Speaker Series 2024 #1 | Climate Resilience

Feb 2024

About the Session

The Speakers

In an increasingly urbanized world, cities face formidable challenges from climate change, with 85% of risks associated with water-related issues. Intense rain events and prolonged droughts contribute to flooding and water scarcity, while altered water cycles and urban development patterns intensify urban heat. The interconnected challenges of heavy rain, drought, and urban heat are compounded by a growing urban population, creating conflicts between space demands and climate resilience. Green interventions offer solutions by cooling cities and enhancing water event management, but their success depends on effective water management.

Recognizing the pivotal role of sustainable water management, cities can and need to incorporate blue, green, and hybrid solutions in every urban intervention. To achieve this, cities are coupling a clear vision for climate resilience with practical on-the-ground investments, prioritizing effective water management that addresses vulnerabilities and optimizes resources. This will enable investments in suitable blue-green infrastructure capable of withstanding the compounding challenges of climate change, driving impactful interventions, and improving long-term planning.

The first cities on the Frontline session of the year, jointly organized by Resilient Cities Network and Orbia, “Climate Resilience: Making Cities More Climate Resilient with Blue and Green Solutions” highlighted strategies and best practices from Rio de Janeiro -Brazil, Guadalajara -Mexico and Zwolle -Netherlands, through their journey to build a climate-resilient future. Our speakers Alejandra Maria Devecchi, Urban Planning Manager, Ramboll, Rio de Janeiro; Dr. Josué Díaz Vázquez, Metropolitan Planning Director, Metropolitan Institute of Planning (IMEPLAN), Guadalajara and Lennart Berends – Climate Adaptation Senior Advisor, City of Zwolle, discussed some of the main learnings in the process of design and implementation of green-blue infrastructure.

Rio de Janeiro, home to nearly 9 million in the metropolitan area and an additional 30 million in the region, grapples with climate challenges affecting its inhabitants, especially the most vulnerable groups that account for 30% of the population. In collaboration with C40, and the local government, Ramboll conducted a holistic 2020 Climate Risk Analysis, assessing heatwaves, floods, ground slides, and sea level rise. The resulting climate adaptation guide, developed holistically, identified vulnerabilities and proposed innovative blue and green solutions, including stormwater parks, urban canal restorations and livable shorelines. Additionally, their implementation pathways stressed idea dissemination, transdisciplinary analyses, resilience-focused policy changes, and master planning with holistic tools, offering a comprehensive strategy for climate resilience in the unique context of Rio de Janeiro.

Guadalajara, with 5 million inhabitants in the city and 9 million in the state of Jalisco, addresses climate challenges through integrated water management to address some of their biggest challenges including lack of water availability. The city highlighted the historical lack of attention to subterranean water sources even though they account for 30 to 40% of the water use in the state. Through a detailed study, IMEPLAN identified priority recharge areas, vulnerability zones, and sources of underground water pollution, crucial for aligning decision-makers around resilient urban planning and policy through the Metropolitan Territory. This connected zoning delimitations with green and blue projects, emphasizing subterranean water as a vital reserve. Guadalajara’s commitment to sustainable water management includes green infrastructure for water retention during short, intense rain periods to combat the lack of water availability.

Zwolle, Netherlands, shared the city’s proactive climate approach. With a population of 120 thousand, expected to rise by 20%, Zwolle faces flooding challenges in its delta location. Developing scenarios for CO2 emissions and wet and dry seasons while considering urban growth. Based on this, the city has been developing and implementing a green and blue framework with seven climate-adaptive principles, integrating blue and green infrastructure into every project big or small. Through this process, Zwolle stressed the need for a regional and systems perspective and advocated for natural and multi-use solutions. Zwolle’s climate-resilient city station area, green recreational spaces, infiltration crates, and underground bike parking lot that doubles as a buffer tank in case of severe flooding, exemplifies its commitment to blending urban population demands with climate adaptation.

Discussions during this session with Rio de Janeiro, Guadalajara, and Zwolle illuminated the path forward for cities navigating the intricate challenges posed by climate change. The integration of blue and green solutions with clear strategies, as showcased by these cities, serves as a blueprint for building resilient urban futures. The webinar not only underscored the importance of sustainable water management but also emphasized the need for holistic, transdisciplinary approaches, policy changes, and strategic master planning. These cities, in their pursuit of climate resilience, are beacons of inspiration, offering valuable insights and lessons for urban areas worldwide as they embark on the journey to create livable, sustainable, and climate-resilient cities.

Key Insights

  • Cities around the world are increasingly facing climate-related challenges including droughts, heatwaves, floods, and landslides, among others. These effects combined with expected urban population growth create a significant challenge for cities.
  • The spread of solutions related to blue/green infrastructure among cities is crucial to support new project development; however, it is important to consider site specificity before replicating or adapting solutions.
  • Technical studies supported by GIS and tools that clearly identify the status of land and water systems and constantly monitor their changes are needed to align stakeholders’ priorities and lead to assertive action.
  • In the implementation of urban interventions, no matter how big or small, it is important to maintain a regional and systems perspective as cities and natural ecosystems are made up of interconnected networks. Additionally, when possible, always opt for natural and multi-use solutions that can increase the potential of generating co-benefits for the city and climate.

Alejandra Maria Devecchi

Alejandra Maria Devecchi

Urban Planning Manager Ramboll, Rio de Janeiro

“We designed a climate adaptation guide in order to serve as an inspiration to what can be implemented in Rio by applying a holistic approach.”

Lennart Berends

Lennart Berends

Climate Adaptation Senior Advisor City of Zwolle

“Even if you’re making small adjustments, you always look at the regional and system levels so you can develop bigger and stronger cities with even more inhabitants.”

Josué Díaz

Metropolitan Planning Director Metropolitan Institute of Planning (IMEPLAN), Guadalajara

“Based on the technical information that we have from this study, we can now tell different governmental sectors: ‘Look, if we want to have a resilient metropolis, a sustainable metropolis, we need to think about how we will rearrange our land use.’”

Geertjo van Dijk (Co-host)

Global Product Manager,
Urban Climate Resilience Orbia Building & Infrastructure (Wavin)

Fitsum Gelaye

Fitsum Gelaye (Co-host)

Regional Engagement Coordinator, Africa & Programs Sr. Manager,
Resilient Cities Network

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