Get Ready 2 : More on "Building Resilient Cities"

Unsurprisingly, most of the media seems to have stopped reading about two paragraphs into the executive summary of the new UN-World Bank publication ""Building Resilient Cities." As a result coverage is based on the dramatic statistics about the size of Asia's cities and their vulnerability to extreme weather. On that front it doesn't offer up much news (although it does fit nicely with other similar coverage closer to home, this time from New York City). But "Building Resilient Cities" is a beast of a very different sort.

While it does provide a useful synthesis of sectoral risks and case studies of responses, the real meat here is in the sections dealing not with what to do, but how to get it done. Unlike your usual report, the primer is designed as a tool to help cities start doing. The materials are laid out to guide a city through the processing of forming a Climate Change Team and bringing together silo-ized departments, evaluating the level of risk faced by the city, and then identifying ways to address those risks. The crucial step here is the first one.

The primer returns in various ways to the fact that climate change is a challenge, not just to our infrastructure, or our buildings, but to the structure of our municipal institutions and how we have organized ourselves up until now. Responding to climate change -- whether by reducing our emissions, or reducing the risks we face, or both -- is a crosscutting project that fits badly into the traditional divisions that structure a municipality. Creating a strong institutional home for climate change, one that helps coordinate action across multiple departments, is the number one priority for action cited by the report.

While Canadian cities face different natural risks than cities in Asia, we will face risks all the same. Here as well we need to worry about silos as much as sewers. Given that, the resources compiled in "Building Resilient Cities" should be of interest here as much as anywhere else. Even if the dramatic stats and case studies may be familiar to some, the excercise in institution building that the primer lays out charts a well designed path for cities trying to plan their approach to climate change.


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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

Info on my consulting work, c.v. and current research focus is all here.