Floods, droughts and heavy rainfall are set to pose ever-increasing challenges for cities and municipalities in future. While there is no way they can completely evade the consequences of anthropogenic climate change, they can at least reduce catastrophic consequences by adapting appropriately. Many of the required measures to this end can help improve quality of life for a city's residents at the same time.
"The ability to deal with the fatal consequences of climate change doesn't just come down to technical measures," says Anja Bierwirth, Head of Research Unit Urban Transitions at the Wuppertal Institute. In particular, the catastrophic floods in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate in July 2021 demonstrated how much the support provided by masses of volunteers and neighbours helped people to cope with the impacts of the catastrophe. "This spontaneous assistance on the part of civil society is incredibly valuable and must be encouraged. If deployed properly, it can reduce the burden on professional institutions such as technical relief organisations and fire brigades. Not only can this assistance be provided at very short notice, it can also be utilised in a pragmatic way at the local level," Bierwirth explains.
But it's not just about having the right approach to crisis situations in cities and municipalities – stronger, intelligent crisis prevention measures are also needed, particularly in light of the experiences of recent months. In the latest In Brief titled "Resilient, sustainable and ready for the future: Guidelines for urban development of tomorrow", the Wuppertal Institute describes the technical, planning and social measures that are necessary to make cities 'resilient' to the impacts of climate change and prevent far-reaching damage to the greatest possible extent in future. This In Brief makes it clear that many of the measures also offer an opportunity to improve the lives of local people.
A win-win situation for quality of life and resilience
In addition to proper planning of flood plains, utilising infiltration areas and technical means of flood protection, a further focus is on safeguarding technical supply infrastructure – such as power supply facilities – with more redundant systems. But foresight is needed in other areas as well, for example as regards alternatives for nurseries, schools and other facilities.
Actively adapting to our changing climate creates win-win situations at the same time. "Setting aside more green, retention and infiltration areas makes cities more resistant and also helps to cool densely built-up urban areas. Buildings can also be greened, and the cooling effect this has reduces the amount of energy used for air conditioning," says Bierwirth.
Last but not least, taking a new course in transport policy in order to protect the climate makes it possible to free up space and allow more green areas to develop. This results in better air and a higher quality of life in cities. Expanding attractive and affordable means of public transport and a functioning cycle infrastructure also makes it easier for people who cannot afford a car to participate in society.
"In many cases, rebuilding cities and communities can also support efforts to adapt to climate change and make cities better places to live," says Bierwirth, summing up the results of the In Brief.
The In Brief from the Wuppertal Institute is available for download under the link below.
Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH
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