/ 28 July 2023

Brics countries collaborate to confront climate crisis

Brics Flags
Brics countries have expressed commitment to collaborate on confronting global warming, with rapid urbanisation in the five member countries raising the urgency to deal with climate disaster risks.

Brics countries have expressed commitment to collaborate on confronting global warming, with rapid urbanisation in the five member countries raising the urgency to deal with climate disaster risks.

Government leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, speaking at the Brics Urbanisation Forum in Durban this week, said it was important for member states to share knowledge, expertise and training opportunities to tackle the climate crisis. 

The forum, held ahead of the next month’s Brics summit in Johannesburg, focused on rapid urbanisation and the development of partnerships to build resilience in cities.

Dhesigen Naidoo, the climate adaptation lead to the South African Presidential Climate Commission, proposed the formation of a Brics climate club.

“They [Brics] are the countries making the highest investment in the transition to renewable energy and they are also among the most vulnerable countries in the world when it comes to climate disasters,” he said.

“The idea should be that we bring together these concepts to create this Brics climate club, creating this bloc that not only has a political strategy of knowing how to negotiate but that develops a track record in infrastructure investment and sustainable development.”

South Africa’s cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister, Thembi Nkadimeng, said small towns bore the brunt of climate change, “placing immense strain on infrastructure, resources and communities”.

“As policymakers and leaders, we bear the responsibility to create an enabling environment that fosters collaboration, coordination, and innovative solutions among governments at all levels, civil society, and the private sector,” she said.

“Our cities must be equipped with reliable and sustainable systems for water supply, sanitation, energy, transportation and communication. By adopting innovative technologies and embracing nature-based solutions, we can enhance the adaptability of our infrastructure, making it more resilient to climate change and other disruptive forces.”

She said in China, the concept of “sponge cities” has been implemented in Shanghai and Wuhan, integrating green infrastructure to absorb and manage stormwater, reducing the risk of flooding. Brazil had focused on favela upgrading programmes in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, improving infrastructure and social services in informal settlements to enhance resilience.

“Russia has embraced green building practices, while also implementing measures to mitigate urban heat islands in cities like Moscow and St Petersburg,” Nkadimeng said.

India had prioritised climate-resilient housing and urban greening initiatives in various cities while South Africa had been upgrading informal settlements and integrating renewable energy sources in its urban development plans.

Nkadimeng said countries should use data to inform targeted investments in resilient infrastructure, early warning systems and capacity-building programmes.

South African Local Government Association president Bheke Stofile said the estimated level of urbanisation among Brics countries ranged from high urbanisation rates in Brazil at 90.6% and Russia with 73.8%, while China and India were at 56% and 31.2% respectively and South Africa was somewhere in the middle with 62%.

He said local governments were facing the negative effects of extreme climate events such as severe droughts and heavy rainfall, placing services and infrastructure under threat.

“Climate related challenges on infrastructure and economic sectors, in turn, strain public budgets and reduce the attractiveness for private investors. If not addressed, climate-related risks could jeopardise the country’s economic growth and financial stability, while disproportionately affecting the poor and vulnerable groups,” he said.

Russia’s first deputy minister of construction and housing, Alexander Lomakin, said 75% of the country’s population lived in cities and the country had built 103 million square metres of housing in 2022 and was seeking investors for long term developments. 

India’s Kuldip Narayan said 400 million people lived in five cities in the country and by 2030 this would rise to 600 million before hitting more than 800 million in 2050.

“Our development policies are based on three principles — sustainable economic growth of cities, improving the quality of life for all urban residents and the promotion of inclusive growth,” he said.

Qin Haixiang said China was in the late stage of rapid urbanisation and had entered a phase of urban renewal.

“For the past 40 years China has experienced the largest and fastest urbanisation process in the history of the world. By the end 2022 urbanisation was at 65.22% of our [population] and 920 million people live in cities and towns,” he noted.

“We will carry out urban renewable projects to build livable, resilient and smart cities … We will improve urban ecosystems, restore mountain ecosystems and water bodies and through digital means we will in real time monitor urban structures, water supply, gas, heating, bridge, and utility tunnels.”

Brazilian minister Guilherme Simões said the climate crisis was an emergency.

“We are seeking not only mitigating measures but adaptation,” he said.