Pragmatic approach to planning for resilience delivers real results, finds UCCRTF
Image: Cooum river, Tamil Nadu, where the UCCRTF has supported smart water management and urban resilience.
There is increasingly broad agreement that building the resilience of cities in Asia and around the world requires new ways of thinking about how infrastructure is planned, designed, financed, delivered and maintained. The consensus is that resilience approaches should be applied at the furthest upstream point in the infrastructure planning process, because strategic planning at the national level is necessary to deliver resilience at scale.
This was indeed one of the central recommendations of a recent ADB technical paper written in conjunction with the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA). The paper argues for moving resilience as far upstream as possible by “integrating climate risk assessment into strategic and early-stage planning of infrastructure to provide strategic coherence and efficient delivery”. This will help direct national-level funding and support towards programmes promoting climate resilience.
The arguments made by the paper are compelling, however at present relatively few countries are taking a resilience approach to infrastructure planning at the national level. This means there is a vast pipeline of infrastructure projects that are agreed in principle, or which are already underway. ADB’s Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund’s (UCCRTF) has been working since 2013 to integrate climate resilience into ADB interventions in 25 cities in selected ADB Developing Member Countries (DMCs) .
UCCRTF has supported efforts to raise climate resilience awareness with key national ministries, including finance, planning and development. However, it has also worked to integrate resilience practices into ADB’s existing loan portfolio. This has meant taking a pragmatic approach and finding ways to improve resilience at different stages of the project development cycle. Often, UCCRTF’s work has included elements of ‘retrofitting’ resilience into project design rather than being able to design projects to address climate risks from the outset.
The concept design stage
Although the ideal point of intervention is upstream, with key national ministries, ministries’ limited climate awareness at this time means that the point where UCCRTF presently can have the greatest impact is at the concept design stage, once the overarching investment project has been identified at the national level. This is the stage where the ADB Project Officers and the DMCs develop the project components.
The value of integrating resilience at this stage is that there is an overarching framework in place that lays out the aims of the investment and its target location(s). This means that UCCRTF’s recommendations can be more targeted and tangible. Support for climate resilience interventions at the project concept level includes undertaking Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessments (CRVAs) at national, regional, and city level that ultimately inform the identification of sites and subprojects that are needed at the city level. They also assess the sensitivity of the city and its infrastructure and evidence of its current capacity to build its resilience.
Firstly, the climate assessments developed under the UCCRTF offer a city-wide appraisal of climate vulnerability considering risks to different sectors, infrastructure, and vulnerable populations, thereby establishing a cross-sectoral perspective to the climate risks faced by the city instead of just focusing on climate proofing a specific infrastructure investment.
Secondly, these assessments are based not only on climate and city data, but also on inputs from city-level officials and local communities. This element of stakeholder input to the climate assessment process allows UCCRTF to ground truth the quantitative climate data and give communities a sense of ownership of the process. This delivers more nuanced climate assessments than if they were based on climate and city data alone.
For example, in Tamil Nadu, UCCRTF supported the strengthening of smart water management and urban climate change resilience in Tamil Nadu through a $1.55 million TA. TA focused on informing project selection and design by conducting an advanced basin-wide study of water-related disaster risks considering climate change in Greater Chennai City Corporation and other selected towns in Tamil Nadu. This resulted in actionable, climate-informed recommendations to strengthen urban water management and flood early warning systems. Simultaneously the TA also engaged the regional government of Tamil Nadu to support the implementation of its Sustainable Water Security Mission, including the identification of smart, innovative and sustainable water management projects and support for institutional and capacity-strengthening measures.
A stepwise approach
The lessons from UCCRTFs work have culminated in the development of a stepwise approach to building climate resilience. The approach is specifically targeted at the concept design phase. The approach follows three steps:
Establishing the Climate Vulnerability context: A multi-layered approach to assessing the climate vulnerability context allows for progressively more granular assessments to inform the project design process as it progresses.
Statement of Purpose/Intent: Development strategies and plans at the national and regional levels inform the development objectives that guide the project design.
Project/Sub-project activities and identified climate vulnerability link: Activities are developed with an explicit link to addressing climate change risks and reducing vulnerability.
This approach was applied to the Coastal Towns Climate Resilience Project (CTCRP), which covers 22 coastal towns in Bangladesh. It strongly emphasizes climate-informed decision-making by producing climate resilience assessments at different scales, from the national and regional level down to the city level.
This approach has significant benefits beyond the main goal of producing infrastructure investments that are more effective in building systemic climate resilience, encompassing both physical (e.g., cyclone shelters, drainage) and non-physical (e.g., resilient livelihoods, climate-risk informed planning) interventions. In addition, the approach explicitly identifies climate adaptation elements of project components and helps to justify how they contribute to climate change goals. This can contribute to ADB’s achievement of its climate financing targets. In CTCRP, for example, 90% of the $250 million ADB project financing was attributed to adaptation finance.
For more information on the UCCRTF stepwise approach, see the City Snapshot: BAN Coastal Towns Climate Resilience Project (CTCRP): ADB’s First Type 2 Climate Adaptation Finance Project in the Urban Sector. 
 UCCRTF supports activities in 8 DMCs: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Viet Nam
  TA 0019-IND: Strengthening Climate Change Resilience in Urban India: https://www.adb.org/projects/49106-001/main
 Bangladesh: Coastal Towns Climate Resilience Project Sovereign Project | 55201-001 https://www.adb.org/projects/55201-001/main