Recife becomes first Brazilian city to declare climate emergency

Recife is the first Brazilian city to adopt a decree declaring a Global Climate Emergency. The declaration was signed by Mayor Geraldo Julio and announced at the Brazilian Conference on Climate Change, 6-8 November.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Recife is the 16th most vulnerable city to climate change in the world. Through this declaration, it has now joined an international movement of 1000+ jurisdictions that have declared climate emergencies.

The statement sets guidelines for public policy that responds to climate emergencies to ensure that vulnerable communities as well as historic communities disproportionately impacted by environmental injustice are prioritized.

“The signing of the decree by Recife is very important to generate engagement and alignment of goals. I invite everyone who is associated with ICLEI to follow this same path and thus be part of this struggle that belongs to the whole of humanity”, said Mayor Geraldo Júlio, who also serves as President of ICLEI South America’s Regional Executive Committee.

During the Mayors for Climate panel, the mayors of Fortaleza, Maceió and São Leopoldo signed a letter of intent to declare the climate emergency in their municipalities as well. “We have made a necessary commitment to be worked on over the next few years but the first step has been taken and this has significance. It will now be the responsibility of the municipal management to take action towards this objective”, stated Rui Palmeira, Mayor of Maceió.

Recife has been working on the climate agenda since 2012, when it was selected to participate in the Urban-LEDs project run by ICLEI and UN Habitat. The development of an effective city monitoring and adaptation policy led to the creation of a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, the Municipal Plan to Fight Climate Change, and the Municipal System of Protected Units.

Recife is now committed to increasing their efforts for a fair transition by neutralizing carbon emissions by 2050. This target will be considered in the revision of the Recife Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Plan, which will become the City Climate Change Response Plan, to be delivered by 2020.

Climate Adaptation Plan

The Conference also included the launch of the Climate Risk and Vulnerability Analysis and Adaptation Strategy of the Municipality of Recife, an important instrument for local sustainable urban planning.

Prepared by the city municipality, in conjunction with the Secretariat of Environment and Sustainability, ICLEI South America, the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the Pelópidas Silveira Institute and Waycarbon, the document aims to assess climate threats Recife is experiencing, such as river flooding, landslides, communicable disease vectors, weather drought, sea level rise and heat waves, and suggests adaptation strategies.

According to the analysis, 45.7 percent of Recife’s coastline is in a high vulnerability zone, meaning that the region will be quickly affected by sea level rise. About 81 percent of urban buildings are less than 30 meters from the shoreline and less than 5 meters above sea level. In addition, the city suffers from insufficient drainage infrastructure, resulting in floods and landslides.

Climate emergency in the curriculum

In addition to being the first Brazilian city to declare a climate emergency, Recife is also a pioneer in making education on sustainability and climate emergency compulsory in municipal public schools. The mayor announced the decision during the conference and said that this new legislation will be in force by 2020.

Geraldo Julio detailed what the initiative will look like: “A study by the University of North Carolina proved that when you put this topic on the curriculum, not only students but parents are also much more engaged. The goal is for students to have contact with this topic every week and to share learning with their parents, friends and family, increasing the movement for the environment.”

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