The effects of climate change, particularly extreme heat and its impacts, are problems that are often underestimated in African cities. This is why this project aimed at providing relevant and targeted climate information through a digital platform, called u-CLIP is implemented in the City of Niamey, in order to take adequate resilience measures.
Niamey is one of the hottest cities in the world with temperatures that can reach 45-46°C during hot spells. With climate change, this city is likely to face an increase in these temperatures, thus generating episodes of "lethal heat", i.e., exposure to this heat can constitute a risk for human physiology.
Moreover, in urban areas, extreme heat is exacerbated by the urban heat island phenomenon, as cities are hotter than nearby rural areas. In addition, precarious housing, such as that typically found in informal settlements, can lead to increased heat exposure. Added to this is an expected huge growth in the urban population with some demographic projections increasing it fivefold by 2050. This portends risks for a humanitarian disaster, with immense impacts for public health as well as for the urban economy and infrastructure.
In order to address this situation, preventive resilience measures must be taken now, especially in light of the anticipated strong urban growth. In other words, now is the time to seize the opportunity to direct urban growth in a resilient manner in the face of the effects of climate change that are already being felt.
However, this requires access to information and detailed climate data. Indeed, the current lack of data directly undermines the preparedness of cities. While data and information alone will not lead to greater resilience, their deficits make it difficult to take preventive measures against extreme heat.
Model of the u-CLIP platform, showing the access page with selection options (climate scenario, time horizon, selected indicator, etc. ....). The central image shows the urban heat island of Niamey. ©VITO
Therefore, the objective of our project is to develop a digital platform that will provide access to targeted climate information for the City of Niamey. It includes sectoral indicators, takes into account the urban microclimate while offering a real capacity to suggest solutions. Thus the platform will promote in particular "nature-based solutions", which are a set of effective and sustainable adaptation measures, including the mass planting of trees.
Better informed decisions are generally more appropriate and therefore more effective. In this context, Mr. Hassoumi Toudjani, Director of the Environment and Landscaping of the City of Niamey, sees the platform mainly as a decision support tool that will allow better identification of neighborhoods where heat stress is likely to be high. This will allow us to better target these neighborhoods where tree planting should be intensified to reduce the temperature, for example. The fact that the platform is based on scientific calculations gives stakeholders greater confidence in the future climate data it provides.
Mr. Hassoumi Toudjani, Director of the Environment and Landscaping Department of the City of Niamey. ©VITO
Also, the platform should serve to inform the population about extreme heat in the different neighborhoods, and should strengthen the City of Niamey in exchanges with its partners such as NGOs and producer groups. The data from the u-CLIP platform could also be used to better support funding requests to international climate programs, such as the Green Climate Fund or the Adaptation Fund.
During the first year of the project, we have seen that these nature-based solutions are very relevant; indeed, the City of Niamey has already undertaken several initiatives in this direction (tree planting, urban agriculture). However, even if the spatial detail used to present climate information is very high compared to the level of detail in the global climate models used by the GIEC, it is still quite low compared to the capacity to represent the climate impact of isolated green elements (which, however, can be important). Therefore, we have initiated an effort to significantly increase the spatial detail of the climate information, as shown in the figure below.
Contrasting greenery between neighborhoods in Niamey. Although some neighborhoods benefit from abundant vegetation (top figure, showing a neighborhood near the city center), leading to a reduction in extreme heat, other neighborhoods are completely devoid of greenery (bottom figure, with an aerial view of a recent neighborhood west of the center, at 13.55°N, 2.05°E) ©VITO ©Google Earth
In terms of future prospects, the main ambition is to move towards scaling up to cities across the African continent. In addition, we are developing initiatives to extend the platform to other types of impacts than just extreme heat, including floods and drought.