As Pope Francis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Barack Obama among other world leaders plan to head to New York City later this month, Climate Week NYC 2015 gets an early kick start with a much needed focus on climate resilience. Key government, academic and civil society leaders are coming together for the "India-US Climate Resilience Partnership: High-Level Knowledge Leadership Exchange Forum on Heat-Health and Climate Preparedness" this week.
NRDC, together with partners, the Public Health Foundation of India-the Indian Institute of Public Health and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have brought together leaders from India and New York City for peer-to-peer engagement on climate resilience. The high-level knowledge exchange forum includes officials from four growing regions in India: Gujarat, Maharashtra, New Delhi, and Odisha, and was supported by the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF). The focus of the discussion is a four-day learning forum to exchange lessons on building community resilience and capacity to cope with the health effects of climate-related extreme weather events, such as heat waves.
Cities are increasingly experiencing the severity and impacts of climate change and have begun working toward stronger preparedness. Just earlier this year, in May 2015, India suffered a devastating heat wave with more than 2,300 people losing their lives. In response to deadly heat waves and rising temperatures, the city of Ahmedabad in western India launched the Heat Action Plan in 2013. This plan was the first early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events in South Asia, and supported by the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). Since then, several leading regions in India are working to expand heat wave preparedness and disaster planning across India.
New York City, similarly, has experienced the health threats of global warming, from record-breaking temperatures to Superstorm Sandy. Leaders in the New York region are also working on climate action and preparing for extreme weather events, including heat waves, in ways that better protect local communities.
The central activities for the week include:
- Discussion on Climate Disaster Response Hosted by New York City Department of Health
- Site-Visit and Tour of New York City Emergency Response Command Center in Brooklyn
- Discussion on Hospital Response Hosted by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
- Peer-to-Peer Exchange with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Discussion on Putting Climate Research into Action Hosted by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
- Site-Visit to NYC Manhattan Police 32nd Police Precinct's Cool Roof
- Historic Bellevue Hospital Site Visit
The delegates from India include the Director-General of the Indian Meteorological Department, Maharashtra State's Principal Secretary of Health, representatives from India's National and State Disaster Management Authorities and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Leading physicians and scientists from the Public Health Foundation of India, the Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar and Indian Institute of Public Health, Bhubaneshwar are also members of the delegation.
Officials from New York are giving a warm welcome to delegates with hosts from the New York Mayor's Office, NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and NYC Emergency Management, as well as leading researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The officials will also be meeting with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to exchange best practices and share the experiences from India and the U.S. in communicating forecasts and early warning systems.
This high-level Knowledge Leadership Exchange Forum on Heat-Health comes at a critical time as the world prepares for an action-packed few months., starting with the Climate Week NYC 2015 next week and looking ahead to national commitments from countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Conference of Parties in Paris this December. While countries debate commitments and pathways to keepthe world's warming under 2 degrees C, it is important to recognize that developing countries are most vulnerable to the short and long term impacts of climate change. Local, on-the-ground climate preparedness actions, like Ahmedabad's Heat Action Plan, are crucial in the global fight against climate change.
A man stops to read a heat illness prevention poster in Gujarati in Ahmedabad, April 2015 Â© Nehmat Kaur, NRDC
More information about the Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan, including the Plan itself and supporting materials, is available here.
For additional recent blogs about this project protecting health against rising temperatures and heat waves in India:
- Blog on the Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan in the context of the May 2015 heat wave: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ajaiswal/as_devastating_heat_wave_bears.html
- Medium article about how other cities can follow Ahmedabad's example: https://medium.com/natural-resources-defense-council/feeling-the-heat-91ad1c6a5cca