Chennai mainstreams climate action planning through the Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Lab

Chennai, India
  • The Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Labs are a strategic partnership between C40 Cities and Community Jameel to explore tangible frameworks for integrating climate action into urban planning.
  • With the lab, Chennai will create a sustainable, liveable and low-carbon city space which will serve as a proof of concept of the planning.
  • A megacity of probably well over 10 million people (8.9m in 2011), Chennai can reach temperatures of 45° Celsius and faces the threat of severe flooding.

Chennai announced its commitment today to mainstream climate action into its master plan, land use planning policies and regulations through the establishment of the Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Lab, supported by C40 Cities and Community Jameel.

The Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Lab aims to help the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) in revising its master planning documents by better integrating climate objectives and adapting to climate risks.

CMDA is currently engaged in a process to develop a third master plan (2026-2046) focused on building climate resilience and improving the adaptive ability of the Chennai metropolitan area.

A climate-responsive master plan

The Tamil Nadu government launched Chennai’s first climate action plan (CAP) on 13 June 2023, making it the second Indian city to have a Paris Agreement-aligned CAP.

The CAP has been designed to serve as a roadmap for the city to become carbon neutral by 2050, setting targets of 1% by 2030, 40% by 2040 (compared to 2018-19) and achieving net zero by 2050. The climate action planning process led to the development of a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, climate risk assessment and mapping, and the identification of strategies and actions for both mitigation and adaptation.

The actions contained within the Chennai CAP clearly demonstrate that an integrated effort by a coalition of departments and institutions will be required. As urban planning is across-cutting discipline, affecting land use decisions, green spaces, transport, housing and more, it is a central function for delivering emissions reductions and increased resilience.

CMDA recognises this and, in alignment with the national and state governments' ambitions on climate action and with the United Nations sustainable development goals, aims to develop a third master plan (2027-2046) that embeds key actions from the Chennai CAP.

The role of the Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Lab in Chennai

The Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Lab recognises the fact that urban planning is a key tool to help cities realise their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, adapt to the impacts of climate change and deliver wider socio-economic and environmental co-benefits.

For the first phase of work, an updated greenhouse gas inventory that covers the Chennai metropolitan area is being produced. This will be accompanied by a comprehensive urban planning and climate action integration baseline assessment report, vulnerability mapping and identification of priority policy actions for the third master plan.

Cléa Daridan, senior curator and culture lead at Community Jameel, said: “Community Jameel is proud to support this pioneering and innovative approach to mainstream climate action at the municipal level alongside C40. The Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Labs will support cities to accelerate sustainable, equitable and resilient urban planning policies serving as a driving force for ambitious and deliverable climate action.”

Shruti Narayan, C40 managing director of regions and mayoral engagement and regional director of South and West Asia, said: “Through its political will and leadership, Chennai has led the way by showcasing how decisions in urban planning have significant influence over a city's trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions and its vulnerability to climate risks and integrated planning can mitigate these risks through mainstreaming. This is particularly of importance to the global south, home to cities with the highest climate risk in the world.”

Alongside C40, Community Jameel and the CMDA, the lab in Chennai will draw on expertise and support from the World Bank and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).

A global network of embedded climate action labs

The Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Lab in Chennai is part of a network of climate labs launched as a partnership between Community Jameel, C40, and J-PAL, which aim to embed and strengthen policy teams in national, state and city government to drive evidence-based and innovative approaches to tackling the effects of the climate crisis.

In addition to the Chennai lab, a Jameel C40 Urban Planning Climate Lab will launch in Amman, Jordan, along with J-PAL-supported climate labs in Egypt, India and South Africa, which will collectively serve nearly 260 million people.

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