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Published on 03/06/2015

Lima: A Strategy for Adapting to Climate Disruption in the Name of Social Justice

GRET teamed up with the I Care Environnement and Enviroconsult engineering consulting firms to carry out – for the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – a cross-analysis of five case studies of cities which have adopted climate-targeted planning approaches: Nantes (France), Dan Nang (Vietnam), Agadir (Morocco), London (UK) and Lima (Peru). The aim was to better understand the key conditions and factors for successful or failed implementation of these approaches. GRET was tasked with the climate strategy study for the Lima Metropolitan Municipality (LMM), which last year hosted the most recent Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 20). With not long to go before the COP 21 gathering in Paris, here is a little feedback from the assignment…

Peru is one of the countries most exposed and vulnerable to climate change, with an estimated economic loss of 6% of its GNP in 2030 and 20% in 2050. It is responsible for 0.4% of global emissions. The national stakeholders consider the priority to be to adapt to climate change rather than to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Peru adopted its first national climate strategy in 2003, but the vast number of fragmented initiatives could in the long run turn out to be insignificant. The weak status of the Environment Ministry and the continuously diminishing role played by the state, the stop put to planning and the deregulation of the economy since the end of the 1980s due to an ultraliberal development policy are the factors most to blame. Climate is almost nonexistent in the national agenda. Progress and modernity are measured in cubic metres of concrete and asphalt. Those who push for sustainable solutions are discredited in the political arena and treated as “enemies of progress”.

At the foot of the Andes, Lima, the capital, is home to 9 million inhabitants (a third of the total population) and has a subtropical desert climate. The most probable climate change scenarios tend towards warming, less rain and water resources, and an increased number of extreme events. Governance of the conurbation (LMM) is fragmented, due in particular to the central government choosing to weaken the authorities governing the metropolis. Lima stands out due to a very uneven distribution of services, infrastructure and amenities. Twenty percent of the population lives in poverty and has no access to either drinking water or sanitation. The number of vulnerable persons in makeshift housing and in risk areas is put at between 1 million and 1.5 million. These splits make it difficult to devise any public policy and are reflected in the chaotic transport system, the informal trading system, shady land tenure deals, defective waste management, insecurity, etc.

Susana Villarán, the former Minister for Women’s Affairs and Social Development, was elected LMM mayor at the end 2010 for four years with the determination of putting priority on environmental issues by making them an integral part of public policies, reviving planning and consultation in putting together local policies. Her commitment to a climate strategy blends in with her determination – in the name of social justice – to improve living conditions and make urban communities less vulnerable. Lima’s strategy to reduce climate change vulnerability and greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 was voted last December, as the COP 20 gathering was in full swing. It establishes the targets as well as the policy and local public management instruments to set the direction of decision-making and prioritise municipal initiatives and investments. It is supposed to be introduced into all plans, programmes, projects and initiatives decided by the municipal departments and agencies. It is intended for six subject fields: governance, biodiversity and natural resources, urban infrastructure and vital services, risk areas, urban planning and climate risk management, food security and healthcare, and finally emissions reductions. The initiatives undertaken back in 2011 were brought to a stop by the new authoities in place in the first few weeks of this year. The following lessons can be learned from these years 2011-2014:

  • The climate issues and challenges bolster already-existing vulnerabilities, and many of the necessary adaptations refer to already-existing needs and defective local policies. Adaptation is an absolutely essential area of focus of any long-lasting and inclusive economic and social development policy;
  • In a context of fragmented governance and a divided political landscape, consultation and dialogue as well as the joint building of local public policies and their taking-over by all the stakeholders are determining factors for the effectiveness of their implementation and for institutional continuity;
  • The essential information must be produced and circulated to get public initiatives (carbon footprint assessment, water balance, resilient and low-carbon town/city study, environment observatory) moving, give them legitimacy, get people convinced of their good and steer them;
  • Institutional and organisational adaptations, the recruiting of qualified staff convinced of their mission and internal awareness-araising initiatives and training programmes for elected officials and civil servants must be planned for;
  • A systematic integration of climate change into sectoral, urban and territorial planning and policies is necessary, with structural reforms being carried out in these same subject fields so as to guarantee the effectiveness of the climate strategy;
  • The strategy and visibility of flagship and demonstrative initiatives liable to embody the strategy and be convincing (insufficient in Lima’s case) must be operationalised.

GRET’s Renaud Colombier is contributing to the climate workgroup within the Partenariat français pour la ville et les territoires (PFVT – French Town/City and Territories Partnership ) forum, building up France’s position on how climate change will affect towns and cities in preparation for the COP 21 gathering in Paris. He will present his experience at the Climat et Territoires forum in Lyon on 1 and 2 July.