Implementing and Financing Climate Adaptation

Highlights from the 100 Resilient Cities Global Summit

The Urban Resilience Summit 2017

Global issues such as climate change, natural hazards, population growth, aging infrastructure and poverty are compounding in urban spaces, creating complex challenges. With more than half of the global population living in urban spaces and 80 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) coming from cities, creating sustainable solutions to address these challenges is vital. The pressure is on for cities like New York, whose population grew by 4.4 percent between 2010 and 2016, to become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges of the 21st century. 

The good news? Cities and metropolitan regions around the world are acknowledging that local leadership must rethink the capacity, use and functionality of waterfront space. Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Water Index, highlights how cities like Rotterdam and Toronto, that started integrating water management solutions and urban planning decades ago, have managed to turn resiliency threats into economic opportunities. 

This has me wondering, what gets in the way of cities achieving similar outcomes, faster? I recently attended The Urban Resilience Summit 2017, organized by 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (100RC)—where my colleague, Edgar Westerhof, and I collaborated with other 100RC partners to deliver an interactive workshop for Chief Resiliency Officers. The workshop focused on concepts, methods and tools for creating urban climate resiliency and best practices for financing climate change adaptation. 

Three conclusions from our workshop that cities should consider moving forward:

1. Investing in flood protection pays off. Rotterdam’s innovative and proactive approach to water resiliency includes solutions such as multifunctional flood protection, a floating water pavilion and a reservoir catchment system. Investments like these have helped the city, which partly sits seven meters below sea level, be considered one of the best protected places on earth, with a thriving economy and an attractive, functional cityscape. Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide book publisher in the world, recognizes Rotterdam as one of the top global city destinations, which adds another layer to sustaining the local economy. 

2. Multifunctional urban environments grow in popularity and impact. Cities around the world are employing many new and successful types of climate adaptation to their urban environments. Cities like Rotterdam and New York are combining their main water management function (i.e., storage or flood protection) with urban functions such as parking, transport, recreation and tourism, and landscape and ecology. Doing so increases the value of these costly investments that occupy precious urban space, making them more feasible for cities to implement and more attractive.

3. Pro-active interactions between stakeholders moves the needle faster. Resiliency in cities like Vejle, Pittsburgh and Bristol is based on implementing an integrated, multilayered approach with intense interaction between all stakeholders—public and private, as well as community involvement. Because resiliency requires redundancy and combing large-scale and small-scale measures, the alignment of decision makers and community leaders can help accelerate implementation. This is true for cities constructing large infrastructure, like storm surge barriers, or community level solutions, like green infrastructure.

In summary, cities like Rotterdam, with an existing multi-layered defense system, find themselves in relatively fortunate positions. However, cities like Jakarta or Miami face imminent threats through land subsidence, salt water intrusion and significant impacts of sea level rise, or a combination of effects. For these, and many other cities, the challenges of tomorrow cannot be overcome by solutions from the past. More sophisticated strategies are required to move from planning to implementation as soon as possible to turn oppressive and far-reaching climate challenges into opportunities and safeguarding for local communities.

In 2015, Arcadis joined the 100 Resilient Cities initiative—pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation—as a Platform Partner to help cities around the world prepare for, withstand and bounce back from the “shocks” (i.e., catastrophic events like hurricanes, fires and floods) and “stresses” (i.e., slow-moving disasters like water shortages, homelessness and unemployment) of the 21st century. To-date, we have worked with cities, including Pittsburgh, Vejle, Bristol, Norfolk and New Orleans, on improving their flood resiliency, by creating resilient roadmaps—making them more resilient and finding ways to finance climate adaption.

Piet Dircke

Global Leader – Resilience and Water Management +31 (0)43 3523 392 Ask me a question
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