Theme: Translating knowledge into action
Strengthening climate change adaptation strategies in cities in developing countries
The impacts of climate change are often manifested in global water phenomena. Impacts on communities can be direct – e.g., water security issues of drought, floods and environmental degradation and loss of natural capital. Or they can be indirect – in terms of food security, public health and in responses to heat waves and wildfires. Cities are complex adaptive systems, with multiple interconnected elements converging, concentrating, and exacerbating many of these impacts.
We cannot ignore these interconnections and interplays on the health and wellbeing of people in cities globally.
Traditional centralized citywide approaches to urban water management gave us the water services that support our cities and towns today. But the business-as-usual approach can no longer provide the water safety and security to future proof our cities and towns in a cost effective or timely way. Yet time and time again, we see developing countries following these traditional pathways. Instead, we need to harness future infrastructure investments and associated reform in urban water governance for transformative change in urban water services.
Climate resilience and climate change adaptation strategies are synonymous and often guided by a similar set of strategic social-technical principles. This keynote address explores these principles and strategies for leapfrogging traditional approaches and strengthening climate change adaptative capacities in cities in developing countries. The speaker discusses the enabling factors that support integrated urban water management and governance, and multi-functional green and grey infrastructure. A shift in focus to hybrid urban water systems can provide cities with a new servicing strategy for strengthening climate change adaptation.
These hybrid systems encompass fit-for-purpose centralized/decentralized and green/grey infrastructure, brought about through innovative business and servicing models involving private-public participation and investments.
However, operationalizing these principles will be different – from city to city, and from a developed and developing country context. The speaker will present several cases studies of city transformative projects demonstrating how these principles are operationalized under these different biophysical and institutional contexts. The case studies are largely projects undertaken to transition cities towards becoming water sensitive cities over the past 5 to 10 years. Collectively, they present a framework for developing stronger climate change adaptation strategies through key social-institutional reforms in concert with investments in hybrid infrastructure.