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20 March 2018

Cities are where global problems can be solved: outcomes of the 27th Breakfast at Sustainability’s – Boosting local progress in city resilience development

Representatives of over 30 cities and regions in Europe, the European Commission and scientific experts on resilience attended the 27th edition of ICLEI Europe’s Breakfast at Sustainability’s series. The event was hosted by the European office of the Basque Country and a welcome address was provided by – Ignacio de la Puerta, Director for Urban Planning of the Basque Government. A brief introduction to the Smart Mature Resilience project and its tools was provided by Vasileios Latinos, ICLEI Europe.

Mr de la Puerta emphasised in his words of welcome the need to provide space and quality of life for Basque residents. An integrated action plan, as well as participation in numerous local, regional and international projects and programmes, such as Donostia/San Sebastián’s participation in the Smart Mature Resilience Project are addressing this need. The path is a shared one and cities in Europe are welcome to join the Basque Country on this journey by considering the pathways towards transformative action laid out in the Basque Declaration.

Cities must work together in a coordinated way towards long-term resilience goals. For Ben Caspar, Team Leader for Urban Environment for the European Commission’s DG Environment, cities have enormous potential to overcome global challenges. The Pact of Amsterdam has made funding streams easier to understand and has led to enhanced support and cooperation between the European Commission and city networks. As well as funding the European Commission offers other resources to cities, including online tools, such as a new portal planned to be launched during Green Week. Ronny Frederickx, Former President and Good Governance Project Leader, UDITE considered resilience from the perspective of good governance, and warned that lack of trust in political leaders, lack of capacity and ‘segregation in craftsmanship’ or lack of cooperation as drivers of risk. He called for a good governance approach in order to overcome these challenges, as well as for a triangle between science, education and practice.

The innovative and inspiring “Room for the river Waal” project saw attitudes among citizens to the large-scale project turn from hostility and resistance, to sentiments among citizens of pride and ownership of the project. Ton Verhoeven, Arnhem Nijmegen City Region, Netherlands shared how this was achieved through intensive communication and engagement of stakeholders.

Glasgow and Rome are working together on their resilience journey: both cities are part of the Smart Mature Resilience project as well as ICLEI members and members of 100 Resilient Cities. Frankie Barrett, Glasgow City Council and Claudio Bordi, Risorse per Roma. Public authorities in Glasgow are as of recently obliged to involve communities as part of their work, and ongoing projects range across numerous topical areas, for example food security and land use. In Glasgow’s experience, "When citizens are not involved in the plan, it will fail." Rome has used a tool produced by the Smart Mature Resilience project, the Risk Systemicity Questionnaire, to hold cross-sectoral meetings with a goal to break silos and better understand risk.

Annette Figueiredo, Greater London Authority described a recently concluded audit of school air quality in London. Poor air quality has detrimental effects on children’s learning, and a survey revealed that over 360 schools were in poor air quality areas. The Mayor of London, as part of a vision to clean up London’s air received a petition from Greenpeace signed by 303 teachers calling for better air quality near schools, and fifty schools were selected.  The project involved the cooperation of the relevant boroughs, Transport for London, Public Health and other Greater London Authority programmes working with schools, researchers and academics. The collected data will be used in the schools’ curricula so that students can understand how it affects their lives.

For the second part of the day, Serene Hanania, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, invited cities to participate in an interactive workshop. Discussion groups considered topics such as heat waves, flood risks, social issues and emergency response and exchanged their experiences from their respective cities on the topics. The SMR project representatives then demonstrated how the tools co-produced in the project by cities and researchers could support the newcomer cities in overcoming the challenges they raised in the discussions.

In terms of flooding, cross-departmental silos were found to be a major challenge in British cities, as management of water courses was not closely linked to response mechanisms, and vulnerable groups were found to be more exposed to flood risk. Here, Nijmegen could explain their unique case, where better communication on water planning and management is possible due to Dutch water boards. The SMR City Resilience Dynamics tool was mentioned in a possible application to measure surface water interventions.

On the subject of heat waves, desertification and the benefits of reforestation were discussed for cities in Spain. In Italy, paradoxically, abandonment of agricultural areas and increase of rain has led to natural reforestation. The most vulnerable cities to heat waves were considered to be Athens and Rome. Here, the Risk Systemicity Questionnaire was recommended, as awareness of the risk of heat waves seriously underestimates the real mortality rate among elderly people during periods of extreme heat. Malmö, Sweden, expressed the benefits of exchanging with Southern cities with cultural experience of caring for the elderly during heat waves, as heat stress is becoming an increasing problem for Malmö. Here, better access to data on mortality rates would be helpful to gain political support for, elderly, patient and hospice care to take additional measures during heat waves.

A common feature of the cities was the importance of involving volunteers and NGOs in emergency response. While cities and municipalities must adhere to standards, guidelines and norms for emergency response, citizens can step in and provide non-professional support magnanimously, for example providing unofficial transport and meals to refugees. Dedicated policies for involving NGOs and volunteers are included in the Resilience Maturity Model.

IT solutions offer interesting innovative ways to prevent food waste and to build communities in new way. Representative democracy and transparent decision-making were considered to be crucial foundations for social resilience. Decreasing vulnerability is intricately connected to employment, and in the case of French regions, citizens can become alienated as a result of unemployment. 

The cities present shared many aspects and practices around emergency response. Most cities had emergency plans and the same way of responding to an emergency. Malmö provided another perspective, for example, that experts were called in the event of a crisis. In each of the cities, in many cases, those working in emergency response have other responsibilities under normal circumstances, where response takes preference over these duties during a crisis. Risk assessment was considered essential, and the SMR Risk Systemicity Questionnaire is available to be used as part of this process.

A photo gallery of the event is available at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmeXRgWi.

19 March 2018

European cities are working against the clock to adapt to the new climate reality

City council teams in Bratislava (Slovakia) and Manchester (UK) have teamed up with the cities of Paris (France), Bilbao (Spain), top European researchers,  and city network ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability to make their cities and critical infrastructures more resilient to the impacts of climate change.  

A new short film has been launched today showing how Manchester and Bratislava are working with a team of cities and scientists to help municipalities to adapt to a rapidly-changing climate. A second period of unprecedented snow across Europe this weekend following the “Beast from the East” earlier this month has shown that extreme weather is becoming the new normal.

“What was good enough in the past, and maybe 10 years ago, it’s not enough for the future,” said Martina Tichá, Head of Project Management Unit, Strategy and Projects Department at Bratislava City Hall. Bratislava, where an orange alert was raised due to freezing temperatures this Saturday, can expect extreme heat as early as May this year.

As most of Europe’s population lives in cities, city councils across Europe desperately need new ways of working to understand the risks they face and to prepare for the unknown. “The decision makers in Greater Manchester need to know key issues and why they should do something about it,” said Matthew Ellis, Climate Resilience Officer, Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

“Every job within a local authority will be impacted by climate change in the future: every decision that's made will need to take account of what the future climate change risks might be,” said Mark Atherton, Director of Environment, Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

RESIN - Climate Resilient Cities and Infrastructures has been developing innovative tools in a process of ‘co-creation’ between cities, climate scientists and ICLEI since 2015. In Manchester in February 2018, the project held an event to share the new tools with representatives of over 15 cities.  

“You don't have to reinvent the wheel, you can use these tools because you can be sure they have been tested and they have the best current knowledge available from different European research institutions and cities, that deal with problems just like your city is probably dealing with,” said Eva Streberová (PhD), Environmental Manager, Office of the Chief City Architect, Bratislava City.

The latest versions of these tools will be launched at the end of this month. Prototypes are already available on the project website, www.resin-cities.eu. The tools will be presented at Open European Day on 25th April 2018, which is organised by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability and the European Environment Agency and co-organised by the RESIN project.

For more information about the RESIN project, click here.

2 March 2018

CitiesIPCC marks new era for cooperation between science and cities on climate change: and the RESIN project is part of it

A global climate research agenda will be announced at the Cities and Climate Change Science Conference next week in Edmonton.

In an article published this week in Nature in the lead-up to the conference, leading climate experts identified among the most pressing priorities for cities and climate-change research, “Comparative studies are needed… in different contexts to disentangle these interactions and to find solutions. We need to know how urban morphologies, building materials and human activities affect atmospheric circulation, heat and light radiation, urban energy and water budgets.” The authors called on researchers and city authorities to extend the quantity and types of urban data collected.

Jeremy Carter, University of Manchester, will attend the conference to present the RESIN project’s Climate Risk Typology, which will take steps towards exactly this objective. The RESIN Climate Risk Typology supports adaptation planning by offering users the means to describe, compare and analyse climate risk in European cities and regions. In addition to the IPCC, among the CitiesIPCC partner organizations providing practical support to the Cities and Climate Change Science conference is RESIN project partner ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

At a special session organised by ICLEI during the UN Habitat World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), “CITIESIPCC: Advancing science to accelerate effective climate action in human settlements,” cities and scientists expressed their hopes for the conference to see newly partnerships forged between young researchers in the global South and experienced institutions in European cities and to lay a solid foundation for increased global collaboration on scientific research and knowledge-sharing, particularly to tackle the common challenge of climate change.

“Climate change is a uniquely global challenge; it doesn’t discriminate based on geography, and so we see its effects in every corner of the world,” said IPCC Co-Chair Dr. Debra Roberts. “Our response must also be global, uniting people across cities, countries and continents. That enables us to share best practices based in sound science to meet global commitments that will create a more sustainable and just urban world for future generations.” The conference will bring together 750 scientists, policymakers, researchers, and development experts.

Download the poster presented at http://www.resin-cities.eu/index.php?id=145.