban vulnerability, and how the effects of climate change can aggravate this vulnerability.

The initiative’s projects demonstrate that when local authorities work with partners and communities, they can innovate using their own limited resources. For example, stakeholders in four informal settlements in the Amazon delta of northeastern Brazil worked together to develop and pilot a simple and cost-effective rainwater collection system. The system helps families living in ecologically sensitive flood-prone areas (and without infrastructure or services) gain access to clean and safe water from rainfall.  

The Climate Resilient Cities initiative has demonstrated that small and medium-sized cities can be important engines of change and support national governments in achieving their goals. Some of the key lessons drawn from the initiative’s research are:

  • People affected by climate change-driven stressors build self-confidence and become more climate resilient when local autonomy is fostered, individual experiences are validated, and local knowledge is used to inform research.

  • It is critical to embrace new tools and an integrated style of planning involving local, multi-sectoral actors to better evaluate climate risks and understand adaptation options.

  • Small-scale local initiatives aimed at improving urban services, managing climate risks, and promoting development can help local stakeholders thrive and prosper in the face of environmental change as their cities grow.

Learn more about the Climate Resilient Cities initiative