UN chief heat officer says warming cities pose potential to be major killers

Heat wave hits Rome as temperatures expected to rise further

(Reuters) - The United Nations' first global chief heat officer called on Wednesday for political leaders to make firm commitments at November's COP28 climate meeting to stem rapidly rising temperatures in cities, particularly in poorer countries.

Eleni Myrivili, tasked with trying to ease the impact of hotter summers that threaten the health and livelihoods of billions of urban residents around the world, said finding the finance for nature-based solutions and adaptation plans for cities was a major roadblock to progress.

"This was a really bad summer for heat, for people and for ecosystems and for agriculture and for economies," Myrivili said in an interview at the Reuters IMPACT conference in London. "In July, we had these crazy heat domes in almost all of the Northern Hemisphere."

"It really felt like something was different, it felt like a turning point," Myrivili, the former chief heat officer for Athens, said.

"I'm really hoping this COP is going to be more of a decisive COP in turning away from generalities ... and really moving fast forward with stopping greenhouse gas emissions and stopping deforestation and figuring out how to create a much sustainable agriculture and sustainable animal husbandry."

Myrivili and national chief heat officers around the world are focused on measures like bringing nature into cities and employing mitigation techniques such as the white reflecting asphalt introduced in Phoenix, Arizona.

She is, however, most concerned about cities in poorer countries that do not have the capacity, the architectural expertise or the funds to make significant changes.

"That's the really scary thing," she said. "That's the thing I'm really worried about. There are a lot of countries that have a lot of informal housing, a lot of informal labour and a lot of poverty, and that's where heat becomes the real killer."

To view the live broadcast of the Road to COP Stage go to the Reuters IMPACT news page:

(Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Alison Williams)