A rally to action for resiliency - how can we create investable solutions?

At Arcadis’ first Resilience Roundtable we discussed what the term ‘resiliency’ means, what a resilient future looks like, and how Bristol and the surrounding region can actively respond to the new challenges it’s facing. To us, resiliency refers to the ‘bounce-back’ ability of a city - how quickly and easily it can respond and adapt to both immediate shocks and longer term chronic stressors outside the control of the city and its authorities.

In order to make resilience projects investable, a new approach is needed - Bristol’s ‘moment of change’ is now

Last week saw the second of our roundtable events. In the context of Bristol City Council’s recently launched Resilience Strategy  we sought to explore:

  • How bankable are the multi-benefit schemes that are needed to improve city resiliency?
  • What’s the social impact and needs of the residents they will affect?
  • How best can we move from strategy to implementation?

Resilience in a city doesn’t happen easily
Our study of 198 European cities found that over 76% were considering acting on current extreme weather, but not on climate change. The study also showed that capacity building is needed at the strategic, developmental and operational levels of cities administration to enable breakthrough projects.  

The biggest challenge to resilience strategy is implementation. An often-cited barrier to implementation is the route to finance – getting the right amount of investment for flood protection projects is difficult. So, how can we make these projects investable? 

A new approach is needed
Making projects more ambitious allows us to achieve more than just concrete walls for flood protection. Solutions should add social, amenity and economic value to a city and improve the quality of life of residents.

When thinking about the bankability of such schemes, the vision of the project needs to be revisited. Once the main aim ‘prevent flooding’ is covered, we need to go back and think about how to design a package that provides real tangible and measurable benefits to the city. We need a resilience Masterplanning approach that attracts investors but also realises multiple benefits.

Breaking down barriers with the outside world and interacting with local people can also help this process – what does the local area need? These conversations need to happen without worrying the public; the narrative needs to change from flood protection to improving communities. This is also true of attracting investors. The narrative should be about adding value through resilience Masterplanning.

We can also learn from our European neighbours when it comes to resiliency. The city of Copenhagen combined the ambition to be more attractive, with flood defences that delivered both protection and green spaces. Similarly, Hamburg’s main harbour needed to be protected from tidal surges. Seizing their ‘moment of change’ the city regenerated the harbour area to create a resilient multi-level, liveable and workable community, allowing the community to exist without impact in times of flood and surge. The project attracted €2billion of investment from the private sector and the city achieved a threefold return on the investment in the multi-faceted harbour regeneration.

Bristol’s ‘moment of change’ is now
The consensus of the group was that, following the release of the Resilience Strategy, Bristol has the opportunity to grasp this moment and lead with new ideas on resiliency, focussing on value adds for the city and its communities, whilst achieving essential climate change adaptation. 

Richard Bonner

City Executive for Bristol Ask me a question