Revisiting Expert Voices: Arnoud Molenaar, Manager, Rotterdam Climate Proof, City of Rotterdam

Severe weather is a threat faced by urban areas around the world, especially those in coastal zones. Given the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we thought it a good idea to repost a recent blog by Arnoud Molenaar, Manager, Rotterdam Climate Proof, featuring the C40 Connecting Delta Cities (CDC) Network, which is helping delta cities develop policies and take action to protect populations and infrastructure from climate risks.

A new digital platform bolsters efforts of nine global cities at the leading-edge of climate adaptation.

Situated where the mouth of a river meets a larger body of water, delta cities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as storm surges and flooding. This urgent issue sparked the first conversations between Rotterdam and other delta cities at a C40 workshop in Tokyo in 2008 – and led to the formation of the C40 Connecting Delta Cities (CDC) Network. The nine global cities in the Network today are committed to sharing knowledge about policies, planning measures and technologies that safeguard urban populations and infrastructure in the face of climate risks. With the launch of a new, dedicated digital platform, which will integrate into C40’s larger communications platforms over the next year, we have bolstered these efforts greatly, and enhanced the possibilities for collaboration on water management, spacial development and other climate adaptation measures across our member cities and beyond.

The new platform features critical information about each of the cities in the CDC Network: Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong Jakarta, London, Melbourne, New Orleans, New York, Rotterdam, and Tokyo, as well as joint initiatives. It is our similarities as much as our differences that bring us together, and we engage as a collective, in sub-groups as well as bilaterally, depending on the topic.

Broadly speaking, we are all trying to push climate adaptation to the top of every delta city’s agenda, and to ensure it remains a focal point of policy. But each delta city has its own strategy and approach, tailored to local priorities and challenges. This difference is exactly why developing and sharing knowledge and best practices is highly valuable – we learn a great deal from each other.

While Rotterdam has looked primarily at preventative measures, other cities focus on evacuation strategies. Some cities want to learn from Rotterdam’s protective measures and innovations such as geotubes, a new levee construction; while Rotterdam draws from the experiences of others when exploring the possibilities of combining shelters and adaptive construction methods. For its part, London has developed impressive strategies on flood protection and the heat island effect from which we all can learn. When crises do hit, the value of the relationships we have built with each other comes into sharper relief. In the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, for example, Rotterdam experts contributed to the development of New Orleans' integral water management strategy.

All of our adaptation strategies are enriched through working together more intensively. Our success has made the CDC Network a proof point for what is now the organizing principle of C40: the formation of working groups of cities focused on common challenges and opportunities. But this success was built over time. The first step was to become familiar with each other and to exchange information on our geographic situations and our climate-related challenges. The second step was the exchange of best practices. Currently, we are at the stage where all members are developing climate adaptation strategies, or even have such a strategy outlined already, meaning it is becoming relevant to share our plans. The next step will be to consider how to implement and execute such climate adaptation strategies and detail what financial arrangements need be in place to do so.

These activities and more will be tracked on our new digital platform. On behalf of the member cities of the Connecting Delta Cities Network, I welcome you to the new site and hope you will visit us regularly to stay informed about our efforts.