As decision makers and communities consider options for a post-Covid-19 recovery, how are cities taking the opportunity to embed environmental, social and economic co-benefits in recovery plans and actions?

Cities are fighting the pandemic against the backdrop of multiple existing shocks and stresses and emerging vulnerabilities while striving to put equity, economy, and climate action at the center of their approaches. In the climate space, this includes heatwaves in cities like The Hague and Tel Aviv-Yafo during the summer. For many cities in the United States such as Louisville, Houston, and Los Angeles the protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers added to existing tensions, but also created opportunities to address long-standing racial inequities.    

The City of Barcelona’s digital and green agreement for recovery, the Barcelona Deal, developed through a multi-stakeholder process, provides an opportunity for course correction on tourism, sustainability, mobility and digitalization. One of its goals is aiming to diversify the local economy and boost the digital transition, including creating 100,000+ digital jobs 

Recognizing the need to focus on the 2020s rather than the 2030s, in Milan local climate leaders are building on reduced urban air pollution and increased biodiversity, to consider climate impacts through a holistic resilience lens that examines the connection between future shocks and stresses. The World Bank’s Sustainability Checklist for policy makers sets out how to start this process.

Houston’s Covid-19 addendum to their City Resilience Strategy 

In Houston, the city’s existing resilience strategy has been amended in real time to include long and short term actions to combat the effects of Covid-19. This includes consideration of pre-existing vulnerabilities such as local socio-economic conditions, and environmental risk such as heatwaves and floods, as well as an approach to evaluating all indicators of all resilience programs to weave Covid-19 impacts and indicators into sustainable resilience planning. This helps accommodate Covid-19 into existing long term city plans, rather than trying to build resilience purely around Covid concerns. 

In Santa Fe, Argentina, the city is using a resilience-focused recovery planning tool to help other cities articulate the resilience value of each proposal through a simple set of questions in order to obtain a portfolio of relevant actions to address the social, economic and infrastructure needs emerging from the Covid-19 crisis. 

Under the Rotterdam Sterker Door (Stronger Rotterdam) efforts, the city plans to use the crisis as an opportunity to invest over EUR 233 million in projects relating to housing, climate adaptation, and green space. As an example, one of the projects is centered on setting up a retraining fund for Rotterdam citizens who have lost work due to the crisis, so that they can be competitive for future digital jobs.

Further resources:

Practice: Hear from Belfast on their resilience recovery planning where they are aligning pandemic recovery and climate change from Cities on the Frontline #09 Resilient Recovery Planning

Lesson: Manchester Briefing #2. This edition focuses on the interconnectedness of recovery to people, to infrastructure, and to the environment 

Practice: Milano 2020 – Adaptation plan. The adaptation strategy covers topics like ‘governance, rights and inclusion’, ‘economy, resources and values’, ‘labour’, ‘sustainability’, and ‘timing, spaces and services’. 

Practice: Houston Integrates Covid-19 Response and Recovery into Resilient Houston Framework. The city of Houston has updated its Resilient Houston plan to include a Covid-19 addendum to guide the city’s response to this public health crisis and associated economic impacts.  

How to: Toolkit for a Resilient Recovery – Recovery Action Plan. The tool was designed to support cities identify new and ongoing initiatives that will create multiple resilience benefits in the context of their recovery from Covid-19. The tool is a decision support method intended to help facilitate collaborative project identification.  

How to: No Urban Myth: Building Inclusive and Sustainable Cities in the Pandemic Recover. Five practical steps that city leaders can take as countries emerge from the pandemic, there is an urgent need to help cities reshape their economic densities and make their urban fabric socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. 

How to: Rotterdam Sterker Door (Stronger Rotterdam) is the metropolitan approach that helps the city to emerge stronger from the crisis. This includes seven multi-benefits projects that promote green lungs built on the realization of how outdoor spaces are crucial for all Rotterdam residents in the midst of Covid-19.