It is widely known that the possible impacts of climate change may lead to societal problems, especially where developed areas are located. Climate change is becoming a great challenge for cities around the world. The multitude of impacts and their effects is being experienced by numerous stakeholders, and in different spheres. As a result, cooperation between different parties that extends across several policy and sectorial planning areas is needed.
This month, ACCCRN discussed the potential for new governance arrangements for effective urban climate change resilience with Jorge Carrillo Rodriguez, an independent researcher who has more than 30 years of experience in social development and poverty reduction. He conducted various researches and gave lectures in Venezuela after earning his degree from the London School of Economics. He then joined the United Nations in 1984 and worked in the Middle East and Asia. Now, after retiring from the UN in 2010, he is continuing to work as a social development and urban advisor in Bangkok.
Unfortunately a lot of the planning for climate change is like driving a car with the front window completely covered, so the decision can be made only on what is visible through the rear mirror. With climate change, what lies ahead is not likely to resemble what is behind us.
How do you view climate change as new challenge that can affect business as usual in the city development planning?
Governments are looking for solutions that will keep their cities safe, regardless all the circumstances. However, because of climate change, we don’t know what is coming so the business as usual solution simply doesn’t exist anymore. The problem is, again, that a lot of planning and development practice has been done by applying a top-down approach, and is mostly technocratic. Whereas, in fact, when we talk about the city, we are talking about its people who give a city its social and cultural dimensions.
Is there any particular issue that you would like to highlight, regarding current development planning by governments?
I think the growing concept of urban resilience tends to separate the city from its inhabitants. How? We often focus on the capacity of city to function, so that people that live in cities, particularly so the poor and vulnerable survive and thrive no matter what kind of shocks they encounter. By applying this definition, we have put the poor and vulnerable as non-player in building city resilience, when in fact climate resilience is about people, it is not only about the infrastructure and other material things.
Government, in particular, needs to shift their approach and start to think about the importance of considering the social and cultural dimensions of city, rather than outputs. Rather than just aiming for the outputs, we should also ensure that the inclusivity of the process is also important.
Speaking of building urban climate change resilience, who do you think should play as key role?
Government needs to be conductor of the orchestra, but all of the stakeholders need to have involvement in the same perspective and be able to work together, finding solutions that are beneficial for everybody.
There is not one player or stakeholder that would be key in building urban climate change resilience. Obviously the government has a very important role to play, but simply because the scale of the challenge and sometimes, because of the limitation of the government’s capacity, we need to build a partnership platform that includes as many stakeholders as possible (e.g. communities, NGOs, academia, media and the private sector).
Partnership needs to go beyond lip service, particularly when engaging with the private sector. The government tends to allow the interest of the private sector to drive the development. We obviously cannot let this thing happen; we need to work together with the same perspective to build resilience.
Last one: what do you think should be done to improve resilience across the Asia region?
The things that need to be done immediately are, on one hand, to start building a platform for actions that allow different stakeholder to have their say and to recognize that all the claims over the urban space by all stakeholders have more or less the same validity. The other aspect is to move away from top-down technocratic approaches and recognize that the city is its people and its function and that you then need to come up with solutions that rely on the ability to respond to different scenarios― so it is not simply a matter of building flood control gates, or raising the road. These might be one part of the story but the rest of it needs to be brought in, because otherwise, again, things are going to fail.