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Audit Uncovers Opportunities, Threats

Cities around the world are feeling the pressures of climate change. Fires, droughts, floods and other factors are forcing evacuations of some towns, while driving those displaced to the nearest cities. Unfortunately, few cities are prepared to handle the pressures of climate change and rising populations.

Each year, urban areas add about 75 million people – more than the population of the world’s 85 smallest countries combined. The high density of people and assets makes cities extremely vulnerable to the effects of global warming and climate change.

Urban areas generate about 80 percent of GNP globally. Cities also generate approximately 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, more than 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Cities house an increasing proportion of the world’s most vulnerable populations (nearly 900 million people live in urban slums). Almost 500 million urban residents live in high-risk coastal areas. In the 136 biggest coastal cities, there are 100 million people and $4.7 trillion in assets exposed to coastal floods.

“Rapid growth, without efforts to boost resilience, is exposing cities around the world to huge risk. Population growth and human migration are on the rise, and climate change is poised to have dramatic effects, which means we’re approaching a tipping point for the safety of cities all over the world,” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, the World Bank Group’s Senior Director for the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience.

Resilient cities can absorb, recover and prepare from shocks (economic, environmental, social and institutional).

Few cities and communities have the luxury of time. Urban planners must develop shortcuts to find immediate solutions. To help jumpstart your road to resilience, we have prepared the following checklist for your adaptation. It will serve as a rapid assessment to help you and your stakeholders identify the most immediate threats, opportunities and actions. Develop a special resilience task force. Be sure to include representatives of key industry sectors and key community groups.

Audit & Assessment: Identify the most urgent threats and opportunities.

What are the governmental/regulatory barriers to progress in your city? How can city and county government be more transparent, inclusive, comprehensive and responsible?

  • Emergency Response: Do you have the resources to respond to emerging threats? What threats/risks can be isolated, evacuated, reinforced or removed?
  • Healthcare Systems: In the worst-case scenario, what gaps exist in the local healthcare system? Do facilities need to be relocated? Will roads in and out be accessible during extreme weather events or fires? Do they have backup power?
  • Technology Gaps: Where is the technology infrastructure vulnerable? Where is it outdated? Is it backed up? Can it be accessed remotely in case of an emergency?
  • Power: Is it a reliable resource? Is it a sustainable resource? Where are there opportunities to diversify your sources and what opportunities exist to generate and store power locally? Who uses the most power?
  • Water: Is it a reliable resource? Is it a sustainable resource? Is it safe from pollutants? Is it adequate to meet future demand? Who uses the most?
  • Food: Is it a reliable resource? Is it a sustainable resource? Is it safe from pollutants? How can you boost local production?
  • Transportation: Where can roads and bridges be upgraded to improve traffic flow? What roads and bridges are vulnerable to floods, fires, landslides and other threats? What potential is there to improve alternative transportation? Promote walking, biking, carpooling and remote work environments. Electric vehicles can help, but only when powered by solar energy.
  • Housing: Affordable housing, energy efficiency, recycling, smart communities, resilient communities, community gardens, composting, xeriscaping and more are all part of the solution.
  • Wastewater Management: In most cities, the entire wastewater treatment process represents a public health disaster. Extreme weather is exacerbating the problem. Sewage sludge isn’t fertilizer and reclaimed wastewater isn’t liquid gold. This area requires immediate consultation. Please contact us.
  • Green Spaces: Urban forests and flood plains matter. Defense from local forest fires, rising tides, tornadoes, hurricanes and more also matter.
  • Air Quality: A key metric in some areas is air quality. It’s a matter of public health, but it also is a symptom of a problem that must be addressed. Ozone, particulates, smoke, automobile exhaust, airport and airline traffic, industrial emissions and more all must be minimized for maximum impact.
  • Financing: Incentives, tax credits, green bonds and other avenues can help your city finance critical steps forward. In many cases, these projects will pay for themselves with cost reductions.Important Trends: What other local trends must be considered?
  • Critical Success Factors: What keeps you up at night? What obstacles must be overcome? Who are key allies?
  • Strengths and Weaknesses: What are your key assets and liabilities? Leverage your strengths and improve upon your vulnerabilities.
  • Develop Action Plan and Budget: When it comes to global warming and climate change, cities represent our greatest risk for loss and our greatest opportunity for change. One of the biggest mistakes that community leaders can make is over-analysis, which often leads to crisis management. As the list above indicates, there are immediate opportunities for improvement in every city and community. Momentum is contagious.
Greener Cities and climate action

Greener Cities is a division of Crossbow Communications. Greener Cities is a resource for sustainable and resilient cities and communities around the world.

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Author: Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is a sustainability strategist, author and advocate. Follow him on Twitter @Gary_Chandler