In an impassioned dialogue with Eleni Myrivili, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme's Global Chief Heat Officer, she delves into the core of her mandate and the fervent efforts she leads to address the critical issue of extreme heat in our cities.

A mandate to elevate: Ground zero for extreme heat events

Myrivili, as the Global Chief Heat Officer, explains her mandate, which revolves around elevating the issue of heat and heat resilience within the UN system, starting from UN-Habitat. She emphasizes the profound impact of extreme heat events on cities, making them ground zero for mortality and morbidity among the residents.

A double role: Advisor and advocate

Within UN-Habitat and the broader UN, Myrivili plays a dual role. As an advisor, she actively integrates the consideration of heat into existing city programmes, such as the public space programme, which strive to enhance the sustainability, equity and accessibility of cities. The goal is to anticipate and address the higher temperatures cities will face in the coming decades.

On the advocacy front, Myrivili is committed to lifting and elevating the issue of extreme heat within the UN family. She fosters collaboration between agencies to streamline policies and financing, creating new financial tools to tackle what she deems the most important public health pandemic we will face.

Eleni emphasized: "I love our city spaces and open urban areas; they are the heartbeats of communities and families. Yet, we stand at the precipice of losing them to the rising heat. It's not just about preserving our cities; it's about preserving the essence of our shared humanity." 

Internal activism: Encouraging collective action

Recognizing the challenge at hand, Myrivili acknowledges the need for internal activism. She aims to inspire organizations and individuals to take more significant steps in the face of this pressing issue, transforming awareness into tangible action.

Early warning systems and technology: Categorizing heat waves for better understanding

Myrivili sheds light on critical initiatives undertaken during her tenure. In response to a mandate from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, Myrivili focuses on establishing early warning systems for all. Notably, she addresses the lack of categorizations for heat waves, emphasizing the importance of creating a framework that enhances understanding and response in times of crisis.

In Eleni Myrivili's impassioned quest to shield our cities from the encroaching heat, she champions the use of cutting-edge technology as a crucial ally. The vision she unfolds embraces innovative solutions such as digital twins, thermo-heat mapping and smart infrastructure to fortify urban resilience.

Digital twins, functioning as virtual replicas of cities, prove invaluable in comprehending and simulating urban conditions. Myrivili sees them as dynamic representations that aid in assessing heat vulnerability, predicting urban heat islands and testing targeted resilience strategies.

Thermo heat mapping, another vital tool in her arsenal, involves the use of advanced sensors and satellite imagery. This technology allows cities to map temperature variations across different neighbourhoods, enabling precise interventions to cool specific areas. It becomes a crucial element in identifying and addressing heat hotspots strategically. Smart infrastructure, seamlessly integrated with cutting-edge technologies, becomes a cornerstone in Myrivili's vision for resilient cities. This includes the implementation of smart materials that reflect sunlight, intelligent urban planning guided by real-time data and the creation of energy-efficient buildings. These components contribute significantly to the development of climate-resilient urban environments.

Furthermore, technology-driven early warning systems stand out as pivotal in saving lives during extreme heat events. Myrivili's initiatives leverage data analytics, meteorological sensors, and artificial intelligence to predict and communicate heat waves, ensuring that vulnerable populations receive timely and critical information to protect themselves.

Guidelines for cities: Navigating heat through nature and design

Another significant effort involves developing guidelines for cities to effectively combat heat. Myrivili advocates for utilizing nature, water, and innovative design concepts, drawing inspiration from past practices that cleverly adapted to specific temperatures without relying on fossil fuels.

A love for cities: Preserving our urban spaces for communities

Amidst her role, Myrivili passionately expresses her love for cities, acknowledging them as spaces for communities and families. She warns of the imminent risk of losing these open city areas and emphasizes the urgency of collective action to preserve these vital communal spaces.

In the realm of heat resilience, Eleni Myrivili emerges as a passionate advocate, determined to secure a sustainable and resilient future for our cities and the people who call them home.