Resilience as a platform for city investment

  • 12-13-2016
  • John Batten, Arcadis
  • Aquatechtrade

‘There is clearly a resilience movement in progress,’ comments John Batten, Global Cities Director with consultancy Arcadis. It is still at a ‘nascent stage’, he adds, but he points to examples around the world that show momentum is growing. Cities in northern Europe are taking a strong lead. ‘That is probably the most intensive area of concentrated, deliberate resilience investment that we are seeing in the world today,’ says Batten. He cites Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, London and Bristol in the UK, and Copenhagen and Vejle in Denmark as examples of locations taking steps such as adopting climate adaptation plans or creating a key new role within their city administrations – the Chief Resilience Officer.

Batten notes also the contribution of other cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Sao Paolo to the resilience movement, the progress underway in Asia, and China’s initiative to create 20 ‘sponge cities’ designed to attenuate floods and climate risks. ‘This movement has clearly been catalysed by 100 Resilient Cities by the Rockefeller Foundation,’ he adds.

‘I think momentum will continue to build,’ says Batten. The main barriers can be a lack of political will or economic resources. ‘Climate change is redefining risk, causing more and more cities to reconsider their risk profile,’ he adds. This awareness can help create the political will needed to overcome these barriers, but a wider view of resilience provides an even greater incentive. ‘I think there is a lot more understanding and acceptance that a resilient city, particularly physically resilient, but also socially and economically resilient, is worth investing in,’ he says.

Even so, cities still face a challenge in implementing resilience measures. ‘The vulnerability itself is often in the form of water,’ says Batten, referring to the impacts such as drought and intense rainfall that can hit cities. The resilience though has to be built into the fabric of a city. ‘It’s beyond water. So it includes buildings, it includes infrastructure, it includes the environment of the city,’ he adds. It is about social networks also, and means there needs to be cooperation across the city administration. ‘That’s why often the Chief Resilience Officer doesn’t reside in the water department, but resides in the mayor’s office,’ he notes. But the resilience movement is up and running, with different cities at different stages. ‘There needs to be more planning done,’ says Batten as far as priorities for progress are concerned. ‘That’s the key link – you need to link investment in resilience with the economic attraction of making an investible city.’ On this note, Batten points out that ratings agencies have already indicated they expect to rate municipal bonds more favourably where plans are underpinned by a resilience strategy.

‘With urbanisation and migration into cities, I think we are going to continue to see resilience high up on the priority list for cities to invest in,’ concludes Batten. ‘More and more cities are understanding that it is good city governance to invest in resilience, because ultimately you will attract private sector investment in that city.’

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