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Building Climate Change Adaptation with Smart Growth and Green Infrastructure: Adaptive Planning Policies from Rotterdam, Lyon, and Barcelona

Building Climate Change Adaptation with Smart Growth and Green Infrastructure: Adaptive Planning Policies from Rotterdam, Lyon, and Barcelona

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This policy brief examines how three European cities are preparing for climate change.
This policy brief examines how three European cities are preparing for climate change.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Oct 20, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Cities in both theUnited States and Europe are
experiencing oods, heat waves,droughts, and other effects of 
climate change. At the same
time, cities are constantly
updating their built and natural
environment in a way thatsupports the adaptive planning 
needed to respond to changes
in climate, including exacerba
tion by growing populations andaging infrastructure. Local landuse and infrastructure planning provide the framework for newstormwater systems, build
ings, parks, and public spaces.Smart growth approaches thatconsider where and how citiesdevelop, as well as green infra
structure systems for managing stormwater, can prepare forgreater uctuations in weatherconditions. Importantly, theseapproaches are also capable of producing additional communitybenets. This brief looks at theadaptive planning policies and
practices that the European
cities of Rotterdam, Barcelona,and Lyon are instituting tocombat the effects of climatechange. The local approachesthese cities are developing provide examples of innovationsthat U.S. cities can look to whenimplementing their own local
climate action plans.
Urban and Regional Policy Program
Policy Brief 
Building Climate Change Adaptation withSmart Growth and Green Infrastructure: Adaptive Planning Policies from Rotterdam,Lyon, and Barcelona
by Abby Hall
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 20009T 1 202 683 2650F 1 202 265 1662E info@gmfus.org
October 20, 2011
Introduction: Why Cities Must Adaptto Climate Change
Climate change is happening andcommunities are already seeing theimpacts in the orm o heat waves,oods, droughts, and other extremeweather disasters that impact publichealth, natural ecosystems, andoverall economic well-being. Even i emissions o greenhouse gases wereimmediately curbed, global changesin climate are certain to continue orsome time.
Extensive research iden-ties the direct impacts that climatechange will have on dierent regionsand on various elements o society and economies in the United States.
 Large and small communities acrossthe country must start to identiy waysthey can adapt, dened as “adjustmentin natural or human systems to a newor changing environment that exploitsbenecial opportunities or moderatesnegative eects.”
Climate change adaptation will be alocal and regional issue rather thana national issue or the United Statesbecause o the regional variability o risks. Unlike smaller European coun-tries such as Te Netherlands, wherethere is the single predominant risk o ooding, the United States will seegreat regional dierence in the typeso climate change impacts, rom sealevel rise on the coasts to drought inthe West and ooding in the Midwest.In smaller European countries, there-ore, a national adaptation strategy thatcoordinates agencies, unding, andprograms around a common climatechange risk can be an eective tool. Inthe United States, on the other hand,the ederal government can provideoverall support in the orm o undingand removal o programmatic barriers,as well as technical assistance, but thesolutions will need to be regionally andlocally developed. Regional climatescience should be used to develop risk assessments that are locally scaled,and regional climate scientists areoen best prepared to discuss regionalimpacts and appropriate solutions.Climate change will have an acuteimpact on cities because o the concen-tration o population in urban areas.Climate change risks or cities include:
Extreme heat, heat waves, and airquality problems, due in part toheat-trapping landscapes like roosand paved suraces.
Urban and Regional Policy Program
Policy Brief 
Flooding rom increased intensity and requency o storms.
More periods o drought and water scarcity.
Sea level rise.Te impacts o these risks to basic city unctions andresponsibilities include:
Increased costs or repairing and maintaining inrastruc-ture because o ooding, land subsidence, and erosion.Some inrastructure may become unusable because o sea-level rise.
Public health problems related to heat waves, poor airquality, extreme weather, or an increased vulnerability todisease.
Treats to buildings and transportation inrastructure.City governments are well-positioned to start adapting toclimate change risks immediately because cities continu-ally update, repair, and invest in the built environment.Development decisions about where to build and, moreimportantly or climate change, where not to build, aremade every day and can have eects or many decades tocome.
Not only is planning the right process or adaptingto climate change, it is imperative or cities to consider theuture eects o climate change with every developmentdecision and investment. Since no ederal land use planningpolicy exists in the United States, meaningul, government-level action on climate change adaptation is most likely tobegin at the local level.Land use planning is necessarily a exible and changingprocess, and eective responses to climate change eectsrequire adaptability over space and time. Moreover, inthe United States as well as abroad, the era o single-issueinvestments is coming to an end as tight city and state
Development decisions aboutwhere to build and, moreimportantly for climate change,where not to build, are made everyday.
budgets necessitate the identication o multiple benetsrom each investment. For these reasons, land use planningis increasingly ocused on approaches that coner a rangeo benets while also having exible designs that can alterwith a changing climate, such as green inrastructure ormanaging stormwater with natural systems.Tis policy brie analyses the preventative solutions thatRotterdam, Barcelona, and Lyon are using to address theclimate change threats o heat waves and the water-relatedimpacts o increased precipitation and sea level rise,including ooding, stormwater management challenges,and drought. Rotterdam has an overarching adaptationplan called Rotterdam Climate Proo that addresses many climate change risks with a ve-year timeline o goals thatare being adopted as ofcial municipal policies. Lyon isintroducing small green spaces and water eatures, as wellas expanding its tree plan to create many small, accessiblespaces that will help cool dense neighborhoods threatenedby heat island eects. Barcelona is retrotting existingpublic parks and creating new public green spaces that canhelp deal with ooding and heat island eects, as well asengaging the general public to help develop eective adapta-tion policies with near-term benets.
Urban Planning Is the Right Process for Adaptation
Municipal level land use planning provides the rightcontext to plan or climate adaptation. Cities are constantly changing and land use planning is the process by whichcitizens, governments, and the private sector decide whereand how development will occur. In addition, cities regu-larly update and maintain inrastructure such as waterpipes, roads, public transit, and utilities. Cities in Europeare very built out, and urban cores in the United States aretaking a greater share o construction permits than unde- veloped areas,
leading to regular redevelopment o olderand existing neighborhoods in many cities on both sides o the Atlantic. City planning departments also regularly useuture population projections to make decisions regardinginrastructure upgrades and redevelopment projects,whether or housing, retail, or commercial needs. Sinceclimate change data is similarly based on uture projectionsthat rely on ranges rather than specic xed numbers, city planning departments can be an important partner in theeort to respond to climate change because o their experi-
Urban and Regional Policy Program
Policy Brief 
and other local decision-makers and sta. Eective plan-ning or adaptation to climate change will require an overallapproach that is anticipatory and exible and relies on theuse o uture conditions data to make predictions about therange o impacts rather than simply reacting aer naturalhazards occur. Such a exible approach allows or bestavailable data to impact and rene plans and investments tobetter respond to changing conditions.
Case Studies
Lyon, France
Lyon is located at the conuence o the Rhône and Saonerivers in east central France. It is the second largest regionin France aer Paris and is home to a metropolitan popula-tion o close to 2 million people. Te city aces increasingpublic health threats caused by heat waves and contributingheat island eects. Tough temperatures are predictedto increase across all months, the greatest temperatureincreases are likely to come in the summer months. Moredrastic rainall decreases in summer will exacerbate thesetemperature increases, creating a dual problem or the Lyonregion.Tough no large-scale adaptation projects are underway,Lyon is taking an adaptive approach to its overall planningby bringing climate change considerations into ongoinginrastructure projects and plans. In particular, Lyon’s 2030comprehensive plan, known as SCO, outlines steps orincreasing green spaces, reducing impervious suraces, andconsidering the role o green space in dense urban areas.
 Most o Lyon’s adaptation projects are happening throughsmall-scale open space improvements, including treeplanting and using green inrastructure techniques that willsimultaneously manage stormwater runo, mitigate heatisland eects, and restore groundwater systems to mitigatedrought conditions.Regional planning is built into the government structureo the metro region, which is overseen by a decision-making agency known as Grand Lyon. Tis regional plan-ning approach supports transit-oriented developmentconcentrated close to the City o Lyon, the employmentcenter o the region. Compact development near a variety o transportation options can help community membersaccess necessary services during disasters, such as coolingcenters during heat waves. Grand Lyon has large networkso natural corridors, but these open spaces are not enough
Effective planning for adaptationto climate change will requirean overall approach that isanticipatory and exible.
ence in planning or the uture and their history o usingadaptable models to guide these plans.Planning processes include decisions about locations ornew growth and redevelopment and provide an importantopportunity to consider both vulnerable areas that shouldbe avoided and protected zones that are appropriate orgrowth. Cities can pair maps and inormation about growthareas with risk and vulnerability assessments to decidethe best places or new investments. Comprehensive landuse plans help determine community design and devel-opment density, setting priorities or inrastructure andcapital acilities investments, developing policies or landuse in oodplains and other high risk areas, and protectingcritical natural resources. In the United States, land use isprimarily a locally dictated process, but state and ederalprograms can inuence and support local land use deci-sions. In particular, ederal programs or disaster planningand recovery, such as the Federal Emergency ManagementAgency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Assistance programs,
 have the potential to support local eorts to plan withconsideration or climate change. Altogether, there are anumber o planning tools, policies, and unding streamsthat drive decisions about where and how a community willgrow and change.Adaptive planning solutions can be integrated into compre-hensive land use plans, capital improvement plans, zoningand building codes, improved ood maps, and incentivesor development and conservation. Te process o incor-porating climate change considerations into local plan-ning is iterative. Early steps include using best-availableclimate science to develop vulnerability assessments, andthen layering this inormation with uture land use plans.Next steps will require improving local climate changescenarios by properly downscaling national datasets, aswell as translating climate change data into a ormat that isreadily usable by land use planners, emergency managers,

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