Co-authored by Meredith Connolly, NRDC Climate and Energy Attorney
As the world gathers for a final week in Paris to hammer out an international climate pact, groups around the globe are calling for real action to address the threat of global warming. In addition to transitioning to a low-carbon economy fueled by clean energy, the most vulnerable countries also need solutions to help build resilience - enabling people to adapt to a changing climate in a sustainable way. NRDC released a new tool today in Paris to provide concrete measures that help protect the most vulnerable to climate impacts from increasingly deadly heat waves.
Along with Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), Public Health Foundation of India/Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar (IIPH-G), and other partners, NRDC created the "City Resilience Toolkit: Response to Deadly Heat Waves and Preparing for Rising Temperatures" to support widespread adoption of urban heat solutions in cities around the world. After lead India negotiator Ajay Mathur spoke of India's clean energy progress and need for greater resilience measures, NRDC former president Frances Beinecke and CDKN CEO Sam Bickersteth released the toolkit at an NRDC side event in Paris.
This toolkit provides a roadmap and "how-to manual" to develop urban heat preparedness plans and save lives. The materials are based on the city of Ahmedabad's pioneering "heat action plan," India's first early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat, as well as international experiences and best practices. A devastating heat wave hit the city of 7 million people in May 2010, resulting in over 1,300 deaths and serving as a wake up call to the city's leadership. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, together with IIPH-G, NRDC, and other partners, crafted a coordinated heat action plan and early warning system to prevent future catastrophes.
Earlier this year, the heat action plan was put to the test when one of the world's deadliest heat waves descended on India. More than 2,300 people died around the country. In Ahmedabad, with the heat action plan in place for a third year, there were only 7 reported heat-related deaths. Now the heat resilience pilot is scaling in cities across India. Nagpur, Surat and Bhubaneswar are working towards adopting heat action plans to protect their residents from dangerous temperatures. The Indian government also featured the Ahmedabad Heat Action Plan as one of four highlighted climate justice projects in the India COP21 Pavilion.
The Heat Action Plan describes both immediate and longer-term actions to increase preparedness, information-sharing, and response coordination to reduce the health effects of heat on the poorest residents and other vulnerable populations, including the young and elderly. In addition to awareness building and an early warning system to alert residents when extreme heat is forecast, urban planning interventions like rooftop solar panels, cool roofs, green building infrastructure and tree planting reduce the urban heat island effect.
Like India, France is no stranger to deadly heat. Heat waves have already proven to be dangerous and deadly in Europe's major cities, leading to heat stress, heat stroke, and heart attacks. More than 70,000 people died in Europe during the horrific 2003 heat wave, with France experiencing the worst temperatures and suffering 14,802 heat-related deaths. Before this tragedy, heat waves were underestimated and not considered a major hazard to prepare for unlike other natural disasters.
Heat records were shattered in Germany and France this past summer, which will likely be officially deemed the hottest year in recorded history - beating 2014 for the dubious title. Heat waves are becoming even more frequent and severe due to climate change. Temperatures around the globe are reaching levels that make it difficult for the human body to cope, including in India. In light of the growing threat of extreme heat, this resilience toolkit offers concrete steps to help cities fight back and protect their most vulnerable citizens.
City Resilience Toolkit: Response to Deadly Heat Waves and Preparing for Rising Temperatures is available at http://www.nrdc.org/international/india/extreme-heat-preparedness/files/ahmedabad-resilience-toolkit.pdf
Ahmedabad's Heat Action Plan and other resources are available at http://www.nrdc.org/international/india/extreme-heat-preparedness/