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San Francisco, Photo by Daiwei Lu on Unsplash


Preparing cities for the future

Cities worldwide facing the life and death challenges of climate change each has their own particular problems to overcome. Which makes it near impossible to develop one action plan that will be effective for all. Recognising this, a new report by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and McKinsey Sustainability, presents a list of 15 ‘high-potential’ adaptation actions that can work in ‘many types of cities’.

“There’s no ‘one-size-fits all’ approach to adaptation and identifying the right steps to take can be daunting,” said Brodie Boland, Partner at McKinsey.

“There is limited time and resources available for cities to adapt. We hope city leaders around the world will find this report to be a useful starting point to develop their own adaptation agendas,” Brodie Boland, Partner at McKinsey and leader of McKinsey’s work on climate risk in the real estate and infrastructure sectors.

The report, Focused Adaptation. A strategic approach to climate adaptation in cities, focuses on five climate hazards: ‘extreme heat, drought, wildfire, inland flooding and coastal flooding’ and outlines actions that can tackle these and help cities to build systemic resilience. These include actions such as planting trees, facilitating prescribed burns in forests, and enhancing financial and insurance programs. 

“The impacts of the climate crisis are already being felt across the world’s cities and mayors are taking the urgent steps needed to prepare for a rapidly heating world,” added Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40 Cities. “The Focused Adaptation research released by C40 and McKinsey will help mayors and city leaders to make better decisions on where to focus investments and which projects to prioritise. That will ultimately mean city residents are safer, healthier and better prepared for the future.”

Delivering resilience

In an article for Innovators Magazine Richard Mullane, Environment & Communities Sector Leader for Hassell, San Francisco, took us inside the green cities revolution; specifically a project in the South City San Francisco Bay Area set up by The Rockefeller Foundation.

The projects aim to make the area ‘more resilient in the face of dynamic threats including rising sea levels, storm water flooding and earthquakes’, addressing some of the five climate hazards identified in the Focused Adaptation paper.

“The project is one that has taught us how natural systems and community initiatives can combine to offer up sustainable and long-term restorative solutions to complex global challenges,” Mullane said.

The architect and urban designer believes collaboration is key to unlocking opportunities to deliver resilience for connected urban centres.

He continued: “Working with community collaborators and other specialists, as part of an international design collective, the year-long program in the Bay Area combined the creativity, knowledge and experience of residents, public officials and local, national and international experts to develop inventive, community-based solutions – seeking out an alternative approach to the hard-edged, engineering based interventions such as concrete protective barriers, that have previously failed the region.”

At the start of this UN decade of ecosystem restoration from 2021 to 2030, Mullane says architects, designers and urban planners need to shift their focus, ‘onto exploring the potential for architecture and design to combat emerging global challenges, and preparing cities for the future’.

“This revised approach calls on architects, designers and urban planners to involve local communities more than ever, drawing on local knowledge and local understanding of longstanding eco-systems, and empowering local communities to ensure the successful delivery, and ongoing stewardship of the local environment they know so well – urban or natural. Rather than focusing our attention on instantly constructed outcomes, ecosystem restoration presents the challenge of growing and evolving socially sustainable solutions over time, from the ground up.”

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Written By

Iain is a creative writer, journalist and lecturer, and formerly an editor of two international business publications. Iain is now editor of Innovators Magazine, as well as the strategic content director for OnePoint5Media.

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