Cities in a changing climate

By Peter Baum

Abdali Mall, Jordan

Abdali Mall, Jordan
 
A new approach to resilient urban planning
 
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in partnership with the Centre for Science and Policy and the Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment called for a new approach to urban planning at the “Cities in a Changing Climate” event, which took place in London recently. The new approach should help vulnerable emerging economies to cope with the challenges of climate change, build urban resilience and improve resource efficiency.
 
Many of the countries in which the EBRD invests are particularly vulnerable to climate change, including Turkey, North Africa, and Central Asia where heat and water stresses cause energy production shortages, and a lack of essential infrastructure and services are leaving some cities fully exposed to extreme weather events.
 
The effects of climate change, such as rising temperatures and water levels, are already having wide-ranging consequences for cities. Climate scientists, architects and authorities will have to work together to help cities adapt to these changes.  
 
“This highlights how sensitive our global systems are to weather-related events. Some estimates indicate that climate change could cost the global economy more than $15 trillion. It is difficult to think of a business or city that wouldn’t be potentially impacted by weather events,” said Dr Emily Shuckburgh from the British Antarctic Survey.
 
Weather extremes are nothing new, but are likely to occur more frequently and in different patterns than before. For megacities such as London, New York and Paris climate change is a considerable factor in policy and investment decisions.
 
“Environmental and economic agendas have to come together very soon,” stated Mark Kleinman, Director for Economic and Business Policy at the Greater London Authority. “We are creating a new infrastructure plan for London 2015 and bringing together various players to consult on economic development policy.”
 
Alan Short, Professor of Architecture at Cambridge University, believes the problem is cultural, and is a question of design rather than technology. He points, for instance, at the trend for “insubstantial artificially maintained all-glass buildings with no resilience to climate,” saying, “[These] inefficient glass facades have been replicated in different climate zones all around the world.”
 
The EBRD is already working to address these challenges in its countries of operation, including in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region, which is extremely vulnerable to climate change. One example of the Bank’s work is the Abdali Mall project in Jordan, which shows how urban planning, energy-efficient development and sound banking can come together to help cities become more resilient to climate change.Once operational, Abdali Mall will have a 25% lower carbon footprint than the common practice of new retail developments in Jordan.
 
Climate finance is a high priority for the EBRD. Under its Sustainable Resource Initiative EBRD has invested close to €300 million in buildings in 2014 alone and more than €1 billion since 2006. Sustainable resource investments now account for one-third of the EBRD’s annual financing, which totalled over 3 billion in 2014 and more than €16 billion since 2006.
 
Peter Baum is an analyst at EBRD’s Energy Efficiency and Climate Change Team