Bringing Science into Action: Climate Resilient Urban Design in Rio de Janeiro


May, 2024



Climate resilient urban development aims at achieving climate neutrality and adaptation while concurrently improving well-being of people and ecosystems (IPCC WGII, 2022), and demands concerted global collaboration and a strong commitment in promoting opportunities for knowledge exchange between Global North and Global South networks and cities. Accordingly, UP2030 is developing an international transfer pilot in Rio de Janeiro with the aim to amplify the Climate Neutrality and Smart Cities Mission's influence on a global scale while advancing the EU's science diplomacy agenda.  

In the context of UP2030 project, UCCRN as global research network is contributing at this goal by actively collaborating with TU DELFT, City Liaison of Rio de Janeiro pilot, to tailor synergies and built-up opportunities for collaboration with local stakeholders, such as city officials and research institutions.  

With the proposition to create synergies for climate research and action in Rio de Janeiro and Latin America, a series of exchange knowledge activities have been developed between 25th March-7th April 2024.  

They brought together UP2030, Erasmus+ UCCRN_edu and NSF-City-as-Lab projects and several technical offices from the City of Rio de Janeiro, (Relações Internacionais, Escritório de Planejamento, Instituto Municipal Pereira Passos, Estudos Ambientais e das Mudanças Climáticas, Secretaria Municipal de Meio Ambiente da Cidade, Centro de Operações Rio, and Fundação Rio-Águas), including Comitê Rio G20. The series of events is organized as an official side event of the G20 summit that will be held in Rio in November 2024. 

Along the two weeks, a series of round tables, a high-level expert meeting involving all UCCRN Regional Hubs, and an urban design workshop involving students from Pontificia Universidade Católica de Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) have been held by UCCRN Secretariat, European, Latin American and Central American Hubs in collaboration with Fiocruz, Centro Clima, COPPE-UFRJ, PUC-Rio and the City of Rio 

The main cross-fertilization and knowledge exchange sessions coordinated by TU Delft and UCCRN focused on the follow-up of activities in the context of UP2030 have been held on March 25th, outlining the project visions and collecting information from local authorities, on April 1st, exchanging with local community representatives (including the civil society organization NOSSAS), and on April 5th, presenting the results of the two weeks of activities, the potential contribution from Deltares on multi-scale flood risk management and getting a feedback from city stakeholders to prepare for the activities envisaged in 2024 and 2025. 

In the context of the work of UCCRN in supporting climate-resilient governance, planning and design of cities through science and stakeholder engagement, in particular the UCCRN European Hub, is consolidating the Urban Design Climate Workshop (UDCW) toolkit, testing it through a series of research, educational and dissemination initiatives to support the mainstreaming of climate action at city level.   

The urban design workshop activities carried out during the two weeks contributed to triggering a dialogue with the City of Rio de Janeiro about the potential implementation of the UDCW toolkit for the Rio pilot within UP2030.  

The UDCW toolkit is a comprehensive and innovative solution designed to empower urban stakeholders in addressing climate change challenges by integrating advanced GIS and parametric design tools, collaborative mapping and co-design exercises. The study area of São Cristóvão neighborhood, in which UDCW tools have been applied, offered the opportunity to tackle an evidence-based approach in analyzing climate-related risks (heat waves and flood) and suggested multiscale strategies  to address the complex urban challenges: namely consolidation of informal settlements, verticalization of real estate interventions (high rise buildings), socio-spatial segregation, lack of public spaces, car-oriented infrastructures, lack of green areas and public services for education and health.   

Applying these tools in the local context of a Global South city, threaten by the abovementioned critical urban dynamics and environmental justice challenges such as Rio de Janeiro, will enable UP2030 team of experts to produce meaningful and insightful outputs that can significantly contribute to support urban decision-makers, practitioners and communities in shaping climate-resilient urban futures 

The main follow-up opportunities emerged from the workshop and knowledge exchange sessions can be summarized as follows: 

  • Implement capacity building activities and events enabling city stakeholders to introduce in their operational realm advanced solutions for resilient-planning considering more holistically climate-related risks, decarbonization pathways focused on critical urban systems, support ongoing public infrastructure projects and urban policies to enhance aspects related to carbon neutrality, climate adaptation, spatial justice and environmental protection actions.  
  • Knowledge exchange about science-driven and evidence-based planning processes across spatial scales and jurisdictions 
  • Up-grading of local capacity for climate risks assessments (heat waves and floods) through UP2030 Tools bundling (UCCRN+DELTARES) 
  • Consolidation of synergies across projects: UP2030, UCCRN_edu and NSF-City-as-Lab as joint platform for continued climate research and action in Rio de Janeiro and Latin America 
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