Atlantic Council of the United States, Inc.

Cooler Cities Action Initiative: Reducing extreme heat exposure and impacts

Climate change

This replicable initiative will reduce heat exposure and temperatures among vulnerable urban populations through pooled risk, project capital, applied science, and mobilized and informed communities.

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Lead Organization

Atlantic Council of the United States, Inc.

Washington, D.C., United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Extreme heat is one of the deadliest global hazards, creating an unprecedented public health emergency and profound economic disruptions. The Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center offers a scalable way of protecting and preparing vulnerable populations – including the estimated 1.5 billion people living in slums and poverty – to face extreme heat risks exacerbated by climate change.The “Cooler Cities Action Initiative” features a global team of visionary risk, finance and policy experts, humanitarians, researchers, urban leaders and networks, including the Red Cross, Swiss Re, and a Caribbean-based 12-year old sovereign risk pool. In five cities -- Athens, Chennai, Melbourne, Mexico City, and Paris -- the Initiative will 1) reduce heat risk exposure among vulnerable populations; and 2) lower temperatures. A pipeline of projects will be activated to raise awareness among at-risk communities, implement “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects, and deploy a progressive risk transfer/investment approach to finance evidence-based cooling interventions.

Problem Statement

Extreme heat is driving immense human suffering -- including death -- and economic loss, particularly in cities. In urban areas, where heat island effects occur, localized temperatures can reach 2-7 degrees higher than in adjacent areas. Carbon emissions, poor land-use decisions, unplanned growth, environmental degradation, impervious surfaces, and migration to cities are compounding vulnerability. With 18 of the 19 warmest years occurring since 2001, the increasing intensity and frequency – as well as decreasing predictability – of heat waves are taxing disaster management capabilities.Exposure to heat hazards, ‘a silent killer,’ is particularly high among the estimated 1.5 billion people living in slums worldwide. Tin roofs, poor construction practices, limited ventilation, and inadequate access to electricity contribute to greater death and suffering. Furthermore, these at-risk communities have limited resources and coping mechanisms – such as public education and social cohesion – to reduce their vulnerability to heat.While nearly a third of the world’s population experiences deadly heat for at least 20 days each year, projections indicate that by 2030 nearly three-quarters of the world’s population will experience the same. Implementation of proven, heat-reducing solutions can reverse this trend, decreasing human exposure and lowering temperatures. Through interventions and partnerships, innovative financial tools, and public outreach, we will leverage our expertise and global reach to deliver life-saving and long-term heat reduction measures (e.g. sharing knowledge, activating better heat early warning systems, greening and whitewashing rooftops, expanding urban forests, deploying mobile relief centers, building with porous bricks).

Solution Overview

The Initiative will expand and adapt an existing approach to reducing and transferring climate-related risks (the current Caribbean-based sovereign risk pool) to accelerate heat-related decision making, action, and investment at the community level.The adapted risk pool will encourage investment in longer-term activities by providing 0 percent loans (from membership fees paid by cities and eventually also from other sources such as philanthropy or global development funds) for heat reducing strategies such as reflective roof treatments and urban forestry. The quickly adapted risk pool will allow an unlimited number of cities and other government entities to join, making possible the rapid expansion and scaling of the heat reduction achievements of cities and other public actors.The Initiative will also inform communities with actionable guidance suggesting measurable low- and no-cost heat risk reduction interventions, such as community-based early warning systems. Greater knowledge around how to combat extreme heat will lead to new capabilities and prospects for vulnerable populations. Resulting economic opportunities, social inclusion, and positive behavioral and health impacts will especially benefit those living in slums, informal settlements, and poverty. Monitoring of the Initiative's progress will include indicators such as: third-party documented temperature reduction in dwellings, the number of at-risk communities reached, the number of participants pooling risk and buying insurance, investments made in heat-reducing measures, types of heat-reducing interventions, and shifts in public awareness levels, and no-cost actions taken to reduce risk.

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