Pathways to Transition, Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes

Leader: Thaddeus Pawlowski
Wednesday, February 20th, 10:00-11:30am

About the Readings

Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report, “Global Warming of 1.5°C,”
International Panel on Climate Change, October 2018

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) presents the relevant, key findings of the IPCC Special Report, “Global Warming of 1.5°C,” based on the assessment of the available scientific, technical and socio-economic literature. The Special Report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C, however, would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

Discussion Summary

As the IPCC report explicitly states, we need to transition all of our systems within an unprecedented amount of time if we want to keep the impacts of global warming below a manageable threshold. The Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes (CRCL) is attempting to be a part of that transition by developing and working on projects with city governments around the world. Every project that goes through the pipeline in a city can be a vector for institutional transformation, showing a pathway to both an adaptive and mitigative future.

The Resilience Accelerator
The Resilience Accelerator is what first launched the CRCL through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The program is a partnership between the CRCL and the 100 Resilient Cities team to bring together different sectors of a city government and create a forward-looking, anticipatory plan for climate change. At the start of the Resilience Accelerator, the CRCL selected 8 of the 27 proposals that they received for high-impact resilience projects. For every project, the CRCL visits the city, develops a research agenda, and organizes workshops to produce a final, collaborative report. While the people engaging in these workshops may leave feeling exhausted and unsure of their own operations, they are also equipped with the vocabulary to talk about resilience in a way that they couldn’t before.

Recent City Projects
The first year of the Accelerator program is entirely dedicated to convening stakeholder groups to define a set of questions or discovery areas. These areas tend to be where they then orient their city goals. One of the themes that CRCL has seen is that cities will have an ecological asset that has become something of an attractor for risk. The progressive actors within the city are often looking to the ecological asset as an opportunity for economic development. In Los Angeles, for example, the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) was interested in pushing forward plans for the Los Angeles River to sponsor a pathway towards a more compact city. The CRCL also thinks a lot about the people with whom they are engaging to co-facilitate ideas and project development. In the case of Miami, the objective of the CRCL was to bring together people from the 93 different municipalities to start one regional conversation about what the city will be in 100 years. Their projects included revamping transportation, elevating a road in Miami Beach, and working on two different coastal parks.

The Need for Place-Based Decision Making
The CRCL carries the philosophy that they are not in a position of making recommendations to a city, but rather creating and enabling an environment for better decisions to be made. By using the tools of urban planning and design, the CRCL aims to mobilize global expertise with local knowledge and experience. It is then the job of the community to reformat the thing that is going to change in terms of what they want to be with that change. While CRCL and 100 Resilient Cities is one vehicle for helping cities make these place-based decisions, we really need institutions all over the world engaging in this kind of work.


  • How do we reconcile the major societal and economic shifts that are suggested by this IPCC report and others like it when the unit of the “project” that we have to work with right now is so incremental?
  • How should the CRCL reconsider its selection process of cities and projects moving forward?
  • How can the CRCL evaluate the impact of the city projects from the Resilience Accelerator two, five, or ten years from now?