The impact of extreme temperatures on health and well being is rising up policy agendas in many cities. The Excel-based Heat Resilient Cities benefits tool has been designed to help city planners and decision-makers to quantify the health, economic and environmental benefits of common urban heat adaptation actions. Cities can use this information to make the case for urban heat adaptation investments, and to prioritise the actions that are likely to have the most positive impact locally.
Users can calculate the benefits brought by specific parks and green infrastructure, water bodies such as rivers and lakes, and cool and vegetative surfaces. The tool can also extrapolate results from these specific investments to calculate the benefits of scaling-up across the whole of the city.
The tool was developed with guidance from cities which participate in the C40 Cool Cities Network, and from urban heat and health impact specialists. It has been piloted with the cities of Medellín and São Paulo – read below for a flavour of the results for both cities, or the case studies for full details.
Access the Heat Resilient Cities benefits tool and calculate benefits for your city’s actions via the Download button on this page. The tool will also soon be available here in Spanish. Instructions for using the tool are given in the first two tabs (Intro and Workflow) of the Excel file. Contact Neuni Farhad and Snigdha Garg with any questions about how to use the tool and interpret the results. You can also learn how the tool was developed in the methodology note.
The health and economic benefits of Medellín’s green corridors
Medellín’s green corridors are central pillar of the city’s strategy for reducing urban heat. They also provide residents with more green space, including along key cycle routes. Medellín built 36 green corridors between 2016 and 2019; the results generated with the Heat Resilient Cities benefits tool, summarised below, support further expansion of the city’s green infrastructure. Read the case study, which is available in English and Spanish, for the details.
The health and economic benefits of São Paulo’s Ipiranga Stream Revitalisation
To revive urban natural environments and reduce extreme heat, the Department of Environment initiated the 100 Parks for São Paulo programme in 2005. By 2012, the number of city parks had increased from 34 to 100, covering an area of over 90 million square metres. Now, the city is planning to revitalise several watercourses to further reduce heat and flooding, improve water quality and protect the health of people living in affected areas. The Riacho do Ipriranga is among these watercourses. Using the Heat Resilient Cities benefits tool, the City of São Paulo has made a first assessment of the potential benefits, which are summarised below, which is helping to make the case for this investment. Read the case study, which is available in English and Portuguese, for the details.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has approved a $2 million grant for a new venture in partnership with the MAVA Foundation, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which aims to increase investment in nature-based infrastructure that can help cities and countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The new global initiative, supported by the GEF-managed Special Climate Change Fund, will use financial modelling and climate change projections to establish the business case for investing in nature and make it easier for investors and government officials to assign a value to and consider nature-based solutions when making infrastructure spending decisions.
The project will equip decision-makers with comprehensive, system-wide valuations of natural assets, reflecting capital and operating costs as well as co-benefits from carbon sequestration, air purification, protection against water scarcity, and climate change adaptation, plus cost comparisons with grey infrastructure alternatives.
This is important as many decision-makers currently lack the tools to directly compare green or hybrid infrastructure solutions with alternatives, for instance when making decisions about flood control, food security, coastal protection, water conservation and wastewater treatment. Such infrastructure planning and spending decisions will be critically important in the coming years as countries plan their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and work toward more ambitious climate change, biodiversity, and other goals and frameworks.
“We are proud to support this venture, which will address the critical evidence gap that investors and project developers currently face as they evaluate whether to invest in nature and nature-based infrastructure,” said GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii. “Making this information more readily available will be a game changer for those making long-term decisions about infrastructure investments for economic recovery and development.”
The MAVA Foundation, a philanthropic organization working to conserve biodiversity for the benefit of people and nature, is partnering with the GEF and has pledged to provide $2 million in co-financing to scale up the impact of the project, which will be implemented by UNIDO and executed by IISD. The project, which will use data from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, will also include a public online database making information on the valuation and performance of nature-based infrastructure available to a wide variety of project partners and stakeholders.
“Nature is part of the fundamental infrastructure on which thriving societies and economies depend. Despite its regenerative capacity, natural infrastructure – like built infrastructure – needs maintenance and therefore investment. This project will demonstrate that investing in maintaining and restoring our natural capital provides solutions to societal problems – above all to the adaptation to climate change. Most importantly, the training and capacity development offered will scale the project impact far beyond the concrete case examples,” said MAVA Foundation Director General Lynda Mansson.
“Our aim for this project is to consider social, economic, and environmental factors to demonstrate the system-wide case for investing in large-scale nature-based solutions,” said IISD President and CEO Richard Florizone. “Natural ecosystems like forests, mangroves, wetlands, and grasslands provide a range of ‘services’ that can complement and even substitute for built infrastructure. The strong evidence base we build through this unique partnership will help all market participants confidently invest in nature.”
“In line with UNIDO’s mandate to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development, we actively cooperate with private sector entities to further environmental stewardship approaches. This project will allow us to quantify the positive impact of stewardship activities on ecosystems as well as to demonstrate the cost efficiency of nature-based infrastructure. It will also allow us to highlight the economic value of the positive externalities provided by nature-based infrastructure to our partners in governments and international finance institutions. Thus, the project will have a catalytic impact on UNIDO’s efforts to up-scale public-private partnerships on environmental stewardship as required for a transformational change in climate change adaptation,” said UNIDO Managing Director Stephan Sicars.
The new project is an example of the GEF’s ongoing commitment to help countries and partners make wise investment decisions related to nature-based solutions and climate resilience, and reflects the Special Climate Change Fund’s focus on supporting innovative and impactful adaptation solutions. It will also support the Global Commission on Adaptation’s call to scale up action on nature-based solutions for adaptation.
For more information, please contact:
Laura MacInnis, GEF Senior Communications Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zahra Sethna, IISD Director of Communications, email@example.com
Holger Schmid, MAVA Foundation Program Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Arthur, UNIDO Communications Officer, C.ARTHUR@unido.org
New Clark City (NCC), an upcoming mixed-use township managed by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), is being developed with the vision of becoming a leading example of an environmentally sustainable, smart, and disaster-resilient city.
To realize this ambition, efficient and sustainable use of water resources is key. To this end, a Water Resources Study was prepared with the main objective of assessing groundwater and surface water availability within and near NCC.
The study, conducted by the Geoscience Foundation Inc. for BCDA, will feed into resource planning that will ensure there is sufficient water to serve NCC, which has an area of approximately 9,450 hectares and is located about 120 kilometers (km) north of Manila.
Sustainability is at the heart of the study. It proposes that NCC makes use of groundwater, surface water, and other water sources like reservoirs, wastewater recycling, and rainwater harvesting, to avoid resource depletion. The use of surface water, in particular, will ensure that deep aquifers are not exhausted, and resources can be sustainably maintained.
The study, supported by the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF), is linked to the ADB Transaction Advisory Services of the Office of Public-Private Partnership for NCC, which looks at the structuring and tendering of infrastructure packages. In 2017 to 2018, UCCRTF financed – through the request of BCDA – the review of the NCC master plan, conduct of the River Study and recommendations, and the development of the Resilience Framework.
Climate change is also a major consideration in the study, as climate projections indicate a 10% increase in precipitation levels during rainy season and a 10% decrease during the dry season by 2036. Enough water should be stored in water tanks and reservoirs during the rainy season so that this can be used in the summer or dry season.
The two major rivers of NCC
The two major rivers in the NCC are the Cutcut and Bangot Rivers. The Bangot River is situated at the northern edge of NCC and is a tributary of the O’Donnell River. The confluence with the O’Donnell River is located about 1 km north from the Philippine Army Camp. To ensure the sustainable use of the Bangot and Cutcut Rivers, a water resources monitoring program will be established through the installation of depth gauge meters that will track changes in the river flows.
Based on the study, the water quality for the two rivers were found to be satisfactory and well within the prescribed limits even for Class AA water quality guidelines for drinking water supply. However, primary treatment, including disinfection, is required for the water to be distributed for drinking. Once this is developed, these rivers can produce about 32 million liters per day, which is sufficient for a medium-sized city.
Water rights for the two rivers were also applied with the National Water Resources Board on behalf of BCDA and are awaiting deliberations. The results of the study were incorporated into the “NCC 50-year Water Resources Masterplan”, the roadmap for NCC’s resilient water supply system. The plan is seen to be financially viable and is expected to yield economic benefits through increased water usage efficiency and greater equity in access to water, without comprising environmental sustainability and ensuring water availability for future usage.
Presenting the study to stakeholders
On water reuse, the study indicated that this will only be suitable for non-potable uses such as for agriculture, aquifer recharge, aquaculture, firefighting, flushing of toilets, industrial cooling, parks and golf course watering, formation of wetlands for wildlife habitats, and recreational impoundments. As an alternative water source, the O’Donnell River is also being considered in case the use of Bangot River is not feasible. This will form part of the water development plan for NCC’s main water source in future phases.
As for wastewater management, the study recognizes that constructed wetlands and ponds through a series of bio-retention and bio-remediation systems will help reduce and control the amount of pollutants – such as fertilizers, pesticides, and sediment – that enter the waterways from open space run-off. A centralized sewerage treatment plant is being planned for NCC, and it will service the main development areas covering the National Government Administrative Center and the area handled by real estate firm Filinvest Land. However, given that the construction of the plant may take up to three years, the use of modular treatment plants, which can be immediately installed and can easily be expanded, will be considered as an interim solution.
Further review, vetting, and discussions with BCDA need to be made to align the recommendations with the NCC master plan given that there are ongoing developments in the area. Specifically, BCDA, locators, and water concessionaire need to discuss and establish projections that will shape the longer-term water policies and water infrastructure projects in the NCC.
The COVID-19 outbreak has dramatically changed the shape of daily life in cities around the world. The cities in which the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) operates are no exception.
Economic activity has slowed considerably during lockdown and the planning and construction of infrastructure projects face delays as municipal governments tackle the immediate health crisis. So, what has life been like inside cities supported by UCCRTF? What lessons might the response to the COVID-19 crisis hold for building resilience to other shocks and stresses such as climate change?
The city resilience officers of UCCRTF, who have been working on climate change resilience projects in many secondary cities across South and Southeast Asia, share how the pandemic has impacted their cities
Summer season has arrived in Viet Nam and temperatures are rising. Reflecting on recent months, Hanoi citizens are very proud of what has been done to combat COVID-19. By the end of April, the Vietnamese Government recorded only 270 confirmed cases, of which 223 have recovered and returned home. Since that time there have been no further deaths, as of June 17th 2020.
The relatively low number compared to neighboring countries is largely due to the swift and effective prevention and control measures that the government put in place since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in January and cases in Hanoi in early March.
Viet Nam suspended entry of all foreigners from 22 March and mandatory health declarations became required at all international borders for Vietnamese nationals arriving from abroad. Authorities also suspended schools and canceled festivals nationwide. The most challenging time for many was the 22 days of lockdown from April 1 to 22. Everyone was asked to stay at home and stop all unessential activities.
People remain worried about the possibility of the virus spreading through the poorer areas of the cities, where living conditions are crowded. In Hue and Hoi An City, most people rely on tourism and other related business activities. They work in restaurants, hotels, tourism services, or small businesses such as street vendors or lottery ticket sellers. During the lockdown, the ban on gatherings meant many businesses had to close, many people lost their income and jobs.
To support these vulnerable groups, the government provided a support package of about VND 62 trillion ($2.7 billion) for around 20 million severely affected people for three months between April and June. In addition, free rice distribution centers were set up in Hanoi, HCMC, Danang, Hue, and other provinces to help poor people and those affected by the coronavirus.
While the country works toward a socioeconomic recovery, the immediate response to the crisis will focus on food production and manufacturing to support labor markets. As early as 4 May, tens of millions of students from preschool to high school in 63 provinces and cities returned to school, taking another step towards returning to some semblance of normal life.
The whole country has been declared as an ‘Infection Risk Area’ under Section 11 of the Bangladesh Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018. As of 17th June, 98,489 cases of COVID-19 have been identified and the number of deaths has risen to 1,305. The highest number of COVID-19 cases is recorded in the older parts of Dhaka City.
All offices remain closed to prevent the spread of the disease. The army is currently carrying out street campaigns to enforce social distancing. People in infected areas must stay at home unless absolutely necessary. A daily curfew is enforced from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
The office of the Prime Minister issued an order assigning officials to each of the 64 districts in the country to supervise and coordinate a large-scale relief distribution program for vulnerable citizens.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved an emergency grant of $300,000 to the Bangladesh Government to help respond to the crisis. In collaboration with Directorate General of Health Services, this grant will be used to procure personal protective equipment such as face masks, safety googles, aprons, thermometers, and biohazard bags.
All the UCCRTF-funded cities remain under partial or complete lockdown, which is delaying progress on urban development, planning, and infrastructure programs. More importantly, cities are facing an additional challenge as the country approaches cyclone season. The combined COVID-19 and large-scale climate impacts will be difficult to manage as the responses to COVID (such as to stay inside and to maintain social distancing) are in contrast to the recommended response to cyclones, which may require people to leave their homes or congregate together in protective shelters.
Recently, on 20 May, Bangladesh faced Super Cyclone Amphan, which made landfall in the southwestern part of the country causing serious damage to property. The UCCRTF-supported city of Patuakhali was badly affected. The government evacuated an estimated 2.4 million people from coastal districts, although observing social distancing was challenging. As an immediate measure, schools were used for more space in addition to regular cyclone shelters.
A 3- to 4-meter tidal surge that accompanied the cyclone, however, destroyed crops and sources of drinking water.
Relief efforts are currently underway in coordination with local administrations. According to the Bagerhat district administration, Amphan caused $50 million in direct damages with around 349 houses partially damaged and 374 houses completely destroyed. The total number of people affected by the cyclone in Bangladesh is estimated at 5,331.
At present, only emergency services are available in all public and private hospitals, which have recently re-opened after being closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Schools are still closed and only some offer classes online. There are also severe travel restrictions. The lockdown has affected every part of life in Pakistan’s cities.
The huge reduction in traffic has led to big improvements in air quality in major cities. While there is no data covering small cities backed by UCCRTF, the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency has reported that the air quality index in Lahore has fallen from 496 parts per million (ppm) in January to 37 ppm in April. Similarly, for Islamabad, average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are below the permissible limits of National Environmental Quality Standards, and concentrations of fine particulates (PM2.5) are also within permissible limits.
Currently, the UCCTRF-supported cities in Pakistan are not coping with other shocks and stresses from natural or human-induced hazards. However, since the cities are vulnerable to urban flooding and earthquakes, they are still at risk. The monsoon season is also drawing near (expected to start in July), which could compound the challenges faced by the cities. They will have to cope with flood management alongside COVID-19. While government officials, including national, provincial, and district disaster management authorities, are focused on COVID-19 response, this may well mean that there is less capacity to prepare for the upcoming flooding season.
Key nations have announced US$ 4.8 million in funding for the delivery of early warning systems and services to reduce loss of life from severe weather events in the Pacific region. The announcement was made 10 June 2020 during the 11th Steering Committee Meeting of the Climate Risk & Early Warning Systems (CREWS) initiative by its Member States, the governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The CREWS initiative was established in 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) as a financial mechanism to save lives and livelihoods through the expansion of early warning systems and services in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. Its three Implementing Partners are the World Meteorological Organization, the World Bank Group / Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Filipe Lucio of WMO indicated at the meeting that the funds would allow the island countries in the region to detect, monitor and forecast severe high-impact weather events. Additional services to be developed include access to longer-term seasonal predictions and operational early warning and response plans that ensure the most vulnerable people in the communities receive warnings.
CREWS Member States also approved the allocation of funds to support countries to monitor the effectiveness of their national early warning systems. Additionally, the preparations of another US$ 4 million project, covering the South West Indian Ocean that includes the countries of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique and Seychelles was initiated for funding in the near future.
To date, the CREWS Trust Fund has delivered over US$ 43 million in project funding and mobilized an additional US$ 270 million from public funds of other development partners – realizing accelerated life-saving action and maximized finance effectiveness.
In 2019, CREWS support was scaled up to 44 least developed countries and small island developing states. Through this work, more than 10 million people in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities now have access to better early warning services.
In Afghanistan, 3D printers are being used to build automatic weather stations, bringing early warning services to rural communities.
In Burkina Faso, more than 1,100 rural farmers received 130 weather forecasts in 2019, broadcast via local radio stations.
In Fiji, nearly one million people now have advance flash flood warnings, creating increased security and saving lives.
In Niger, more than 600 women were trained in early warning services and have now created women-led WhatsApp groups to amplify advance warnings throughout their communities.
Across the Caribbean, national emergency management offices, national hydromet offices, national gender bureaux, sectorial ministries, and non-governmental groups including women organizations are now working together to bridge the gender divide in access to early warning systems.
All these far exceeded the recent Cyclone Amphan’s total of 26 deaths so far. Understanding the generally declining death toll offers lessons on how the rest of the world could prepare better for such events. Part of it is forecasting, warning, and evacuation.
But another part is local action, which we research. Much of this science is participatory, directed by the people who are vulnerable in order to balance and meld local and external ideas and approaches.
From vulnerability to resilience
Cyclone Amphan made landfall in Bangladesh on May 20 2020. It inundated over 4,000 sq km of land and destroyed homes, polders (low-lying areas of land surrounded by dikes or levees), embankments, roads, electricity poles, mobile phone towers, bridges and culverts, with the exact costs still being tallied. Many agricultural fields and fish farms were overwhelmed by the saltwater storm surge.
The low death toll can be largely attributed to Bangladesh’s long-term efforts to reduce vulnerabilities, including at the local level, which is always the key in preventing disasters. In 1970, the country had only 42 cyclone shelters, whereas now over 12,000 functionally active cyclone shelters dot the coastline, serving nearly 5 million people.
A diverse system of warning messages tailored to local needs keeps people informed about evacuation, ranging from social media to people on bicycles with megaphones. Training in school means that the announcements are trusted and the population knows how to react and why.
Bangladesh has invested in constructing numerous polders to reduce the force of storm surges, although water retention has sometimes damaged agriculture and infrastructure. Local leaders, organisations, and authorities collaborate to implement tidal river management and nature-based approaches such as mangroves. This helps to deal with storm surge and rainfall, as well as reduced freshwater due to India’s Farakka Barrage, built across the Ganges River to keep the water in India since the 1970s.
We assessed one local programme funded and supported by the British and Swedish Red Cross for implementation by the Bangladesh Red Crescent. This “Vulnerability to Resilience” programme ran between 2013 and 2016 in the coastal villages of Pashurbunia and Nowapara in Kalapara Upazila in Patuakhali district.
This was the first time that people there had been involved in such resilience-building work. They installed flood-resistant tubewells, raised latrines above expected flood levels, trained for improved hygiene and first aid, distributed safety equipment, improved local early warning and evacuation systems, and were trained as local volunteers to continue these activities.
Diverse and alternative livelihood opportunities were also promoted. Household-level businesses and shops were encouraged, alongside local markets for the products.
This included people growing and selling garden vegetables and rice, producing crafts through quilting and sewing, rearing cattle for milk and beef, and investing in ducks, chickens, and aquaculture for fish. If any one of these livelihoods is interrupted or ruined, then people would still have options for earning income.
These initiatives are clearly not about cyclones only and move far beyond forecasting, warning, and evacuation. They improve livelihoods, living conditions, community interaction, health, and safety irrespective of a storm. Our calculations immediately after the programme demonstrated that every dollar invested in the programme produced a quick payback of almost five times that amount through enhanced income and local activities.
The real test, though, remains what happens during a hazard. Three weeks after the programme ended, Cyclone Roanu ripped through the south coast of Bangladesh on May 21, 2016. Pashurbunia and Nowapara reported successful warning and evacuation, no casualties, livelihoods with limited interruption, and a water supply and latrines that functioned afterwards.
Similar success is now repeated with Amphan. Despite the cyclone’s devastation, the people are alive and are returning home to rebuild. In Pashurbunia and Nowapara, seven kilometres of polder length were destroyed while the villages and agricultural lands were inundated.
The local population is repairing the damaged polders, houses, and latrines while restoring the drinking water supply and resuming their livelihoods. This is mainly through self-help, without much external assistance so far. It is not easy, but much better than before.
The UK government currently spends £2.6 billion on flood defences in England, and that amount is set to double by 2026. Flooding in February 2020 showed how that’s likely to be a good investment, as climate change drives warmer and wetter weather each winter. But when it comes to managing rivers to prevent flooding in towns and cities downstream, we’re often our own worst enemy.
After the second world war, Britain embarked on a mission to reconstruct its rivers. Workers cut ditches to drain moorland, making it suitable for livestock farming. Looping rivers which once wound lazily through floodplains – flooding these areas once every two years or so – were straightened into rigid channels. River beds were dredged to deepen them and banks excavated to make them steeper, an unnatural situation that takes routine management to maintain.
The idea behind all of this was to reduce flooding by increasing the speed at which water moves downstream. But this also increased the power of rivers to move sediment. Gravels and cobbles dash along these modified and heavily managed rivers, accumulating where the water slows down, as it moves through towns and cities. Here, the river bed swells as sediment piles up, increasing local flood risk.
Over 60% of the UK’s watercourses have been transformed in this way, changing the fundamental character of many British rivers – and the natural processes that would usually govern them – over just a few generations. In a new study, we found that doing nothing is often a better course of action for reducing flooding than these heavy handed attempts to mechanically alter rivers.
Going with the flow
We studied the River Caldew in Cumbria, which has caused three major floods in nearby Carlisle since 2010. Satellite data showed that straightening, deepening and embanking was common along the river between 2005 and 2016. Very little sediment was spotted in the river and across the floodplain, suggesting that almost all of it was being funnelled downstream towards Carlisle.
During this time, the channel through the city was widened in the hope that this would cause flood water to spread out and lose energy. But this only increased the problem of sediment building up within the river, creating a shallower channel through Carlisle that’s prone to overflowing.
Outside of the city, in parts where maintenance has been relaxed, the river has begun to return to a more natural state. Multiple “wandering” channels can now be seen alongside wide areas of deposited gravel. This is encouraging, as it suggests that the main river and its floodplain are reconnecting, allowing the sediment it transports to fall out of the channel and collect upstream.
We found that rivers which are allowed to behave more naturally are better at locking up sediment upstream, rather than letting it accumulate in unnaturally high quantities in flood-prone towns and cities. If more rivers are allowed to behave naturally and develop this way, it could help reduce future flooding.
This hands-off approach to managing rivers is also much cheaper than hard engineering and brings a wealth of environmental benefits with it. The wandering channel system that’s evolving on the River Caldew has the greatest variety of features and habitats across the entire watercourse.
There are gravel bars, deep pools, floodplain wetlands, ponds and river cliffs. This diversity provides greater spawning habitat for fish, and cooler refuges for their fry. The open water habitats benefit amphibians, the trees and shrubs help kingfisher hunt and sand martins can nest in the river cliffs. Beetles and spiders scurry in the shingle, earning this wilder stretch of the Caldew a designation as a site of special scientific interest.
The last 75 years have seen many UK rivers change beyond recognition. The way we manage them in future must look very different. Relaxing our iron grip and allowing natural processes to flourish on rivers once more could be our best hope for reducing flooding, while reviving lost ecosystems rich in native wildlife.
A fresh-off-the-press IDB technical guidance document will help LAC-based project developers prepare bankable Nature-based Solutions (NbS) projects that provide a substitute, compliment or safeguard to conventional ‘gray’ infrastructure projects.
Nature based Solutions (NbS) can play a central role in meeting the
rising demand for infrastructure, and strengthening the resilience of
infrastructure assets. They offer a cost-effective approach to enhance
resilience, while providing a range of social and environmental benefits (e.g.
recreational opportunities, habitat for biodiversity). In this context, NbS
refer to activities associated with the protection, management, enhancement,
and restoration of nature and implemented to deliver climate resilient
infrastructure. This could refer to re-forestation activities for erosion
control, coral reef restoration for coastal protection, and green space
creation for stormwater runoff control in densely populated urban areas.
There is a high awareness of the benefits and services that NbS can
provide, yet significantly less implementation within the Latin American and
Caribbean (LAC) context. Their potential remains largely untapped due to a
number of barriers that prevent mainstreaming NbS into project development.
Some of these barriers are upstream, for example, the lack of NbS incorporation
into infrastructure policy and planning documents, or a lack of financial
instruments to finance NbS. Other barriers are further downstream: these
include, the challenges of defining the business case and accessing finance and
funding, and the lack of adequate data, methods, and tools to incorporate NbS
into project development.
In tackling some of these downstream challenges, the IDB, in collaboration with Acclimatise, have released a 12-step technical guidance document to integrate NbS into project development. The Guidance is targeted to planners, engineers, architects, contractors and operators interested in preparing bankable climate resilient projects that incorporate NbS either as a substitute, complement or safeguard to conventional infrastructure projects.
How was the guidance developed?
In September 2019, the IDB convened a workshop with a range of LAC-based
project developers and international experts with experience in NbS
implementation (e.g. Deltares, World Bank, World Resources Institute, U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers). As LAC as a whole is early stages of NbS implementation,
the IDB considered it opportune to leverage lessons learned from other parts of
the world where NbS is more mainstream in project development, for example the
Netherlands. At the workshop, the NbS experts iterated a preliminary technical
guidance document that was drafted based on a review of LAC and international
literature. The experts iterated the early stage draft and helped answer
important questions such as ‘is this how it works in practice?’ ‘what
steps or processes still need to be incorporated in this document?’, ‘what are
the important LAC-specific elements that must be included?’.
The NbS experts shared their experiences and insights which were
incorporated in the document, both at the workshop and throughout an extensive
review in the months after. The end
product is the result of a participatory process incorporating multiple
iterations with field experts, and should be considered a reference (or
“go-to”) document for project developers interested in developing NbS projects
in LAC, and globally.
The Techincal Guidance Document is available in English and in Spanish and can be accessed here*
Climate change, it’s fair to say, is complicated. And it’s big. One of the main challenges of responding effectively is simply getting your head around the scale of the problem.
This is not unique in the study of the physical world, of course. Scientists and economists spend a lot of time simplifying the complex real world into simpler, smaller parts, to find out how it all works. It’s one of the reasons we create “models” – mini versions of reality in which we can play, change variables, and see what happens.
We love it when we can find something out about the real world and present it in a form that is understood by other people. In environmental research, this sometimes comes in the form of the cost-benefit analysis that is understood by politicians and money-managers everywhere: spend this much cash now to make (or save) more money later.
A new study by European Commission scientists, now published in the journal Nature Communications, is a classic of this type. It looks at the costs of protecting coastal communities from climate change. The authors underline that our coasts will suffer from sea levels that are predicted to rise as much as one metre by the end of the century, as well as from more intense storms.
Of all the many varied impacts in a warming planet, sea level rise is one of the most straightforward to predict, although it will not affect everywhere the same and so some communities will be more at risk than others. We can be quite confident that the sea level is rising due to climate change, because sea water expands as it warms and because extra water is flowing from melting glaciers and ice sheets.
As the oceans warm, the sea levels rise bit by bit – and if ice sheets on Antarctica or Greenland collapse and water currently locked up is released, then sea levels will rise very suddenly, and by a lot. It will be expensive to deal with these impacts, and this new research shows by quite how much in Europe. Given the costs of flooded coastal cities, the European Commission scientists suggest that it would save money in the long run to build improved sea defences around 70% of the continent’s coastline.
There are other options
Do we really want to live in a world in which we all live behind huge walls? Is this the only way to adapt? Many of us have trapped ourselves in places that will no longer be safe, and in some places building large defences is the only option. Certainly London will not survive without the next-generation Thames barrier.
But there are other options in other places, and we can “defend” in different ways. Nature-based solutions such as recreating dunes or marshland or retreating from coastal zones are possibilities that we should consider wherever we can.
These solutions work with natural processes and have loads of other benefits for wildlife and humans, as well as removing some of the worst issues of “hard” coastal defences such as the way concrete walls can simply displace erosion further along the coast to places which are not defended. But it would be unrealistic to think that these are options everywhere.
There may even be other more cost-effective ways to reduce the risk. This is certainly the case for river flooding, where, by using our best weather and river models, we can now predict in advance when and where they will flood and take early action to avoid damage.
But we’re still working hard at making these forecasts better and it remains very difficult to forecast floods. We have a long way to go until we’ve mastered the science, but it is only through combining methods – forecasting, natural-solutions, some hard defences and so on – that we will survive the watery future that awaits.
The cost of climate change even in this one small part of the world and for this one impact area is eyewatering. We have a choice. The first option would be to accept business as usual and pay to treat the symptoms. This will mean building enormous sea walls to deal with increased floods, and paying for disaster recovery operations.
The preferable alternative is to take a more nuanced approach. We know the climate is changing, and we will need a combination of more concrete, clever natural solutions, and better flood forecasts to prepare for what’s ahead. But by showing the sheer scale of the “hard” defences that would be needed on their own to keep Europeans safe, this new paper represents more scientific evidence that cutting emissions now, and mitigating the worst impacts, is the best future we can hope for.
The UK Government’s independent advisors on climate change have written to the Prime Minster and First Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to encourage them to put climate change at the heart of post-COVID-19 recovery efforts. Published last week, the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) letters set out six key principles to rebuild the nation following the COVID-19 pandemic whilst delivering a stronger, cleaner and more resilient economy.
The Committee calls for immediate action to support
reskilling, retraining and research to ensure that the UK can recover from the
economic shock of COVID-19 and the lockdown measures that accompany it. Reducing
greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change must be integral to the
UK’s recovery package, the Committee says.
“The COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of planning
well for the risks the country faces. Recovery means investing in new jobs,
cleaner air and improved health. The actions needed to tackle climate change
are central to rebuilding our economy.” Said CCC Chairman, Lord Deben. “The
Government must prioritise actions that reduce climate risks and avoid measures
that lock-in higher emissions.”
The COVID-19 crisis demonstrates clearly, the significant
threats posed by global-scale systemic risks. Climate change increases the
likelihood that the world will face similar whole-system risks in the future. The
CCC explicitly points out that building resilience to climate change is needed
when considering how to rebuild the economy and society in the wake of
Chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, Baroness Brown of
Cambridge, said that the pandemic demonstrates the need of global co-operation
to tackle systemic risk. “As President of next year’s pivotal COP26 climate
summit, the UK now finds itself in a unique position to ramp-up climate action
at home and supercharge the international response to climate change
abroad.” She said. “The risks we face as a globalised society are now in sharp focus
– for their part, UK leaders must act decisively on a climate resilient
recovery, and do so together.”
The letter encourages governments in all UK nations should
prioritise actions to recover from the pandemic based on six resilience
principles. These are:
Use climate investments to support economic recovery and jobs. The CCC has previously identified a detailed set of investments to reduce emissions and manage the social, environmental and economic impacts of climate change. Many are labour-intensive, spread across the UK and ready to roll out as part of a targeted and timely stimulus package.
Lead a shift towards positive, long-term behaviours. The Government can lead the way to new social norms that benefit wellbeing, improve productivity and reduce emissions. This includes actions to support home-working, remote medical consultations and improve safety for cyclists.
Tackle the wider ‘resilience deficit’ on climate change. Strong policies are needed to reduce the UK’s vulnerability to the destructive risks of climate change and to avoid a disorderly transition to Net Zero. They must be implemented alongside the response to COVID-19 and will bring benefits to health, well-being and national security.
Embed fairness as a core principle. The benefits of acting on climate change must be shared widely, and the costs must not burden those who are least able to pay, or whose livelihoods are most at risk as the economy changes. Lost or threatened jobs of today should be replaced by those created by the new, resilient economy.
Ensure the recovery does not lock-in greenhouse gas emissions or increased risk. As it kick-starts the economy, the Government should avoid locking-in higher emissions or increased vulnerability to climate change in the longer-term. Support for carbon-intensive sectors should be contingent on them taking real and lasting action on climate change, and all new investments need to be resilient to future climate risks.
Strengthen incentives to reduce emissions when considering tax changes. Revenue could be raised by setting or raising carbon prices for sectors of the economy which do not bear the full costs of emitting greenhouse gases. Low global oil prices provide an opportunity to increase carbon taxes without hurting consumers.
The Committee’s letter details the steps that Governments can take as a priority, emerging from these six overarching principles.