Urban sustainability

Ten Principles to Forge a Cooperative Urban Ecosystem

January 26, 2023

Revisiting the book from the Centre for Liveable Cities and Urban Land Institute to address common challenges cities face in building climate resilience.

It is more important than ever to take steps towards making cities more climate resilient. Titled ‘Building Climate Resilience in Cities Worldwide: 10 Principles to Forge a Cooperative Ecosystem’, the book urges a whole-of-society approach to help address threats and inequalities alongside climate risks in order to achieve genuine, city-wide resilience.

The book features in-depth case studies from five cities – Hong Kong, Miami, New York, Rotterdam and Singapore. CLC and ULI says they have outlined practical guidance for city governments, businesses and communities to act together on risks, such as rising temperatures, wildfires, droughts, more intense storms, heavier rainfalls, and rising sea levels, which threaten the functions and sometimes even the existence of cities.

According to the book, The 10 Principles are translated into recommended actions, illustrated with real-life examples of best practices from around the world. The principles include:

  • Elevate resilience as a goal for all sectors and stakeholders
  • Work across space, time and organizations
  • Leverage opportunities to enhance livability
  • Provide transparency through data and knowledge sharing
  • Strive for equity, access and inclusion
  • Spur united action through a common narrative
  • Nurture a culture of collaboration
  • Embody flexibility in approaches and solutions
  • Motivate the market, spur innovation; and
  • Normalize green finance to fund projects.

In addition to organizational action, individuals are urged to make their own properties more resilient and their investments greener, while pressing for resilience to be elevated to the same level as profitability or sustainability in their working lives. Where a local area lacks a resilience working group, civic leaders are encouraged to bring people together – whether professionals or members of the public – and engage with other stakeholders.

Commenting on the launch, ULI President Asia Pacific David Faulkner says if there’s one overriding message, it’s that we all need to break out of our silos.

“We need to plan longer term, collaborate beyond our usual boundaries and look beyond our own sectors, interests and responsibilities. We have to stop setting up discreet programmes that address just one risk and start thinking instead about how we incentivize broader behavioural change. It’s not so common for a best practice book to emphasise individual responsibility – what each of us can do in our working lives or as private individuals. The younger generation are right in telling us not to be passive, but to work with our neighbours, governments and businesses to drive change,” says Falkner.

The five cities which participated in the research through workshops with local stakeholders and experts, formed the basis for the 10 Principles. Select practices and next steps from each city include:

In Hong Kong, industry leaders are helping drive adaptation through finance: Link REIT issued the first local “green bond” of HK$3.9 billion (USD500 million), alongside a new Green Finance Framework to select projects that incorporate climate resilience and sustainability. The government is supporting resilient development in part by working to create a new landslide barrier system for the city’s steep slopes, as well as requiring major public projects to comply with planning standards that reduce the urban heat island

Hong Kong has great opportunity to build on its strengths as a leading financial market to innovate around insurance of climate-related risks and provide capital for sustainable development. The city can also continue to support the wider business community in further embracing sustainability and addressing climate vulnerabilities through research and technological advancements.

The City of Miami has demonstrated the potential of regional collaborations with neighboring governments, cross-jurisdictional initiatives, and local financing mechanisms. The city’s resilience plan, Resilient305, was developed in concert with the next-door city of Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County and aligns with the Regional Climate Action Plan put out by the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact, a 4-county body that provides localized climate science and guidance on policy and advocacy to local municipalities.

Further land use and planning decisions can be unified under a comprehensive development plan that broadly embeds resilience in the city’s development, while directing growth toward higher-elevation areas and preserving housing affordability long-term.

New York City is working on ambitious protective waterfront infrastructure, especially around Lower Manhattan – a result of its success with innovative public-private design competitions such as Rebuild by Design. Broadly, its resilience work is driven by a combination of proactive planning and science-based policy guidance. A major next step for the city will be to scale up resilience retrofits across its existing and aging building stock, in part by using existing energy efficiency retrofit programs and financing mechanisms.

The book celebrates Rotterdam’s historic culture of collaboration, originating in communal maintenance of the city’s sea defenses. Residents have been further motivated to take part in building resilience by the reimagining of public spaces as infrastructure for balancing recreation and managing stormwater.

Additionally, the city works with developers on co-financing and incentives to encourage adoption of resilience strategies like green roofs, complementing requirements to capture stormwater onsite to reduce flooding. Rotterdam can stimulate even greater private sector participation by clarifying the business case for resilience, creating new or highlighting existing incentive programs, and incorporating flexibility within building regulations to allow for innovative development.

Singapore is mobilizing to respond to climate change with large government funding commitments, dedicating S$100 billion (US$75 billion) over the next 100 years for resilience measures. Channelized waterways are being restored to natural conditions to reduce flooding, while elevation requirements for some critical infrastructure have been adjusted based on updated sea level rise projections.

Meanwhile, private developers are incorporating climate-sensitive designs and pushing the environmental performance of their buildings. This trend can be accelerated through greater data sharing and dialogues between sectors to change industry norms, enhance collaboration and create a shared narrative on the need for resilience among businesses and the public.

Ed. If you have any comments or questions about this article, please send them to editor@indvstrvs.org. Photo by Victor on Unsplash.


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