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Policy briefing on resilient cities launched at 'Cities in a Changing Climate' event

27 January 2015

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Reported by James Hynard, CSaP Researcher

On the evening of 21 January, an enthusiastic audience gathered at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to launch the CSaP policy challenge briefing “Resilient Cities” and hear how cities can adapt to a changing climate. CSaP worked in partnership with the EBRD and the Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment to bring together an interdisciplinary panel of distinguished speakers whose diverse perspectives illuminated the complexity of the problem of climate change and cities, and the urgency of the response required from government, industry, civil society and individuals.

Listen to or download the podcast here:

Download a video of the debate here.

The chair for the evening was CSaP Policy Fellow, Dr Craig Davies (Senior Manager, Climate Change Adaptation at EBRD). He introduced EBRD’s efforts in this area, pointing to its work in vulnerable countries in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean, before introducing the speakers.

What challenges should cities expect?

Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Head of the Open Oceans research group at the British Antarctic Survey, highlighted the severe costs of recent extreme weather events, such as the €12 billion associated with the floods across Europe in 2013. Whilst average global temperatures are predicted to increase by 2.6 – 4.8⁰C by the end of the century, local temperature increases could exceed 5⁰C, exacerbated in cities by urban heat island effects. Rising sea levels also present a severe threat. Many rapidly developing cities lack the capacity required for effective mitigation and adaptation, an urgent problem which needs to be tackled.

How can cities cope with rising temperatures?

Alan Short, Professor of Architecture at the University of Cambridge, illustrated the role buildings can play. Viable options do exist for creating climate-friendly buildings, an example being a Maltese export brewery which can maintain its internal temperature at 14⁰C lower than its external environment, with no energy input. However, a significant obstacle is the cultural aspiration to unsustainable steel and glass buildings; as such, a fundamental reorientation of the cultural pre-occupations within the design professions – and more widely - is needed.

How can cities plan systemically for climate change?

Dr Mark Kleinman, Director of Economic and Business Policy at the Greater London Authority, rounded off the presentations with his views on how cities can plan systemically for climate change. An infrastructure plan for London extending to 2050 is currently being drawn up, which tackles challenges in parallel rather than in isolation. Cities are a natural focus for thinking about co-dependencies, and it is this sort of systems approach which is vital for adapting to climate change.

The challenges facing cities are clearly severe, but the event illustrated how we can mitigate and adapt for the effects of climate change through long-term, systemic, and coordinated planning, and fired enthusiasm and ideas for doing just that.

Talks were followed by 25 minutes of lively Q&A with the audience.

See CSaP's storify on this event here.

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  • 21 January 2015, 6pm

    Cities in a changing climate: London

    CSaP is working in partnership with the European Development Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment to bring together a panel of distinguished speakers to focus on cities in a changing climate.