How to prepare for the unpredictable? Global cities learn climate adaptation from one another.

We are truly only at the beginning stages (of implementing climate adaptation strategies in many cities)”, says Amanda Ikert, Head of Adaptation Implementation at C40. Yet, coming together helps achieve effective and meaningful action.

Listen to the full interview with Amanda Ikert on The Beam Podcast, Episode 4:

Cities: Bracing for Climate Change.

 


 

In many cities around the world, the climate crisis asks for urgent adaptation strategies. Yet, to be effective, plans and strategies need careful execution. With C40, Amana Ikert supports global cities in their climate adaptation making sure that their plans “don’t just sit on a shelf”.

In the new episode of The Beam Podcast, Ikert walks us through climate adaptation strategies of various cities, rates cities’ preparedness to withstand the consequences of the climate crisis and stresses the importance of cooperation for the pace of adaptation. 

 

Provided that we have the money, the policy, the land – we can build needed infrastructure, we can try relocating people, try relocating whole towns and villages. Relocations, of course, come at high costs both on the economical level but maybe even more importantly at high personal costs. It’s difficult to say it like that but relocation might already be the only remaining solution for some communities. How do you build the resilience of people in those threatened places? 

Amanda Ikert: I think that’s a very complicated question for many of our cities who have typically worked with infrastructure and services. 

And this component of, I don’t know, education and communication around climate change is still very, very much a sensitive topic in some areas. But I think what is happening in the cities that we see taking very proactive steps in terms of climate adaptation and building resilience is communications with citizens or representative groups of citizens as best they can to mutually determine certain risk tolerances and risk thresholds. Now, that’s complicated enough for a scientist or a practitioner in this field to determine. It’s a very big challenge when we have these moving targets in a way to establish a common enough baseline of understanding to come together with people, with citizens, with residents or other stakeholders in the city to say, “OK, well, what level of risk are we comfortable with?” How collectively can we decide if people do want to remain and stay in this city? If they had a chance to move, what would we need to provide them to ensure that the risks associated with relocating do not outweigh those of remaining? 

I don’t know whether you’re rather a pessimist or an optimist, but how would you rate the preparedness of cities against climate change consequences as we’re speaking right now? 

Amanda Ikert: That’s a good question. I will say I think we are truly only at the beginning stages. Almost no city except for maybe a very few of our most advanced, climate innovator cities – and these tend to be the smaller cities like Rotterdam or Copenhagen – only they are truly prepared or moving at the pace we need to see preparation by certain landfall dates of expected impacts. But it’s a journey. And we’re just realizing that adaptation is crucial. We cannot stave off adaptation by just mitigating more greenhouse gas reduction, greenhouse gases from the environment. So, maybe on a scale of 10, we’re in many places just at step 1 or 2. Our cities need much more mainstreaming of the concept of adaptation and this is beginning in some cities as well but is not fully institutionalised that the Department of Transportation or the Buildings Department or the other agencies and authorities in the city start to think about their budgets, their assets, municipal codes, building codes or whatnot, or the lifetime of infrastructure around these new impacts that we will see falling on to the effectiveness of buildings and assets and shortening lifetimes, perhaps. 

I think when we get there, I’ll feel like we’re at step 3 or 4. And then we do need comprehensive topographical hydrological mapping in all of our cities where we really don’t have that today. We don’t know if a drop of waterfalls in one part of a city where it really ends up. And so, a lot of that knowledge base and data gathering is certainly still to come. And then I think as we go through this process, the civic engagement and establishing thresholds and risk tolerance levels will be crucial. 

Listen to the full interview with Amanda Ikert on The Beam Podcast, Episode 4:

Cities: Bracing for Climate Change.

 


 

In the episode “Cities: Bracing for Climate Change” we also talk with Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone.

The Beam Podcast is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and wherever you get your podcasts.

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