Throughout our special Resilience in Cities series we heard from experts and leading voices from our industry how they see the future of resilient communities and urban areas dealing with climate change, extreme weather and natural hazards by taking different perspectives focusing on people & communities, businesses, critical infrastructure, ecology & environment, insurance and investors. Some of the points particularly struck home with me.
1. Opportunity and future focused preparation to inspire catalyst innovative solutions
Evident from all who have contributed to the series is the opinion that the need for Resilience should be viewed as an opportunity and not as a problem. We should accept the fact the world is complex and uncertain. Knowing that, Resilience is about switching perspective from problem recognition to opportunity identification and from short-term solutions to long-term future focused preparation. Resilience is about bouncing back, not only recovering from an event but building back better and be more prepared and more resilient afterwards.
To create a more climate resilient future, we need to see the challenge of climate change as a catalyst to inspire innovative, cross-sectoral solutions that result in far-reaching and lasting positive effects. The human learning and adaptive capacity is an essential quality for enhancing Resilience. ‘Resilience is human’s best capital in shaping our future’ as Henk Ovink said.
2. True Cross-sectoral Partnerships to drive co-creation of multi-purpose solutions
Improving resilience will involve collaboration amongst industries and public bodies that are outside natural partnerships. We saw that the ground-breaking sandscaping project at Bacton in the UK was only possible thanks to the willingness of the public and private entities to work together to deliver a multi-purpose solution that benefits more than their own immediate interest.
Similarly, governmental institutions, insurance and re-insurance entities form public-private partnerships. Governments have a key role in driving the consumption of insurance which is usually driven by policies and regulation. They also ensure that insurers are solvent when disasters strike. This requires excellent risk modelling, which can be then applied by regulators, credit rating agencies and the insurance sector itself for which the governments provide the framework to enable that to happen.
3. Data sharing & communicating risk to improve decision making
The key to greater resilience lays in the huge amount of available data. With this data we can better identify, analyse, visualise and communicate risk. Better understanding of risks leads to actions like investments in risk reducing measures or improved preparedness which then leads to reduction of potential impact.
A key role of the insurance industry in this aspect is to help society understand risk. Still, risk information present at insurance companies isn’t automatically shared with policy holders like property owners or infrastructure operators. To truly maximise the potential of the available data and insights we need to collectively adopt a more collaborative approach to its sharing and use amongst all stakeholders. Open source data would stimulate this. This would lead to greater transparency between public and private bodies, sharing of data and the development of user interfaces that allow residents to access information to support their own decisions around safety and risk.
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4. Recognition of the value of resilient infrastructure to let economics drive resilience
Infrastructure operators have an important role in enhancing resilience themselves too. The fundamental requirement is for them to understand and evaluate flood and climate risks that they face now and in the future, and make sure their assets are properly designed and built to withstand these risks.
Airports for example are essential to disaster response for cities and islands, so they must make sure they are able to operate during extreme weather events. A fully functioning airport is of no use if the surroundings are flooded and the airport can’t be reached. As operators lead their airports and the surrounding cities towards a more resilient future, it is imperative that local and national governments work with them to facilitate this.
Urbanization is the biggest driver that increases disaster risk. Urban growth should therefore go hand in hand with resilient infrastructure and financial investment in infrastructure is key. It is therefore imperative that the investor community values and recognises resilience, so that at long last, we can let the invisible hand of economics drive resilience.
5. Understanding risk and exposure to protect business continuity
Having a holistic view on the economic system in combination with resilience is very important. This applies to assessing the exposure of infrastructure, business assets or channels to various kinds of hazards as well as assessing vulnerability and possible cascading effects due to global connectivity.
The fact that businesses try to do everything more and more efficiently in highly optimised processes, in combination with climate change and increase of frequency of extreme weather, leads to increasing business continuity risks. Understanding of exposure, vulnerability, possible measures and being timely alerted of risks, supports businesses becoming more resilient. Besides own interest of businesses, also the financial sector – regulators, investors and insurance companies – is demanding more and more from companies in terms of understanding how vulnerable they are to climate change.
6. Digital tools focusing on end-users to improve resilience
With a population of early and fast adopters of digital technology – facilitated by the low cost of data – the way is clear for a rapid expansion in the development and use of digital tools to improve resilience to climatic and other natural risks. Already projects are starting to reap the benefits of this more inclusive approach.
Automated forecasting and warning systems for upcoming hazards reaching end-users directly can be very effective, whether it is for operations managers of businesses, critical infrastructure operators or for reaching the man on the street in communities. Especially when aiding visualisation people can easily see and have access to critical information and act themselves. A simple app on a mobile phone can save lives and reduce social disruption and economic damage.
2020 the year of action: Everyone has a role to play
Our cities are set to keep growing so too is the need for better resilience to climate change and extreme weather events. We need healthy, sustainable development which allows society and economies to thrive despite the uncertainty around climate and extreme weather whilst also remaining pleasant and efficient to live in. The goal is not to battle against nature but to design flexible solutions that work with nature to allow adaptation to the changing circumstances.
The growth in data, digital tooling and the greater connection between public and private bodies and cross-sector activity will create new, paradigm-shifting opportunities and create urban areas that can adapt and adjust to the climate now and in the future. Resilience in my opinion will bring many opportunities and prevent or reduce the risk of loss of lives and financial losses and therefore positively impact societies and economies.
Essential though, as emphasised in the Resilience in Cities series is that everyone has a role to play. You, me, communities, governments, infrastructure operators, businesses, insurers, financial sector. Together we are stronger and can make a bigger difference resulting in the best multi-purpose solutions, getting better than ever before.
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