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GCCA highlights Urban Heat Island mitigation efforts around the world

Executive Director says cities taking effective proactive measures through policies, targets and innovations; advocates knowledge exchange

| | Sep 26, 2018 | 10:30 am
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Washington D.C., USA, 25 September 2018: Countries around the world are showcasing greater awareness of the effects of Urban Heat Island (UHI). Kurt Shickman, Executive Director, Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA), confirmed that a number of cities are taking more effective measures to mitigate UHI and that their efforts have led to a number of noteworthy innovations.

As an example, Shickman pointed to the cities of Melbourne, in Australia, and Los Angeles, in the United States, both of which have set cooling targets for the difference between urban and rural temperatures to come down by 2025. “LA’s target is 1.7 degrees F (0.94 degrees C) by 2025, and Melbourne is four degrees C by 2040,” he said, “giving them a goal for urban heat island mitigation.” Shickman said that Seoul, South Korea, is also very active, through their programmme ‘One Thousand Forests’ which aims to plant 1,000 urban forests and 1,000 urban gardens. Shickman said they have nearly achieved the forest goal, being 25 forests away from doing so, and added that the city is “going all the way for green infrastructure”.

Shickman said a number of research projects are being done to tackle one of the biggest challenges cities face in addressing UHI – measuring progress. “It’s hard to measure progress,” he said, “for one thing, temperature is constantly changing and many other variables change year after year, so it’s hard to establish a baseline.” To address this, Shickman said there have been a number of ongoing programmes in Paris, Athens and Barcelona. He highlighted the technology platform developed by the National Observatory of Athens that records surface temperatures. “They use satellite feed through a geostationary satellite over southern Europe and gather surface temperature data,” he explained. “This is fine but it doesn’t tell you where you have health vulnerabilities, just where surfaces are hot. The innovation is that they are able to develop an algorithm, validated through peer review, to get from surface to air temperature, which is harder to get. That provides good opportunities to understand and to see how heat characteristics [impact society].”

Shickman said this has been made into an app called Extrema, active in Paris and Athens, that allows people to alert loved ones if they are approaching areas with dangerously high temperatures and directs them to the nearest cooling centres. The app, he said, also allows them to call relatives who reside in such areas, to provide greater awareness of heat challenges in real time.

Dubai, Shickman said, has also done a lot on UHI mitigation. “They have a pretty advanced monitoring system to determine temperatures, and changes in temperature, after certain interventions,” he said. “They are also doing a lot more physical on-the-ground monitoring.”

Schickman said that the progress GCCA has observed is not only confined to big cities, a lot is also happening in the developing world. “We are seeing big innovation from Durban to Dar es Salaam to Sao Paolo,” he said. “[They] are starting to refocus efforts on understanding where there is heat, where there are vulnerable people and map to target intervention and policy. All these cities have limited resources; in most cases that is an even more difficult situation.”

For all the cities, Shickman said, there is growing awareness that mapping heat and heat vulnerability allows decision makers to identify where they need to focus resources in time for maximum benefit. “Our work in the long-term is changing cities so they are more resilient to heat, but we also want to be responding better to heat emergencies, which can be deadly. We want to start to treat it with a level of importance.”

The GCCA’s strategy in this regard, Shickman said, is to facilitate knowledge exchange between decision makers around the world. “Cities want to do something and they may run into a particular challenge in implementation,” he said. “We try to create a group of cities and connect them to each other. New York, Paris and Barcelona can have a detailed account on what works and doesn’t work on heat monitoring. In Durban and Dar es Salaam, what they would do differently in their cities to drive positive change, locally. Most of the time, they talk about how it got done, what worked and what didn’t work. That’s one of the things we were able to cultivate in cities large and small, having this same conversation working towards the goal.” Shickman said such a knowledge exchange will help provide answers to real-world questions.


Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at hannah@cpi-industry.com

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