Cities are on the frontlines of COVID-19, with urban residents facing devastating health and economic impacts. Many city leaders are responding with creative solutions, recognizing that actions in response to the pandemic can also make cities greener and more climate resilient. Addis Ababa, Bogota, Kampala, Berlin and Brussels created new bike lanes to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission and decrease congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In Sierra Leone, Freetown installed rainwater harvesting systems in 68 informal settlements and started an urban farming initiative to increase food security while mitigating flood and heat risks. In Quebec, Amsterdam, Germany and Pakistan, city, provincial and federal governments passed stimulus packages that advance a resilient recovery and green jobs.
While these examples illustrate promising moves toward recovery and resiliency, cities of all sizes are also struggling to maintain essential services during the pandemic, such as access to water and sanitation, healthcare and social safety nets. The urban poor, migrants and low-wage workers are often the most affected and, in addition to lacking essential services, experience overcrowded living conditions, pre-existing chronic health conditions and food shortages. Climate change impacts, such as flooding, storm damages and heatwaves are compounding these problems, which also impact low-income people the most.
Together the compounding impacts of COVID-19 and climate change are shining new light on the deep inequities confronting cities around the world, revealing immense problems and highlighting opportunities for new approaches. This commentary identifies where these issues intersect and offers win-win-win solutions that can simultaneously address the pandemic, climate threats and inequality. These insights will hopefully inform conversations already underway among city leaders, urban planners, civil society groups and ordinary city residents seeking practical responses to an unprecedented set of challenges.
This article was originally published by WRI