Rio Rising: The city announces the creation of a permanent Office of Sustainability and Resilience

Across the globe, we are seeing cities institutionalize resilience, integrating it into their policies and practices at all levels. Now, one of the biggest and most dynamic cities in the world is helping expand and entrench this global practice of urban resilience. Today, in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and 100RC are announcing the creation of a permanent Office of Sustainability and Resilience within Rio’s city government.

Rio is one of nearly a dozen 100RC cities that have taken this important step of formalizing resilience. The institutionalization of resilience by our cities has also taken many other forms, including incorporating it into the budget process, as in New Orleans; engaging with the national government and ministries as in Semarang, Indonesia; and building coalitions with regional governments, as in Melbourne, Australia. Importantly, recognition of the value of institutionalizing resilience is spreading beyond our network. Cities and states around the world – from the state of Virginia in the United States to the city of Bangoloda in Sri Lanka – are appointing CROs of their own and replicating other 100RC initiatives. Like Rio, each city’s action to integrate resilience into specific plans, policies, and government functions, continues to catalyze a global mainstreaming of urban resilience.

The decree forming the new office, issued by Mayor Paes, gives the next administration a formal pathway to work across city sectors and departments to implement policy. It follows months of work begun with the release of Rio’s Resilience Strategy in May. In creating this permanent part of government, Mayor Paes is transforming Rio Resiliente, led by Chief Resilience Officer Pedro Junqueira and Deputy Chief Resilience Officer Luciana Nery since 2014, into an integral part of how the city operates. The decree states the goal of the new office as “the development of a resilient and low carbon city, through the integration of principles of sustainability and resilience in all aspects of city management, in order to comply with the Municipal Policy for Climate Change, Strategic Plan 2017-2020 and implement Vision Rio 500.”

The new office is mandated with leading and coordinating city agencies to ensure their work meets the goals of resilience and sustainability. This empowers the city to implement the initiatives of the Resilience Strategy across all sectors, from public procurement, waste and water management, transportation and other infrastructural planning, zoning, and even education.

The creation of the new Office builds on the accomplishments of Rio Resiliente, including:

  • A study with the World Bank that demonstrated the possibility of reducing 51% of energy, and 38% of water consumption, in Rio’s 1,550 municipal schools.
  • A pilot project that developed an Urban Community Resilience Indicator, based on interviews with 400 citizens from 2 favelas of Rio, about their individual and community resilience.
  • The Olympic Operational Legacy, a project developed in partnership with a local university. The project’s report, the first of its kind, is due for release on Dec. 13th. It provides an analysis of lessons learned during the Olympics at an operational level, such as planning, first response, and prevention, and offers practical solutions.
  • Several studies on climate change, including heat wave real-time monitoring; rainwater harvesting potential; and a new protocol for storm surges.
  • An analysis of the potential for sensors with LED lights, in partnership with R2, a 100RC platform partner. The next mayor has promised to follow the recommendations of this work.
  • A partnership with NASA for monitoring landslides and rainfall.
  • Promotion of the topics of solar energy and circular economy.
  • The development of Rio+B, an initiative that engages the private sector to increase its socio-environmental impact.

The work of Rio Resiliente has already changed the city’s orientation and commitment to its future. With the creation of the Office of Sustainability and Resilience, the city ensures that the hard work will continue and only make Rio stronger and more dynamic. From our work with Rio and the other cities in our network we have learned about the valuable benefits of institutionalizing this dynamic approach to resilience for a city’s entire ecosystem. Cities that integrate this holistic view of resilience into their plans and policies use their resources more efficiently, and for greater benefit; are more organized and coordinated to implement actions; are better prepared to deal with future challenges, both foreseen and unexpected; and are better able to engage with a serve their citizens in both good times and bad. With the creation of the new Office, Rio is helping drive this important movement toward a global practice of urban resilience.