Global Commission on Adaptation brings together broad coalition of universities, cities and community organizations to help cities build resilience to climate change

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 10, 2020) — A global consortium of universities, cities, community organizations and World Resources Institute launched an initiative to build cities’ capacities to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The consortium, a Global Commission on Adaptation initiative, will partner with an initial cohort of 15 universities from 18 time zones to implement urban resilience projects in cities.

Focusing on youth leadership, the approach builds on the four-year old Urban Resilience pedagogical program, led by The University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business and delivered by faculty from the Collaborative for Urban Resilience and Effectiveness (CURE) and the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), in collaboration with the Global Resilient Cities Network (formerly the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Initiative). 

The consortium partners include CURE, GNAM, Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN), International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC), Slum Dwellers International (SDI), and World Resources Institute (WRI).

Through the initiative, students from CURE and GNAM member universities will learn about urban resilience through a curriculum focused on informal settlements, the urban poor and other marginalized communities. In global virtual teams, students will initiate field research and community-led urban resilience projects that address a real-life problem posed by a city government or community organization.

Cities are home to more than half the world’s population and already face severe climate change impacts — heatwaves, droughts, monsoons, floods — while also reeling from COVID-19 impacts. By midcentury, rising seas and greater storm surges could force hundreds of millions of people from homes and cost coastal urban areas more than $1 trillion a year. To adapt to these threats, communities must be better equipped with an understanding of and ability to use climate science, understand what adaptation solutions work and why, and have access to a deep talent pool of resilience practitioners on climate science, adaptation solutions and localized data.

"As the incoming chairman of the [Slum Dwellers International] Management Committee, I am delighted to continue working with universities to expand the possibilities for affiliates — especially the young people in our informal settlements — to work with international and local students to address the urgent needs of informal settlements in our cities,” said Joseph Muturi, Chair of the Slum/Shack Dwellers International Management Committee and community leader from Kenya’s Muungano wa Wanavijiji.

The 2020 course is titled, “Cities in a Post-COVID-19 World: From Crisis & Recovery to Reinvention & Resilience,” and aims to help students develop a broader understanding of how cities can solve pressing and commonly shared climate resilience challenges in the context of COVID-19 response and recovery. Each global virtual team will be made up of 4–6 students in business, environmental management, and journalism disciplines at universities across Asia, the Americas, Africa and Europe.

The 10 projects selected for the Fall 2020 semester, which aim to advance resilience of marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by climate shocks and stresses and COVID-19, will be led by these virtual teams and include:

  1. Developing a sustainable business model, financing mechanism and partnership ecosystem for clean and safe cooking solutions in the Kenyan informal settlement of Mukuru to address related health, heat and fire risks.
  2. Identifying affordable, safe, climate-resilient and easy-to-use building technologies and approaches to finance housing development to address the soaring demand for affordable housing in Africa.
  3. Exploring equitable financing solutions that increase access to long-term, consistent funding for traditionally excluded communities addressing environmental degradation stemming from urban and agricultural development and climate change impacts at the Willamette River Basin in Oregon, United States.
  4. Conducting a cost-comparison of centralized versus decentralized approaches for providing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services to the urban poor living in informal settlements, exploring various governance model alternatives, and looking for case studies of business models and innovative technologies and systems.
  5. Building a financial model that allows the government to ensure sufficient resources are allocated to address soil degradation and the elimination of natural sources of water purification and infiltration, stemming from the expansion of the city of Mérida, Mexico. The project aims to mitigate flooding risk and heat island impacts by supporting nature-based solutions.
  6. Creating an evidence-based assessment of what drives citizen tree-planting actions, as well as other urban-resilience strategies that could combat climate change impacts in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  7. Developing recommendations to address the vulnerabilities of the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh, as well as analyzing how sanitation and water services affect the quality of life and migration choices of the urban poor.
  8. Uncovering critical stakeholders for governing urban water and sanitation infrastructure systems and providing options and strategies to build climate-resilient informal settlements in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  9. Proposing actions for civil society and government to implement a circular economy, explaining how citizen involvement and participation influence the development and implementation of a circular economy agenda and analyzing how COVID-19 changes consumption and waste generation patterns in the city of Colima, Mexico.
  10. Developing a plan to establish how community groups can identify risks, work toward risk reduction, increase community resilience at the local level and promote humanitarian response at a neighbourhood level, in the multi-hazard context of Mexico City.

This initiative is a core part of the Global Commission on Adaptation’s Resilient Cities Action Track. One pillar of the Action Track is building cities’ long-term capacities and knowledge base on climate resilience.

“Strengthening local knowledge and localized data is crucial to making cities and communities resilient to climate change. This program aims at building long-term partnerships between communities, cities, universities and international partners and, as such, can form the basis for strong local centers of excellence for climate adaptation,” said Rogier van den Berg, Director of Urban Development, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

Universities are uniquely positioned to mobilize talent, increase knowledge and experience across disciplines and countries, and disseminate best practices on urban resilience. By collaborating with city governments and community organizations, universities can drive inclusive and resilient urban development.

Building resilience to climate change can also address underlying inequities that vulnerable communities in cities face, which COVID-19 has exacerbated. More than 1 billion people live in slums or informal settlements with little to no access to basic services. Improving essential services in cities — housing, water, sanitation, drainage — can improve people’s health, increase workers’ productivity and build resilience.

“The Collaborative for Urban Resilience and Effectiveness (CURE) is conceptualized as a global collaborative to mobilize talent, knowledge and experience across disciplines, colleges and universities, community organizations, cities and corporations to drive inclusive urban prosperity, innovation and development. We are excited to be part of this important initiative in which cross-continental, cross-disciplinary, and cross-institutional researchers and students work on complex issues at the nexus of the natural, built and human environments and help bridge the deep-rooted and increasingly-widening environmental, social and economic divides that characterize our world today,” said Robert Helsley, Dean of Sauder School of Business and Grosvenor Professor of Cities, Business Economics and Public Policy, The University of British Columbia.

“This initiative empowers a new generation of urban resilience practitioners who are taking on an incredible responsibility of building climate resilience in a world that is dramatically changing. This program brings together the knowledge, resources, and expertise of leading urban practitioners around the world to help this new generation to understand and face the challenges related to climate change that affect the most vulnerable urban communities the most,” said Lauren Sorkin, Executive Director, Global Resilient Cities Network.

“The program to train the next generation of youth leaders on city climate resilience is an excellent initiative in view of increasing concentration of citizens in often unplanned metropolises in the developing world. We believe youth leaders can effectively address the challenge. The Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC), located at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Dhaka, will remain a dedicated partner of this global consortium of universities, think tanks and CSO networks,” said Mizan R. Khan, LUCCC Program Director and ICCAD Deputy Director.


Media inquiries please contact:

Nate Shelter, World Resources Institute, +1 (202) 729-7776, 

About World Resources Institute

World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries, with offices in Africa, Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States. Its more than 1,000 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. More information on WRI can be found at or on Twitter @WorldResources.

About the Global Commission on Adaptation

The Global Commission on Adaptation aims to inspire heads of state, government officials, community leaders, business executives, investors and other international actors to prepare for and respond to the disruptive effects of climate change with urgency, determination and foresight. By accelerating climate adaptation, we can ensure that people benefit from cost-effective options, reduce risks, and come out stronger. Composed of 35 Commissioners and convened by more than 20 countries, the Global Commission on Adaptation brings together leaders from political, business, multilateral and scientific worlds to identify solutions and drive action.

The Commission is led by Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva. It is co-managed by World Resources Institute and Global Center on Adaptation.