Highlights from the Global Best Practice Climate Resilience Roundtable kindly hosted by Circl/ABN AMRO
A startling and insightful roundtable on the 12th November explored the preparedness of our urban environment for climate resilience and adaption. Framed by two presentations, the first by Adam Greenfader, Chair, SE Florida and Caribbean who shared first-hand experiences and challenges from hurricanes across the Caribbean,. The second presentation was provided by Henk Ovink, Dutch special envoy to the United Nations on Water and flood expert who outlined the central role water plays as an indicator as well as a resource that should be managed to ensure climate resilience.
Building Physical, Economic and Social Resilience – Tao Baja and Puerto Rico – Adam Greenfader, Chair, ULI SE Florida and Caribbean
The Caribbean is known for the occurrence of hurricanes but, the intensity and frequency of these storms are increasing, where category 4-5 are becoming the norm. A further challenge is that these storms are reducing in land speed, leading to longer periods of destruction and when combined with increased frequency areas that are affected have limited to no opportunity to recover.
Puerto Rico which was hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017 (category 5) resulted in almost 100% of residents without power, most without water and communications, a staggering 300,000 fatalities and 150,000 people emigrating within 24 months. To further add to the challenge, the US territory has been in recession for over 10 years and almost half of the population live in poverty.
ULI recognised that our members could play an important role
in supporting the recovery of Puerto Rico and delivered an Advisory Service
Panel for the Municipality of Tao Baja.
Some of the challenges facing the country include:
- Half of Puerto Rico’s 1.5million homes are
- Building codes are not adhered to or strictly
- Two storey dwellings are no longer sufficient to
meet large hurricane levels
- Energy storage typically only lasts for 5 days
- Hotels become refuges for both community and
disaster relief personnel as they often have sufficient sanitation, water and
power supply, with occupancy rising to 100%
The US Government has acknowledged the challenge and has
offered a $20billion in funds for the Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery Action
Plan. However, to deliver on this plan will require Puerto Rico to reimagine
how the buildings, streets, infrastructure and natural environment can become climate
resilient. The region is also economically challenged and engagement with
international expertise is therefore essential for the region to truly innovate
and support the shift to a new paradigm of climate resilience.
See links at the end to view Adam’s slides and the Advisory Report Findings.
Are we living in the right places? Henk Ovink,
Water is a primary challenge across the world as recognised
by the UN and many leading countries as a result of increased droughts, floods
and access to clean water have also led to increasing levels of climate
Miami, Florida is at the forefront of a water challenge
where full moon tides make roads impassable due to sea water rising out of the
ground. Discussing this topic with homeowners in Miami is a taboo while Jakarta,
Indonesia has a friendlier relationship with water and accepts that flooding is
part of life and business carries on as ‘usual’.
Should the world be more prepared for climate migration? A
recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) titled ‘Climate
Change and Land’ provides insights into land implications due to a changing
climate and may provide clues for long-term urban investment. In addition, the
report also highlights that over the last 100 years the approach to short-term
investment returns has increased climate vulnerability.
Another IPPC report ‘The Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing
Climate provides further acknowledgement of the growing uncertainty of how far global
climate patterns may change. Increasing sea levels and rising sea temperatures may
dramatically alter global weather patterns, and in particular the Gulf Stream,
which is predicted to slow or even reverse, altering climate conditions across Europe,
North America and the Caribbean.
Changing climate conditions
- By 2050 sea levels may rise by 1 meter – most
global cities are located in areas that will be influenced by rising sea level.
Are we really preparing for these changes?
- Hydro power is seen as a clean energy solution –
the damming of rivers creates dead zones as a result of sea water entering the
lower delta and water table
- In the past high category hurricanes occurred
typically every 10yrs but are now occurring every 2yrs – areas will never
recover within these periods leading to long-term implications for populations
and the ecology
Many projects (development, investment etc), are based on a
business case determined from historic figures. The economic outcome is always
provable but long-term climatic, ecological and social outcomes should also be
considered if we are to truly address climate resilience. Ovink therefore
advocates that projects need to become more inventive, adaptable and prepared
for the un-expected.
Current land ownership and legal frameworks challenge the
long-term needs of climate resilience, while short term political systems also
further delay progress. Building on the Paris Agreement (COP21) the IPPC recognises
a need to adapt and recomments:
- Adoption of system approaches for all aspects of
business which factor in ecological, social outcomes on a long-term basis
within a changing climate
- Water policies need to be national and
interconnected across development, finance, innovation and all level of land users
- Consideration should also be given to society
and institutions to grow the capacity of people to innovate, collaborate and
adapt to new systems
In 1122 the first climate collaboration began in the Utrecht
area with 20 communities working on a local embankment based on the principle
of safety and quality to protect cities, agricultural and ecological areas.
Over the centuries the Netherlands has developed a national approach for water
management and the Delta Approach which protects large tracts of the country
from floods and the sea is a leading example of a system approach.
Another leading climate resilience project example in the
Netherlands is the Waalsprong, a flood resilience project that was based on an integrated
approach, coordinated between agricultural, ecological, infrastructure and urban
stakeholders to deliver a regional flood protection from River Waal around
Nijmegen. The success of the Waalsprong was proven by the project design,
stakeholder engagement throughout the process and widespread support, which
ultimately also delivered the flood protection on time and within budget.
The roundtable also highlighted the Netherlands may lead on
current adaption for climate resilience however Amsterdam and Rotterdam are
listed in top 12 most vulnerable global cities from extreme weather events in
2050 (Amsterdam 9 and Rotterdam 12). The overall picture is therefore that the built
environment, businesses and politics need to undertake a step-change to meet the
resilience for long-term climate forecasts but also to mitigate climate change.
The insurance sector, leading banks and pension funds are
already using climate data and scenario planning in their approaches. However,
the roundtable acknowledged that there is a greater need for an integrated approach
across all sectors, nationally and globally to fully realise the required
climate step change.
The Paris Agreement (COP 21) provides a global policy
foundation for change and the IPPC recognises that the next phase of climate mitigation
and resilience will need to focus on an adoption of integrated approaches that
support actions and building a narrative that brings society on the same
What’s Next: Urban Land Institute Netherlands recognises the need to continue the dialogue of sharing best practice and is planning a Climate Adaptation Series for 2020.
Find out further information here: ULI Netherlands Climate Adaptation Series 2020 programme details to be shared shortly.
The global challenge of water – Henk Ovink [link to be added shortly]
Further references from the roundtable below.