- With urbanization continuing at unprecedented rates exposure to natural elements is increasing and will translate into heavy loss of life and property unless proactive measures are taken.
- To offer an opportunity for practitioners and technical experts to reflect on their experiences in transforming cities towards climate resilient status, the World Bank Institute and partners are organizing a series of knowledge exchanges.
- The first session, Climate Resilient Cities took place on May 26, 2011 and connected Cape Town, Johannesburg, New York, Pretoria, Toronto, and Washington DC. The second Global Dialogue on Adaptation, Food Security and Rural Development is taking place on June 29, 2011.
Watch a Video summary of the recent global dialogue held on May 26, 2011.
June 28, 2011—The frequency and intensity of natural disasters has increased consistently over the past decades. Urban centers are hit hard by these disasters because of their location, many are located in floodplains or coastal zones and concentration of economic activity and people.
With urbanization continuing at unprecedented rates, adding 3 million people every week to towns and cities, exposure to natural elements is increasing and will translate into heavy loss of life and property unless proactive measures are taken.
“Cities across the world are about to be handed a bill of $70-100 billion a year, including costs of adapting to floods, storms, diseases, transport challenges, upgrading infrastructure, and protecting ecosystems,” said Dan Hoornweg, Lead Urban Specialist Cities and Climate Change, Urban Development, World Bank. “80% of these adaptation costs are produced in cities in developing countries so it is crucial that they figure out how to pay the bill, through seeking advice and best available information across the world quickly.”
To offer an opportunity for practitioners and technical experts to reflect on their experiences in transforming cities towards climate resilient status, the World Bank Institute Climate Change and Urban Practices, jointly with the South Africa World Bank country office are organizing a series of knowledge exchanges. These dialogues will lead to the 17th meeting of the Convention of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) to be held in Durban, South Africa.
A series of knowledge exchanges will lead to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) to be held in Durban, South Africa.
The first session, entitled Climate Resilient Cities took place on May 26, 2011 and connected Cape Town, Johannesburg, New York, Pretoria, Toronto, and Washington DC. The second Global Dialogue on Adaptation, Food Security and Rural Development is taking place on June 29, 2011.
Adaptation and Urban Planning
“In Africa adaptation is likely to be a short-form priority. When there is a disaster, politicians are interested in climate change, but when we have sunny skies, they forget about adaptation,” said Debra Roberts, Deputy Head: Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department, South Africa who was one of the voices “from the front line.” “Adaptation does not get ‘standard recipes,’ it is learning by doing.”
“Now most local governments plan forward by looking back but as science improves there are more options for governments to generate local detailed data necessary for planning,” said Debra.
New York is doing ground breaking work around adaptation management. “Three years ago we started doing some modeling and mapping to list climate change scenarios up to 2012 and 2025. For example, what will happen if the temperature rises? Will that lead to the rise in sea level and storm events? If yes, what buildings will be affected and what can we do about it? Will that affect insurance policy?” said Aaron Koch, Policy Advisor for Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning & Sustainability New York City.
Building Resilient Cities
Beyond critical infrastructure, New York has about one million buildings in the city. Some areas already have resilience, such as elevation of buildings to prevent them from flooding. All new infrastructure, new buildings, and equipment are designed in a way that they are protected. Other building will be eventually (within 30 to 50 years) fully rebuilt and renovated to meet the new standards. There is a system through which citizens launch complaints and help find spots that are more vulnerable.
“We put white coating on rooftops to save energy and reduce heating and are planning to plant one million trees in New York by 2012.”
“This dialogue between practitioners at the city level working on adaptation is critically important. Thanks to WBI for creating a dialogue space,” said Aaron Koch.
“New York could provide interesting feedback to Mexico on how to prioritize tasks in such huge metropolitan areas,” said Eric Dickson from the World Bank Latin America and the Caribbean Region.
With 22 million people living in Mexico City and 8.5 million in surrounding areas, 45% of the population could be potentially affected by rainfalls or landslides, given their socio-economic or housing conditions. Mexico is in a basin surrounded by mountains, there is no natural drainage in the city, and infrastructure is dated.
Empowering Citizens and Policymakers
“We need strengthening between institutions and research. Policy makers don’t need raw data but visualization tool that can help them. In turn, it will help understand the most pressing issues and prioritize them accordingly,” said Eric Dickson.
Other issues discussed at the event included importance of enabling households to take action as it comes down to community level where people need to be more resilient. “Key transformative elements for adaptation and mitigation are households and individuals. Changing household mindset and reaching an individual should be our priority,” said Debra Roberts.
“This rich discussion surfaced a lot of issues,” said Federica Ranghieri, Senior Urban Specialist at the World Bank Institute. “There is no map or recipe how to resolve them but WBI can help tackle them as we can bring global experience and global experts together to share information and work across agencies and across borders.”