A wide array of resilience experts and various stakeholders came together at the 6th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Manila to discuss the most pressing challenges in the field of climate change and adaptation.
The forum – the flagship event of the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN), of which ADB is a partner – is the primary regional platform for adaptation practitioners to meet, share their learning and experiences, and work together towards the pertinent outcomes and practical solutions that are needed to address the challenges of climate change. The three-day conference was held on 17 to 19 October at ADB headquarters, and convened more than 1,000 participants from 60 countries.
Among the assortment of plenary and parallel sessions, a number of the parallel sessions included the work of the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF). In particular, UCCRTF-supported projects were featured prominently on the first day of the forum.
Technology in support of inclusive urban development
Virinder Sharma, ADB senior urban development specialist, facilitated a session on Urban Resilience and Climate-Smart Cities, which focused on the resilience of the built environment at a systems level. Opening the session to a full-capacity audience, he highlighted a UCCRTF-supported flood forecasting and early warning system that was launched in Kolkata as a good example of practical measures that are strengthening resilience in Asian cities.
Sharma was joined by an expert panel that included Rob Wilby, professor of hydroclimatic modeling at Loughborough University; ADB urban development specialist Lara Arjan; Jan Ramos Pandia of Qlue, a smart city app company; Theresa Yeung, leader of town planning in East Asia for Arup; and Juliet Mian, technical director of The Resilience Shift. The panel addressed how adaptation planning can best be incorporated into the urban context, especially with regards to key infrastructure that governs water, energy, and transport.
With every smart system “some form of failure is inevitable”. Given this, smart systems must be a part of a city’s wider resilience planning, rather than a replacement for it.
Wilby provided a compelling presentation of some of the latest developments in forecasting for climate related disasters. This included flood ‘nowcasting’ technology that can predict floods arising from heavy rainfall that will occur within 4 to 6 hours. This is particularly useful for integration with flood early warning systems. He added that it is the responsibility of governments and donors to ensure that technologies of whatever type must be employed to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable people.
This was a theme that was similarly taken up by Pandia, who puts citizens squarely “at the core of smart cities”. Pandia said that in order for people to be better served by technologies, there is a need to ensure that the data collection process is opened up. The Qlue app allows citizens to collect and report information on climate hazards and has been used in Jakarta to report floods.
Ecosystem-based approaches to smart cities
Technologies for smart cities often focus on those delivered as or are in support of hard infrastructure. However, Yeung and Arjan both highlighted a strong role for ecosystem-based approaches and technologies that support and strengthen natural solutions to urban development challenges.
Yeung discussed how biophilic design – a principle of designing urban spaces to incorporate and stimulate connection with nature and natural environments – is contributing to urban development in Hong Kong, China. Yeung suggested that more can be done to understand natural approaches to climate resilience using the example of ‘eco-hydraulic’ approaches to flood risk management, whereby researchers map the interactions between the hydraulic phenomena of urban landscapes and ecosystems dynamics, to better conserve natural flood defenses.
ADB’s Arjan provided a solid example of how ecosystem-based approaches are being implemented in Asian cities. Arjan presented a newly approved UCCRTF project that will pilot a water-sensitive city approach in a slum community of Makassar, Indonesia. The project aims to show how strengthening natural environments and ecosystems can help to revitalize informal settlements and increase resilience to shocks and stresses using a nature-based design.
ADB urban development specialist Lara Arjan highlighted the plight of the vulnerable and stressed the benefits of an upcoming UCCRTF-supported project that will boost the resilience of informal settlements through a water-sensitive approach.
Finally, presenting remotely from the United Kingdom, Mian, presented experiences from Resilience Shift research into resilience of smart infrastructure systems. She emphasized the importance of planning for safe failure of such systems saying that with every smart system “some form of failure is inevitable”. Given this, smart systems must be a part of a city’s wider resilience planning, rather than a replacement for it.
The APAN Forum is co-hosted by the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines, the Government of the Republic of Palau, and the Asian Development Bank. This 6th APAN Forum, with a theme of “Enable Resilience for All”, is built around four streams: resilience of social and human systems, resilience of natural systems, resilience of industry and the built environment, and resilience of island communities.