C40 cities connect on climate adaptation at regional conferences

Members of C40’s Adaptation Team recently attended the European Climate Change Adaptation (ECCA) Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark and the North America National Adaptation Forum (NAF) in St. Louis, U.S. Both events brought together a number of C40 cities in each of the respective regions and emphasized the important role cities play in climate change adaptation.

The 2nd European Climate Change Adaptation Conference, which took place on May 12-14 in Copenhagen, featured academic, business, and practitioner cross-sectoral dialogue and presentations. Key topic areas included approaches to risk, cost-benefit analysis of adaptation actions, and green and blue infrastructure design.

The Bella Center in Copenhagen, site of the 2015 ECCA conference

Head of C40’s Adaptation and Water Initiative Mandy Ikert spoke on a multi-sector panel convened by Norwegian risk management company DNV-GL on systems thinking applied to climate adaptation and resilience in C40 cities, focusing on case studies from London, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro and New York.  The panel was followed by an overview of Amsterdam’s risk learnings on the interface of climate uncertainty in the age of the Internet and centralized energy systems.

City-specific highlights of the ECCA conference included a half-day workshop on the various implementation aspects of Copenhagen’s Cloudburst Management plan, including community-led design and coordination with insurance providers, and a heartwarming presentation from the City of Melbourne on their award-winning citizen-engagement effort to re-green the city after 13 years of drought. A representative from London also shared perspectives on the role of city government in fostering flood-resilient cities.

“For me, the most interesting part of the ECCA was the face-to-face conversations with colleagues of other cities facing similar challenges and with researchers during the coffee-breaks,” said Irma Ventayol i Ceferino from City of Barcelona. “I brought home with me some new approaches, like including social justice when facing adaptation challenges in Barcelona.”

Adaptation in the North American context

The 2nd National Adaptation Forum, held May 12-14 in St. Louis, featured a similar cross-section of adaptation practitioners, with C40 cities featuring strongly among the presenters. Key themes of the event included: how to ensure equitable adaptation solutions; how to bolster community engagement; and how to measure progress in adaptation, i.e. handle the challenge of applying indicators where the effectiveness of actions may take a long time to be realized.

C40 representatives from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington DC were able to connect throughout the event and share their experiences and tips. Their highlights included:

  • Learning about Health Impact Assessments as a way to incorporate equity into adaptation planning;
  • Learning about the benefits, approach and working details of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact for regional climate change adaptation; and
  • Learning about jurisdictions that implement financial incentives for green infrastructure among private properties by providing refunds on stormwater fees for owners who undertake voluntary green infrastructure installation, and combining this intelligently with direct government spending.

Another highlight of the conference included a valuable message from the small town of Anacortes, Washington. They presented on how a simple one-on-one conversation between a climate impacts scientist and the city’s public works manager resulted in some very logical improvements to their water treatment facility. It reminded the city staff present that trying to change the way even a large city operates relies on these types of relationships and can be as simple as starting a conversation with one individual.

To learn more about the Networks under C40’s Adaptation and Water Initiative, click here.