Resilient Cities 2014 – Takeaways from Day Three

Bonn, Germany - host of Resilient Cities 2014

Bonn, Germany – host of Resilient Cities 2014

Yesterday marked the end of the of the Resilient Cities 2014 conference. Here’s what stood out for me in the final day:

–       The money issue. Today there was a two hour, full plenary session on financing resilient cities. Financing, and funding infrastructure is a big challenge for local governments around the world, so I was really looking forward to this session and all of the great solutions I was about to learn! I left feeling a bit disappointed; and not to the fault of the presenters. While there were some good nuggets of info, there just aren’t any great sweeping innovations that are going to make this problem go away for local governments. What’s more, is that I think this issue ultimately comes down to how and what local governments are prioritizing – and this issue was not really addressed. In summary: big problem, no silver bullets, will blog more later.

–       The need for a crisis to move to action. One of the presenters today stated that New York is investing $20B in improving the resilience of built infrastructure, but that this investment would not have been made if Hurricane Sandy had not hit. It seems that most places that have moved to actual plan implementation, have done so because they have dealt with disaster. There are many places that have been proactive with developing plans, but have not moved much beyond planning. This may make sense – it may not be the best decision for a local government to invest significant resources on rapid adaptation. But I’m not sure how many have actually done the risk assessment to figure out if more gradual adaptation is the best choice, or done the internal work to ensure that when ‘business as usual’ projects are taken on, they are done with the climate change adaptation plan in mind.

–       Good governance is often a matter of communication, energy and will. Sure, there are specific and technical requirements of governance; but these are necessary and not sufficient. Whether it is governance of non-profit food co-ops, or regional scale climate change adaptation, the difference between really effective governance and barely functioning is more about what the people involved are bringing to the table. If the energy and will is not there, there is a chance these can be built with time and communication.

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