At the beginning of the 21st century, the world population faces numerous challenges. These are challenges arising from climate change and economic and social policies. With most people living in cities, they are increasingly vulnerable to disasters, whether they are natural or not. With this, the concept of resilient cities arose , of primordial understanding to an architect and urbanistas.
In 2010, the United Nations launched the “Building Resilient Cities” campaign , under the auspices of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – UNISDR / UN.
First of all, let’s understand some aspects:
Why are cities at risk?
Cities and urban areas face a growing number of aspects that lead to the risk of disasters, among the main risk factors are:
– population growth and urban density;
– local incapacity, such as lack of supervision, financial, physical or human resources for disaster risk reduction actions;
– local governments disinterested in actions focused on disaster reduction and low social participation in urban planning;
– inadequate management of water resources and drainage systems, which can cause emergencies such as landslides and floods;
– the decline of ecosystems due to human activities such as road building, pollution or the unsustainable extraction of natural resources;
– deterioration of infrastructure and unsafe building standards, which can lead to collapse of structures;
– uncoordinated emergency services which prevent quick responses and actions;
– the adverse effects of climate change that are likely to increase extreme temperatures and precipitation, impacting the frequency, intensity and location of floods and other climate-related disasters.
But then what are resilient cities?
A resilient city is one that follows the following standards:
- It is a place where disasters are minimized because their population lives in homes and communities with organized services and infrastructure that comply with safety standards and building codes; without irregular occupations built on flood plains or steep slopes due to lack of other available lands.
- Resilient cities have competent, inclusive and transparent local governments that are concerned with sustainable urbanization and invest the resources needed to develop capacities for municipal management and organization before, during and after an adverse event or natural threat.
- It is where local authorities and the population understand the risks they face and develop local and shared information processes based on damage from disasters, threats and risks, including who is exposed and who is vulnerable.
- It is where the empowerment of citizens exists for participation, decision and planning of their city in conjunction with the local authorities; and where there is the valorization of local and indigenous knowledge, its capacities and resources.
- It is concerned with anticipating and mitigating the impacts of disasters by incorporating monitoring, warning and alarm technologies for the protection of infrastructure, community and individual assets – including their residences and physical assets -, cultural and environmental heritage, and economic capital . It is also able to minimize physical and social damages resulting from extreme weather events, earthquakes and other natural or human-induced threats.
- It is able to respond, implement immediate reconstruction strategies and quickly reestablish basic services to resume its social, institutional and economic activities after an adverse event.
- It understands that much of the above is also central to building resilience to environmental change, including climate change, in addition to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
Ten Essential Steps for Building Resilient Cities
- Put in place organizational and coordination actions to understand and apply disaster risk reduction tools, based on the participation of citizen groups and civil society. Build local alliances. Ensure that all departments understand their role in disaster risk reduction and preparedness.
- Assign a budget for disaster risk reduction and provide incentives for owners in risk areas, low-income households, communities, businesses and the public sector to invest in reducing the risks they face.
- Keep your risk and vulnerability data up to date. Prepare risk assessments and use them as a basis for urban development plans and decision-making. Make sure this information and plans for your city’s resilience are readily available to the public and fully discussed with them.
- Invest and maintain an infrastructure for risk reduction, with a structural focus, such as drainage works to avoid flooding; and, as necessary, invest in actions to adapt to climate change.
- Evaluate the safety of all schools and health centers and update such assessments as necessary.
- Apply and enforce realistic regulations, consistent with construction risk and principles of land use planning. Identify safe areas for low-income citizens and develop the urbanization of informal settlements whenever possible.
- Ensure that education and training programs on disaster risk reduction are in place in schools and communities.
- Protect ecosystems and natural barriers to mitigate floods, storms and other hazards to your city that is vulnerable. Adapt to climate change by building good risk reduction practices.
- Install alarm and alarm systems and emergency management capabilities in your municipality, and conduct regular public preparation exercises.
- After any disaster, ensure that survivors’ needs are at the heart of reconstruction, through direct support and their community organizations, to design and help implement response and recovery actions, including rebuilding homes and subsistence.
The situation in Brazil
The UN, in 2015, pointed Brazil as the country that most adhered to the campaign of resilient cities. In all, there were 282 municipalities that created campaigns and produced official resilience strategy documents for the coming decades. However, there is a long way to go.
The impact of climate change on the country will primarily affect cities, since 85% of the Brazilian population is urban. The population of cities in Brazil is subject to floods, periods of drought with water shortages in taps, landslides, endemic diseases (such as dengue), and other situations that endanger the physical integrity of citizens.
According to a study by the Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN), Brazil is not fully prepared for climate change and its impacts. The research highlights that the main weaknesses of Brazil are related to its infrastructure and to the fact that it is a country of enormous size and with a large poor population. Currently, the country is the 112th in the ranking of countries with the most vulnerable urban settlements in a list of 180 nations.
The 10 most resilient cities in the world
A ranking promoted by the Canadian magazine Corporate Knights lists the ten most resilient cities in the world. The only Brazilian representative in this ranking is Curitiba and it was in the choice, the fact that the rulers of the city have taken the steps towards greener urbanization for about 40 years.
The deployment of a fast and efficient bus system, which circulate through unique aisles also weighed on the decision.
In order to list the ten most resilient cities in the world, those with more than 600 thousand inhabitants were considered and a series of filters were adopted: political commitment, population density, traffic, use of renewable energies, CO2 emissions, mitigation of climatic effects, adaptation and territorial extension of parks. The author of the ranking is businessman and writer Boyd Cohen, along with Hunter Lovins, one of the most respected names in sustainability.
1 – Copenhagen, Denmark – 40% of citizens go to work by bicycle. It was the only city to obtain the maximum score in the category of “political commitment”. Together with Curitiba, it is the city with the lowest CO² emission per capita.
2 – Curitiba, Brazil – In addition to the attributes already mentioned, it was also considered the flood prevention plan implemented in the city in the 70’s, through the creation of parks along the rivers and channels of the municipality.
3 – Barcelona, Spain – A small percentage of renewable energy supplies the city, but its commitment to spreading the use of solar energy is striking. The municipal administration has established that all new homes or renovations should include some solar heating system – usually for water.
4 – Stockholm, Sweden – The city stood out for political commitment and the amount of green areas, but remained behind Paris when evaluated the extension of the railway network per capita. Its goal of reducing greenhouse gases is the second most drastic.
5 – Vancouver, Canada – The city had the highest score as resilient cities among all North American cities. Like San Francisco the United States, the city plans to reduce its gas emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990. Ninety percent of the city’s energy comes from renewable source and there are investments so that it has its own district system power.
6 – Paris, France – In addition to being a signatory to a series of international pacts, Paris also achieved the highest score in the category “rail transport extension per inhabitant”. It is one of the few cities in the study that has an adaptation project in progress: more than 100 thousand trees were planted and another 20 thousand cover the city’s roofs.
7 – San Francisco, United States – In the ranking, the city maintains the number 1 position in the country. The political commitment and aggressive goal as Vancouver, reduce by 80% its emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 (1990 reference), they have raised points of the city. Actions to expand the use of solar energy also counted.
8 – New York, United States – Extension of the rail transportation network and the park areas have placed the metropolis among the ten most resilient.
9 – London, England – A series of adaptive measures in the city made it included in the list. The creation of the “congestion zone” in the city, which reduced the transit of cars and increased public transport and the implementation of the second largest mobile barrier against floods in the world were measures valued by the expert.
10 – Tokyo, Japan – The only Asian city in the ranking of resilient cities has one of its strengths in its climate change action plan. You need to invest more in renewable energy and green public areas. On the other hand, the strong support to the private initiative for innovation in clean technologies and mitigation of problems related to the climate made it deserve to be in the ranking.