Effective governance is the key for climate resilience

Submitted by Nitya Jacob | published 22nd Sep 2022 | last updated 22nd Sep 2022
Effective governance is the key for climate resilience
Effective governance is the key for climate resilience


In this third roundtable, hosted by GCA and Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design in March 2022, experts from Beijing, Milan and New York presented their city governance arrangements in pursuit of becoming climate resilient. Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, senior advisor to the CEO, GCA, chaired the meeting, with Zhao Dan, project lead, Beijing Institute of City Planning and Design, giving the opening remarks.

Highlighting Beijing's challenges, Wei Baoyi, Beijing Municipal Institute for City Planning and Design said the city gets heavy rain during the summer but faces water shortages during the rest of the year. It has developed rapidly over the past 2-3 decades, causing problems for the city related to population, environment and nature.

The Institute has published guidelines for managing the city's water systems. Measures are being taken to control the water system and restore the area's ecosystem. Before restoration, the Yongding river was seriously degraded. By improving the green cover, and improving the river flow it is becoming a green and safe river.  The Chaobai river is an important ecological corridor and flood control barrier for Beijing. A green ecosystem is being created around the Chaobai that serves the communities and the economic growth.

Milan faces multiple climate risks including heat waves and droughts. Marina Trentin, City Resilience Department, Milan Municipality, said, there are three rivers in the muncipality. The municipality is one of the stakeholders in a higher level territorial river contract. The city's master plan aims to cut down on GHGs, reduce land consumption and reopen canals to mitigate extreme weather events, It is trying to reduce energy consuption. Its air and climate plan focuses on nature based solutions, sustainable drainage, and depaving. Three million trees will be planted by 2030 which will increase the canopy by 5%.

New York is different as it does not have a master plan, said Elijah Hutchison, Vice President of Waterfronts, NYC. It has zoning restrictions and land use codes to control land use and development. Planning happens at the community scale. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, NY kicked off its adaptation plan. The first $20 billion plan focused on reducing storm surge risks. The expected sea level rise is now accounted for in the city's building code and an office on climate resilience has been set up. Resilient initiatives for five city boroughs are being undertaken. For instance, as lower Manhattan is expected to begin flooding by the 2040s, its masterplan proposes to extend the shoreline and reconstruct maritime facilities over the next 15-20 years.

Though far apart, the three cities face similar challenges in climate adaptation governance. For instance, there are conflicts between land use for development or for ecosystem restoration. Wei asked Trentin how Milan has addressed this issue. Trentin said Milan's adaptation plan works on air quality in addition to adaptation and mitigation. A governance unit coordinates all efforts and is key to the success of resilience measures.

Beijing has an accountability mechanism city with river chiefs at the municipal, district and township levels who lead and coordinate traditional approaches of water management. In New York, the adaptation process is co-created in a transparent manner with communities, said Hutchison.

Once a governance system is in place, it is important to monitor all adaptation efforts. Trentin said all monitoring activities need to be conducted in a sort of technical committee government approach to break silos.