Eight Things I learned in the Citynet – Kuala Lumpur Regional Training Centre 33rd Emission Reduction and Low Carbon Society Workshop

Eight Things I learned in the Citynet – Kuala Lumpur Regional Training Centre 33rd Emission Reduction and Low Carbon Society Workshop
by: EnP. Ermin Lucino, MPM, AICP, PMP®

If a city is not pedestrian/bicycle-friendly and lacks efficient green public transport; then it is not inclusive, smart and sustainable. Leaders should ensure and prioritize strategies that will promote the walking, biking, and use of public transport and provide adequate facility supporting these activities. As such, the people should also demand these services/facility from their city leaders.

The City of Santa Rosa in the Philippines (https://santarosacity.gov.ph/home/) became a member of CityNet early this year (2019). CityNet is the largest association of urban stakeholders committed to sustainable development in the Asia Pacific region. It has a network of cities has grown to include over 135 cities, NGOs, private companies and research centers focused on addessing to Climate Change, Disaster, the Sustainable Development Goals and rising Infrastructure demands. My city is now part of this big network. (https://citynet-ap.org/)

I am fortunate to be invited to participate in the CityNet – Kuala Lumpur Regional Training Centre Workshop 33rd Emission Reduction and Low Carbon Society last April 21 to 24. The activity is jointly organized by: CityNet, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, International Urban Cooperation (IUC) Asia and Global Covenant of Mayors (GCom). It was well attended by different participants from Asia. The diversity of the participants made the discussion really interesting.

The workshop focused on urban solutions to climate change and its related challenges in cities. The solutions are focused on energy and transport. The training geared towards climate change mitigation and adaptation actions with the goal on emission reduction and building low-carbon society on the city level.

Topics focused on the following:
– Basic Principles and Climate Actions on Greenhouse Gases (GHG) Emission Reduction
– Climate Action Plan in Asia Pacific
– Low Carbon Solution Policies
– Strengthening Infrastructure to Support the Implementation of Low-Carbon Strategies

It is my first time to visit Malaysia. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur International Airport at around 5pm. It is a 4-hour plane ride from Manila. What I noticed immediately was the diversity or the mix of people from different Asian countries, airport staff included. I also noticed the presence of the Train Station in the airport. It means that you have the option to ask someone to fetch you with a car/use a taxi or use the train to get to Kuala Lumpur city which is around 45 minutes away. When I reached my hotel. I noticed that the roads in the city are not really wide. There are many one-way roads. What got my attention is the space they provide for pedestrians. I learned later that they even have an elevated airconditioned pedestrian walkway! They seem to care and provide ample street space for pedestrian.

Now let’s go to Manila. Well, things have been improving. Instead of train, we now have the Point to Point Bus System. So people now have options. The Clark Airport looks promising though, I learned that the train system will be revived and improved from Clark to Manila to South of Luzon (including Santa Rosa!).

The urban planners in the Philippines, especially the young planners are now also advocating adequate public spaces for people. Sadly, there is a project in our city that is being somewhat opposed by the people. It is the conversion of an existing busy street immediately beside a river into a promenade and construction of a new road beside it away from the river. The people seems to prefer road widening than a promenade. Do they object for a safe space for people who wants to walk? This only shows that we still need to engage the people more and early in project planning and implementation.

The workshop is a 4-day activity. The first day is devoted to the appreciation and to experience the KL car free morning. I participated in the second day which is the workshop proper. I missed the experience of the KL car free morning.

There are many good speakers/topics discussed during the workshop. The second day was devoted to the general impacts of climate change, global agenda/targets, strategies for low carbon society, and building the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission inventory. The topic started from a macro perspective and later zoomed in the important role of cities. Each city tried to compute its emission inventory using the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan Template. It is apparent that the issue is not the use of the template but the availability of reliable data from cities. (https://www.covenantofmayors.eu/IMG/xlsx/SECAP_Template.xlsx)

The third day focused on several real-life cases/projects on different (diverse) cities lowering their GHGs, Yokohama city with its high technology solutions and Bharatpur city with its practical and innovative project. The half of the afternoon was directed towards a group workshop. There are four groups: renewable energy, energy efficiency, pedestrianization, and eco-mobility. I joined the eco-mobility group. Below is our output:
KLRTC 1

The fourth day focused on CityNet Infrastructure Cluster meeting. KL presented specific Strategies for Infrastructure as follows: green mobility, smart city, free wifi, low carbon society, solid waste management, and KLRTC as Center for Sustainable Development.

Eight Things I learned from Attending the Workshop:

1. Cities are both the source of problems and the provider of solutions in addressing climate change and its effects. In 2050 almost 70% of world population will be living in cities. Most GHG emission will come from cities. Cities pursuing a low carbon development will definitely affect its GHG emission. The impact of targeting cities in reducing the increase in GHG in the air is both practical and efficient. Low carbon solutions in cities will help countries achieve the 1.5°C commitment.

2. The target safe limit to an increase in global temperature is only 1.5 degrees Celsius. An increase beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit will bring significant negative global effects. Several countries committed to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

3. Data in the form of GHG inventory is important. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. There are different ways to gather data. It is tedious but it is a necessity. Investing in data collection will provide leaders important information in deciding/pursuing relevant and effective strategies and projects.

4. Inadequate data should not hinder cities in implementing low carbon development. The truth is data is not always available. Getting data may also take time. Even with an inadequate data, leaders may still pursue strategies towards low carbon solutions and activities. However, cities should not stop in acquiring relevant data to make effective decisions in the future.

5. Low carbon solutions may or may not involve the use of high-technology modalities. Strategies may include the use of recycled water in cooling or heating a building, use of a software application that provides information for efficient use of public transport, hydropower from dams, etc. These are costly and high technology solutions. However, cities can still opt to pursue low-technology solutions like promoting the use of bikes, planting trees and application of local policies regulating GHG emissions in their localities. There is no reason for cities from both developed and developing countries not to pursue low carbon solutions.

6. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, eco-mobility, and pedestrianization are some of the strategies cities may implement towards a low carbon society.

Energy efficiency means using less energy in the conduct of regular activities. These may mean changing light bulbs, use of aircon timer, use of appliances with inverters, etc. Renewable energy is the use of an energy resource that is replaced rapidly by a natural process such as power generated from the sun or from the wind. Ecomobility is a means of promoting walking, cycling, public trans­port, wheeling (using any man powered vehicle with wheels) in an integrated fashion such that a synergy is developed (https://ecomobility.org/about/)

Pedestrianization means prioritizing spaces to pedestrians only as compared to motor vehicles. This has helped build a sense of community within a small area and provided an alternative safe option of travelling short distances without using an automobile.

7. Support of stakeholders (ownership) is non-negotiable to ensure success and sustainability. There are cases when exclusive bikelane facilities were provided but there is a low bike usage or there is adequate public transport provisions but people still prefer using their own cars when travelling around the city. Some strategies to promote ownership of projects include early involvement of stakeholders in planning, continuous partnership during project implementation, monitoring, and evaluation, enactment of local policies supporting the project, etc.

8. Cities should support and learn from each other. There are cities employing advance activities and there are cities that only started initiating low carbon solutions. Cities should collaborate with each other. Cities should learn from the experience of advance cities and the practical solutions being observed by new cities. Collaboration. It is true that each city has a different context and culture but the objective of controlling GHG emission and trying to save our planet cut across the issue of contexts and cultures.

The City of Santa Rosa has both ambitious and practical projects that aim in lowering the GHG emission in the city. Some of these projects are the construction of the Santa Rosa People’s Eco-tourism park, the promotion and facility for bikelanes and pedestrian spaces and the aggressive setting up of solar streetlamps in the city, among others. There is inadequate public green park facilities in the city. People go to malls during weekends to spend time with their families. The Santa Rosa People’s Eco-tourism park is a 15-hectare plan/project along the Laguna Lake. It will provide the city with the needed public green space that will bring social, economic, and environmental benefits to its constituents. The city is also in the stage of finalizing the Santa Rosa Bikelane and Pedestrian Conceptual Plan. The plan will guide the city in promoting ecomobility and pedestrianization in the years to come. Lastly, the aggressive establishment of solar streetlights not only illuminated the whole city but also promoted renewable use of energy, social, economic, and gender and development concerns.

As a City Planner, I took note of the things we can improve in our city as a result of this workshop. First is the continuous effort in gathering data. This may include activities such as active capacity building in data collection. Second is to promote awareness with regards to the importance of the 1.5°C Global temperature increase limit and how cities can contribute. Activities should gear on educating and promoting general awareness of government officers and constituents on the importance of aspiring for low carbon society, learn strategies that promotes low carbon activities and commit to the goal of lowering GHG emission. Lastly, our city should collaborate more and learn from other advance Asian cities. I hope that we can partner with Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Metropolitan Government of Seoul in South Korea in learning their experience and success in promoting ecomobility and pedestrianization.

I also hope that more cities would join CityNet. This is my first time to attend a CityNet activity. I learned so much and I know that my city would benefit from the knowledge I gained from participating in the activity. I can’t wait for the next activity and future collaboration with other Asian cities.
Certificate of Attendance (Kuala Lumpur Malaysia)

Resilient Cities 2018, Bonn, Germany

Personal Reflection on Resilient Cities 2018 – 9th Global Forum on Urban Resilience & Adaptation held in Bonn, Germany, 26-28 April 2018

Personal Reflection on Resilient Cities 2018 – 9th Global Forum on Urban Resilience & Adaptation held in Bonn, Germany, 26-28 April 2018

Attending the Resilient Cities 2018 9th Global Forum was both an eye-opener and rewarding experience as I was able to gather so many useful information that I could bring back home.

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The first few hours of the first day of the forum was quite intimidating. I met people around the world who are really game-changers with regards to global climate change and disaster management advocacy. Global organizations are really trying to control the 1.5 – 2 degrees increase in global temperature. I realized that these people/agencies who are mostly from developed countries are dead serious in helping our global environment and that I am fortunate that they are here to lead since the effects of climate change is mostly directed in my country, the Philippines.

This is also the first time I’ve heard about the Talanoa Dialogue. It was a participative process involving global stakeholders on getting consensus on what is the current situation, what is our collective goal, and identify strategies on attaining the goal.

I was impressed on how Mayor Ashok Sridharan of Bonn is leading his city and other cities in advocating sustainable cities (SDG 11) and climate change actions. I was awed by the speech of Ms. Patricia Espinosa’s call for action. All of the speakers in the opening program were impressive. The general message that I got from the plenary is that: 1. We have to know the current situation and understand the do-nothing scenario, 2. We need to act now if we want to effect change, and 3. We need to work together.

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I started to feel I belong to this forum during theme session A. I connected with the presenters who are similar to me are doing their best to institute positive changes in their cities. I attended A2 Brokering new partnerships and stimulating private sector engagement for resilience. All the presenters were great with their presentations.

The topic Jersey City: 6 Key Resiliency Planning Documents piqued my utmost interest. As a city and urban planner, one of my responsibilities is to facilitate land use planning and supervise implementation of the zoning code. I have been to Jersey City and I admire their innovative zoning strategies. These are the things I only read in books and they are implementing it. I asked a question during the session on how the local council accepted the plan. The idea is to give up immediate economic benefits of the city for the long-term environment benefits.

I just had our city land use plan and zoning code approved. We mainstreamed climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management mitigation in the 9-year plan. Our plan is quite far from the advance strategies in the New Jersey plan. Knowing these strategies can be implemented in other areas made me feel confident that when it is time for us to update our plan, we can institute similar strategies given our local context.

I attended B4 Achieving social cohesion through inclusive resilience-building in theme session B. The topics and presenters again were all great. Aside from my co-Filipino presenter Marie Angelique Go’s presentation Build back better Zamboanga, my interest zoomed in to the presentation of Gerardo Berthin and Simon Griffiths.

Gerardo Berthin’s presentation is Four ways to support local service delivery in expanding urban environments. He discussed the importance of (1) conducting policy dialogue (2) developing local capacity (3) engaging citizen engagement and (4) promoting accountability and transparency. As a city planner, I engage with these activities on a regular basis. One of my responsibilities is serving as the local development council secretariat. The local development council develops and approve long-term and annual plan of the city for approval of the local council. This seems like a review of my subjects in post graduate studies applied in the real world.

Simon Griffiths’ presentation is Urban resilience bridging humanitarian support and urban development in Somalia. He discussed about local social power dynamics and political situation. These are the realities we faced with daily in the local setting. As a change agent (city planner), I need to develop trust from stakeholders, acquire their collective interest, handle/moderate selfish interests, etc. Simon offered practical advise and situations in the Somalia context.

On the second day, I attended the special sub-plenary session (SP2) Driving transformative climate change adaptation in cities through nature-based solutions. The format of the activity is different and interesting. The first part was an interview with three organizations involved in national and local project implementation. The second part was presentations on why nature-based solutions are key to resilience. The third part was a panel discussion of experts in the field. The last part was the take of the three implementing agencies on the nature-based solutions in their practice.

The main reason I was invited to this forum was to present the city project Eco-Tourism People’s Park (stronger collaboration and resilience for all). I learned from this session that the project may also be considered as a nature-based solution. I need to learn more about the principles of this strategy. I approached Christos Fragakis of the European Commission’s Deputy Head Unit of its Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and told him about our project. He was gracious enough to offer his help and has promised to look into our project details.

I was also invited to be one of the panelists in the session (D5) Bringing the insurance industry and cities together. The facilitator was Butch Bacani, UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative, a fellow Filipino. I told him I am not comfortable about the topic because insurance is not yet mainstreamed or prioritized in the Philippines. He told me that it’s not a problem because people should also hear that there are cities / areas in the world where insurance is not yet wholly accepted. During the discussion, I talked about the insurance acceptance in our city, the reason why it is still low, what the government is doing about it, and opportunities of the insurance industry to fill in the gaps in protecting people and their investments.

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The discussion revolved around the importance of getting data from insurance companies as inputs to evaluating actual effects (quantifying) of disasters and for planning and decision-making activities. The challenge is on how to get the data and how to convince insurance companies to provide the data.

On the third day, I attended the (G5) Preparing for internal climate migration: Introducing Groundswell findings session. Viviane Clement, Climate Change Specialist of the World Bank presented the study clearly. She talked about the findings of the World Bank’s newest flagship report Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration and its implications for inclusive and climate-resilient city. She discussed the pattern of migration among cities, the reason of migration, the challenges of both sending and receiving cities. Ma. Veronica C. Hitosis, Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Programs, and Projects of the League of Cities of the Philippines also explained the pattern of migration and challenges faced by cities amidst disaster in the Philippines. In-migration differs and is context based. It is also important to raise the adaptive capacity and conduct disaster risk management mitigation on areas identified as high risks.

Most of the attendees in the session are urban planners. This was an opportunity for me to share our local issues in relation to in-migration. There are more similarities of the issues we faced even though we practice in different parts of the world.

I was asked to present at theme session (H1) cities in focus: active citizen engagement and participatory urban resilience planning. Here, I presented the city’s eco-tourism people’s park project. During this session, they talked about the importance of partnering with people, developing and using data on participation and approval, and the openness of government to really engage their constituents.

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My presentation began with a brief macro situation of the country leading to the local situation of my city. By using maps, I presented the issues of people living in vulnerable areas, informal settlements, poverty, and inadequate public parks in the city. I then described the project and its sustainable community facets. I discussed the project’s participative approach, how it addresses the identified issues, its challenges and exciting opportunities.

The closing plenary program has the theme measuring progress, enhancing action and anticipating future urban resilience challenges. It was again attended by the mayor of Bonn with his call to collaborative action. Robert Kehew, UN-Habitat, provided the summary of the 3-day forum with the overarching theme of involvement of stakeholders in our goal of attaining sustainable cities. The program’s last topic was presented by Michael Glotz-Richter, Senate Department for Environment, Construction & Transport of Bremen, Germany. Basically, his takeaway message is autonomous driving cars is not the answer to sustainable mobility. Monika Zimmerman, Deputy Secretary General, ICLEI facilitated well the opening and closing program.

The 3-day forum was overwhelming and challenging. Overwhelming because of information overload but instead of getting stressed I still want to attend every session to get something from it. Challenging because the theories l learned are being applied in different world context and makes me think of how l can apply them to my city.

Planning is both science and art. Theory and application. The forum provided most of the theory part. But the practical part is what is happening outside the venue– the daily and quality life of the city’s citizen. I was fortunate to book a hotel located 3-4km from the venue. The hotel booking comes with a complimentary ticket for train/bus ride within the city. Everyday I walk approximately 400m to the train, ride the train (3 stops) and walk again (400m) towards the venue.

Coming from a developing country, there are some things I appreciate that I think people in developing countries take for granted. First is the respect for pedestrian. Having an ample and exclusive space for pedestrian sidewalk clearly shows this respect. Even persons on a wheelchair is safe to use the sidewalk. This encourage people to walk safely and conveniently. Second is the presence of bike lanes. Together with walking, biking promotes non-motorize mode of transportation which is good for the body and for the environment. Third is the presence of ample open spaces (parks) with benches and trees. This promotes outdoor activities and socialization. Lastly is I didn’t have the chance to use my complimentary train/bus ticket because no one is checking it.

The story in my country is different. We prioritize street carriageway than the sidewalks. We do not have bike lanes; we have inadequate parks; and public transport fare is increasing. I know the situation between my country and Bonn, Germany is far different but that doesn’t mean we cannot study or benchmark good practices of the latter.

I am excited to work back in my city. I just had our bike lane consultancy awarded to a third party consultant (this will be the first time that we will study having a bike lane). I am excited to study about nature-based solution incorporated in our eco-tourism people’s park. I am optimistic that I can find a project that our city can partner with the City of Bonn. Perhaps enter into a sister city arrangement so that people in my city (elected leaders) will also understand and support the road to SDG 11. We have good policies in our country like mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management in major plans. Aside from being compliant with our policies, I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the objective of our policies.

I am also inspired to finish my thesis in my Master of Urban and Regional Planning. My thesis is about complete streets concept application in the local context. I encountered the term complete streets when I was reviewing for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam in 2017. Bonn, Germany’s street exemplified the complete street concept.

Thank you, ICLEI World Secretariat and the City of Bonn for sponsoring my trip. I gained friends and colleagues from around the world with the same mindset of trying to literally save our world. I met global heroes and I hope to be one of them.

Thank you again and I hope I’ll be invited to future activities and next year’s Resilient Cities 2019 10th Global Forum.