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29 May 2018

Cities are coming together to make the journey towards a resilient future

A new video shows the journey of seven cities towards a resilient future. Climate scenarios of increasing storms, floods and heat waves have lately become a reality and are putting citizens’ health and lives at risk as a result of climate change.

Human-made disasters such as terrorist attacks used to happen every 5 years in European cities and are now occurring several times a year. Local governments need to prepare their infrastructure for the worst in order to protect their communities, but these challenges transcend national borders and city limits.

“We are changing, the cities are changing, the world is changing and we also need to see outside the borders, to learn and to share information. And I think ICLEI is a great opportunity and a great platform for us to do that,” said Silje Solvang, Municipality of Kristiansand (Norway).

Cities need to work together to build a resilient urban environment where their communities can thrive. Kristiansand, along with the cities of Bristol (United Kingdom), Donostia (Spain), Glasgow (United Kingdom), Riga (Latvia), Rome (Italy) and Vejle (Denmark) have worked with research scientists, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and DIN to co-create and test a Resilience Management Guideline. The Resilience Management Guideline consists of five steps, which cities can follow to integrate resilience into their city planning.

Developing this guideline and the supporting tools has begun a movement to go beyond adapting infrastructure to climate change and spurred cities on towards boosting social cohesion and quality of life as a primary focus of resilience.

“When I initially came to the project it was very much about future proofing places and infrastructure,” said Lucy Vilarkin, city of Bristol. “For me, the emphasis has shifted onto people and organisations, and how we deal with tackling health issues and building healthy organisations.”

For more information, click here.

25 May 2018

Putting the Basque Declaration into practice: implementation event to be held in Bilbao

Since hundreds of cities from over 40 countries first endorsed the Basque Declaration two years ago at the 8th European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns in Bilbao (Spain), commitment to the Declaration has been gaining momentum.

New signatories are joining the movement and cities are taking action to transform their communities for a more sustainable future. The Basque Declaration highlights the need to adapt to climate change, improve public space, protect water resources and air quality and enhance ecosystem services, and the Declaration provides pathways towards this transformation.

ICLEI Europe and the City of Bilbao are working together to return to the venue of this seminal conference, Bilbao’s Euskalduna Palace, for an implementation event on 5 July 2018, this time marking the implementation phase of the Basque Declaration.

City practitioners will come together with researchers to discuss and learn about practical approaches to building climate resilience for “Putting the Basque Declaration into Practice: Supporting climate change adaptation”, a stakeholder dialogue event on the topic of climate change adaptation and resilience.

The cities of Paris (France) and Bilbao will exchange with their peers from Zadar (Croatia), Padova and Alba (Italy), Almada (Portugal), Athens (Greece), London (UK), Strasbourg (France) and Warsaw (Poland), and further ambitious cities are invited to join the conversation.

As well as exchanging on the climate change adaptation measures underway in European cities, support tools and methods will be introduced, which can help local governments identify risks, assess their interdependencies and impacts, and select effective climate change adaptation solutions - now and in the future.

The tools and methods use standardised approaches, which help local governments collaborate with their peers in cities around Europe on climate challenges that transcend borders.

The tools and research to be presented at the event have been produced as part of the European-funded project RESIN – Resilient Cities and Infrastructures. Attendance is free of charge and registration is open until 22 June 2018.

For more information, click here.

11 May 2018

Climate change adaptation practice is stopping short: it’s time to work on real-life consequences

A new paper published by RESIN researchers in Sustainability calls on climate change practitioners to tackle the practical consequences of climate change: all they need to do is to shift their focus away from ‘vulnerability’ and onto ‘risk’. This shift can bring climate change adaptation practitioners up to date with the perspective of scientific community and intergovernmental organisations, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) moved from a vulnerability to a risk-based conception of climate change adaptation in 2012.

Those in the climate change adaptation community have largely used ‘vulnerability’, or the propensity to be affected by hazard, as their frame for understanding and responding to climate change. The authors write that, “by labeling people and places as ‘vulnerable’, a passive attitude may be adopted to climate change. Similarly, the negative framing overlooks the importance of local culture and underlying resilience, particularly in non-western nations. In short, a vulnerability frame can promote inaction.”

Risk assessments, on the other hand, focus much more on the real-life consequences of potential hazard and are carried out by important stakeholders for the climate change adaptation community, including the health sector, disaster risk managers, and even insurance companies. Risk assessments, the authors write, go beyond impact and vulnerability assessments and bring together different elements of the adaptation agenda to help identify which weather and climate risks are most pressing.

Paradoxically, following the advice of the research community would actually move cities and climate practitioners away from relying on the assessment and recommendations of researchers, and would encourage them to share knowledge and input with practitioners in other fields rather than looking to academia for answers. The authors write that “the risk-based concept can help to shift the focus from top-down, science-first vulnerability assessments to risk assessments that can better involve a range of stakeholders and can help to consider climate change as one risk along with many other challenges.” This makes considerations of future and often uncertain climate risk compatible with practical on-the-ground decision-making across municipal departments and across the city.

Risk assessment is used by a range of different industries, it is broad and makes room for inclusion of different stakeholders, and it is closer to relevant practice for climate adaptation practitioners, particularly disaster risk managers. Even more importantly, it focuses on real consequences, rather than the vague possibility of adverse affects, as is the case for vulnerability. So why is risk not already the first choice for the climate change adaptation community? 

Firstly, existing climate change assessment projects support a ‘science-first’ vulnerability focus rather than supporting a risk-based approach. Some tools provide information on too broad a scale, while cities need detailed information about small areas, or data coverage is inconsistent across European countries, or tools can only be useful for early planning stages, or they ignore the wider hinterland that cities might be embedded within.

The European Climate Risk Typology, developed as part of the RESIN project, aims to bridge this gap and help cities to move away from vulnerability and towards risk, reaping the benefits of better connections to other sectors and a better grip on real-life consequences. The Typology will help policymakers differentiate different risk elements and will help to show them which issues are driving risk in a particular situation. Climate adaptation practitioners interested in contributing to the development of the Typology are invited to join the RESIN Expert Input Group and to participate in a consultation process for the final development stage of this tool.

More information is available at

9 May 2018

Can standardization be useful for climate adaptation?

The vast majority of commercial products you might encounter on a daily basis have had to pass a variety of standards, from the materials they are composed of, the shape, the packaging and instructions, to the machines that produce them. Most commonly associated with health and safety regulations, and technical equipment such as screws and mobile phone chargers, standardization is becoming increasingly relevant to people-centred processes, such as management. Just as standardizing a mobile phone charger ensures high quality and means that it can be used transferably with many different mobile phones, standardization of soft processes supports collaboration as part of much more complex processes. 

Planning a city to adapt to climate change involves the intersection of a number of complex systems, each of which involves unknown, uncertain and unpredictable factors. Climate is in itself an incredibly complex system, cities are complex systems, and municipal workers balance all of this complexity with limited budgets, political priorities and practical considerations. Standardization is one way in which municipalities and local councils can create a common language so that they can use the same methods and software as one another for a process as specific as climate change adaptation. 

“Cities use standards in their daily work, for example, to determine quality of products and services in their procurement processes,” said Holger Robrecht, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. “However, they are not so used to applying standards and norms related to their management procedures, for example, related to climate change adaptation or urban resilience. However, whilst a few large cities often have capacity to develop, establish and maintain their tailor-made procedures, the vast majority cannot. They depend on high quality and up-to-date information and reference documents that guide their management of climate change adaptation. Standardisation picks upon cutting-edge expertise to provide such guidance.”

The city of Bratislava (Slovakia) is one city looking to standardized approaches to adapt to climate change. Bratislava has put a climate change adaptation strategy in place to deal with the climate challenges the city is facing, such heatwaves and droughts, and has now arrived at the point of developing an action plan to turn the strategy into reality. Gathering data for this process has proven to be a challenge for the city, but real progress is being made, in part thanks to cooperation with universities including the University of Bratislava.

Bratislava has been applying an Impact and Vulnerability Analysis of Vital Infrastructures and built-up Areas (IVAVIA) tool locally to assess vulnerability on the basis of risk. According to Eva Streberová, Climate Adaptation Expert, City of Bratislava (Slovakia), using this tool depends on cooperation between the city council and its stakeholders, providing a range of co-benefits. Bratislava is also a signatory of the Mayors Adapt initiative, whereby the city committed to contributing to the aims of the EU Adaptation Strategy. This commitment is associated with a comprehensive reporting process, and Bratislava has found that using the IVAVIA tool has made this reporting process easier.  

IVAVIA is a standardized approach to making a vulnerability and risk assessment. It is made up of three qualitative and 3 quantitative steps followed by presentation module. During the IVAVIA process, cities produce impact chain diagrams, which make the cause-effect relationships between the consequences of hazards and exposed objects visible. Later in the process, cities can develop detailed risk maps that can show city councils which areas in the city are in need of particular attention. IVAVIA can help cities not only uncover risk and vulnerability issues affecting them, but can also help to communicate these in a visual way.  

Greater Manchester (United Kingdom) has also used the IVAVIA method to arrive at systematically mapped risk indicators and indices, with a particular focus on flooding and its repercussions on the transport network. Use of the tool has enabled Greater Manchester to produce an impact chain demonstrating the interactions between pluvial flooding and the system of major arterial roads in Greater Manchester. Developing this impact chain brought transport agency staff into closer working contact with the municipality.

“The 'beauty' of standards lie in their global availability, hands-on foundation and an inherent regular review mechanism keeping the standard at speed with the generation of knowledge and experience,” said Robrecht. “Being voluntary by nature, cities can 'pick and choose' what fits best to strengthen their climate change adaptation management.”

These outcomes were shared at the RESIN project’s session, “Standardized support tools for urban resilience, integrating resilience planning into local decision-making” at the Bonn Resilient Cities conference, 27 April 2018.

4 May 2018

RESIN General Assembly meeting, Sankt Augustin (Germany)

The RESIN consortium met in Sankt Augustin (Germany) last week for its final General Assembly. The four core cities of the RESIN project presented their recent work and discussed their perspective on the co-creation process within RESIN.

The city of Paris presented the Paris Adaptation Strategy. “Paris is one of the Tier 1 cities of the RESIN project, along with Bratislava, Manchester and Bilbao,” said Marie Gantois, City of Paris. “We were looking forward to exchanging experience and also to see how we could contribute to shaping some tools for cities regarding adaptation to climate change and potentially also learn from it's at a different scale.

What happened in Paris is that we already had an adaptation strategy at the whole city scale and we wanted to use RESIN to test other tools for adaptation to climate change at smaller scales, and that is what's been tested in the RESIN project.”

As part of the city’s updated adaptation strategy, the city aims to address climate-related challenges, including heat, especially the urban heat island effect and heat waves, flooding and intense rainfall, droughts and water scarcity, and lastly energy scarcity. The strategy includes 65 measures, many of which are oriented towards heat mitigation and improving thermal comfort.

The city of Bratislava has been reaching out to stakeholders who are expected to be affected by climate change. The city will also build on its successful programme of subsidies for implementing sustainable rainwater measures, which has been offered to citizens for the last two years and will continue into a third. The city is seeking nature-based solution options for adaptation to climate change and is currently monitoring temperatures in different areas of the city to identify effective adaptation options.

The city of Bilbao has fed outputs from the RESIN co-creation process into the preparation of its recent Sustainable Mobility Plan. A risk analysis at a small scale was also made possible through the RESIN project, as grid analysis of risk areas was prepared by RESIN researchers on the city’s request at a detailed resolution.

Greater Manchester has been able to develop composite risk maps as a result of engagement in the RESIN project. Involvement of stakeholders and building cooperative relationships has been a meaningful output of the project. In Greater Manchester’s case, flood risk is the most immediately pressing climate adaptation challenge, and this field has provided an in-road into consideration of other interrelationships of climate and risk in the city.

A number of RESIN tools; the European Climate Risk Typology, the Impact and vulnerability analysis (IVAVIA) tool, the Adaptation Options Library and the latest release of the RESIN e-Guide were presented in an interactive rotating cycle of demonstration and discussion sessions.

3 May 2018

RESIN project co-organises Open European Day

155 local government representatives, climate change adaptation experts and local and national government representatives convened in Bonn on 25th April 2018 to meet other city representatives for peer-based discussions on climate change adaptation.

Reinhard Limbach, Deputy Mayor of the city of Bonn, hosts of the event, said: “To be prepared for future incidents, we must create suitable technical infrastructure and work on an innovative, nature-based strategy… I find it so important to come together and to make use of the elaborated European system, to benefit from the exchange with our direct neighbours.”

As the event, organized by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the European Environment Agency, has grown over five editions, European institutions are seeing the value in joining the conversation with local governments.

“What regional organizations do, the country does, or even the European Union does, matters for cities,” said Birgit Georgi, Strong Cities in a Changing Climate. “They build a framework in which the cities connect, and so we started to invite more and more also these levels, like from the European Commission or national governments or regional governments and other supporters, because as cities cannot move alone forward to be more resilient, national governments, you cannot without these cities. We have to work together in a multi-level approach.”

Training events were added as a new feature to this year's edition, including training from the RESIN project on the risk-based Impact and Vulnerability Analysis of Vital Infrastructures and built-up Areas (IVAVIA) tool in the context of training cities on critical infrastructure protection. 

The 5th edition was supported by the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and Ramboll and co-organised by the European-funded Smart Mature Resilience project, RESIN – Climate Resilient Cities and Infrastructures and PLACARD. The event is held annually.

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