16 November 2022
UN launches challenge for cities to harness the power of nature for cooling

  • Cities are warming twice as fast as the global average
  • The Nature for Cool Cities Challenge seeks to enhance the number of nature-based cooling solutions within built-up city surface area
  • UNEP will work with Cool Coalition members to collect pledges, donor contributions, and catalyse action to harness the cooling power of nature towards COP28


Sharm El-Sheikh, 16 November 2022 – The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced a new initiative today at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference(COP 27) – the Nature for Cool Cities Challenge, which incentivizes cities to use the cooling power of nature.

The Nature for Cool Cities Challenge is a joint effort under the framework of the UNEP-led Cool Coalition. SEforALL, WWF, Mission Innovation, RMI, WRI, the University of Oxford, Durham University and other Cool Coalition members joined forces to set up this challenge.

By 2100, cities around the world could warm by 4°C on average, exposing the growing urban population to conditions that will damage human health, productivity, and quality of life. Cities are on the frontlines, dealing daily with the impacts of climate change.

Solutions exist to cool our cities sustainably: cities can turn to nature to reduce local temperatures and increase the resilience of their citizens. Nature-based solutions such as forests, green belts and parks in and around cities can deliver cooling services, without damaging emissions.

The cooling benefits of such solutions are well-documented, but they need to be better understood and leveraged to increase implementation and bring about change at a global level.

“We have come to COP27 at a time of global crisis, but these crises are a reason to increase our climate ambition, not reduce it. The Challenge’s goal – scaling up nature-based solutions to tackle climate change impacts in cities – is an important one” said WWF Global Lead for Climate and Energy, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal. “Cities play a key role in avoiding the most severe impacts of global warming and it is important that we champion ambitious and sustainable efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

Municipalities, groups of municipalities, or regional governments will pledge to increase the number of high-quality nature-based cooling solutions by 2030, with demonstrable progress by 2025. They will have to agree on a quantitative and funding target for local spending, and at least three implementation actions to back their pledges.

“In a warming world, cities have a critical role to play in achieving SDG 7, delivering sustainable cooling, and meeting the climate crisis. We urge them to embrace nature as a tool to cool their cities and pledge to scale up nature-based solutions by joining this challenge,” said Sherry Kennedy, Director of Communications at SEforALL. “The Nature for Cool Cities Challenge will help us demonstrate the power of urban nature to adapt to the effects of extreme heat, avoid emissions, and reduce energy demand.”

In an effort to harness the power of nature for cooling in the Global South, the Cool Coalition partners convening the challenge will provide incubation support for a cohort of cities in low and lower-middle income countries that require assistance in defining their ambition.

For the award winners, matching finance for implementation of their pledges will be provided, based on the value of investment committed, tiered by the income level of the country, alongside technical assistance, support for the development of partnerships and matchmaking.

“To make peace with nature, we need to rebuild our cities with nature in mind,” said Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division. “But truly replicable nature-based solutions require partnership between local governments, the private sector, experts, and practitioners. It is decisive that financial institutions, investors, and businesses step up and help make this vision a reality.”

The Nature for Cool Cities Challenge will demonstrate urban nature-based solutions’ ability to reduce the urban heat island effect, avoid emissions, and lower energy demand.

One year from now, at COP 28, the Cool Coalition will showcase challenge participants, their pledges, and donor contributions that are helping cities deliver on their pledges.

“UNEP stands ready to work with Cool Coalition members to collect pledges, donor contributions, and catalyze action towards COP28” said Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director, Economy Division.

The first pledge was taken at the launch event by the Governor of Homa Bay County in Kenya: Her Excellency Gladys Wanga, announced her participation in the challenge and commitment to integrate naturebased solutions into the county’s affordable housing program.



About the UN Environment Programme
The UN Environment Programme is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

About Sustainable Energy for All
Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) is an international organization that works in partnership with the United Nations and leaders in government, the private sector, financial institutions, civil society, and philanthropies to drive faster action towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7)—access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030—in line with the Paris Agreement on climate.

About WWF
WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 30 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

About the Cool Coalition
The UNEP-led Cool Coalition is a global multi-stakeholder network that connects a wide range of key actors from government, cities, international organizations, businesses, finance, academia, and civil society groups to facilitate knowledge exchange, advocacy and joint action towards a rapid global transition to efficient and climate-friendly cooling. The Cool Coalition – one of the official outcomes and “Transformation Initiatives” put forward by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General for the UN Climate Action Summit – is now working with over 120 partners, including 23 countries.

For more information, please contact:
Keisha Rukikaire, Head of News and Media, UN Environment Programme
Sophie Loran, Communication Officer, Energy & Climate Branch, UN Environment Programme

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