A journey to European Urban Resilience Forum 

On June 25th, ECOTEN Urban Comfort took part in the European Urban Resilience Forum held in Bonn (Germany) organized by the ICLEI resilient cities, where a community or urban resilience actors had gathered to exchange new urban tendencies to adapt overheating cities and prepare for increasing heatwaves. Coincidentally the forum took place just as Europe was being hit by a heatwave which gave decision makers an emotional response to the need of more urban resilience. Time to take action!

Cities remain at the foundation of our societies and the need for their adaptation to climate issues is particularly important in the redefinition of sustainable roots to live better within urban areas. These climate challenges are especially focused on heat related hazard which have a dramatic impact on the health and safety of the urban population.

Solutions which exists today are notably focused on nature-based solutions (NBS), reproducing what nature has best to offer and adapting it to an urban context. The topic was especially focused on blue and green solutions: allowing the cooling of our cities, absorbing water from rainfalls, creating shelters for biodiversity as well as for the population, for a cost-effective approach compared to traditional development strategies. These solutions are driving the transition of our cities to a more sustainable approach, but cities need available information to implement those Nature-based solutions efficiently and optimize their environmental, social and economic outcomes. These objectives can be achieved thanks to strategic urban planning documents and simulations of the built environment.

One idea that was developed during the introduction session of this forum, is the need to identify the issue of Urban Heat Island and vulnerable populations to it. Those populations are particularly impacted by heat related hazard and can even lead to death related events. Taking care of these population will lead to actions for more resilient and sustainable cities. In fact, those vulnerable population, our children, elders or due to economic factors, could be the key to bring more resilience. Being more impacted by Climate Change, if actions are focused on those population and aiming for more social justice, it will lead to greater commitment for the cities and our societies globally.

One mean to achieve that was to develop vulnerability mapping of these populations for decision makers to implement strategies in the best way possible and reach maximum outcomes from their urban strategies. The objectives are to save time, money, energy and lives!

This kind of technological tool can also be used for monitoring purposes, especially for smaller cities and municipalities, which do not have the means to produce such urban planning document in-house. This is a subject that was particularly emphasized on all along the forum with various dedicated sessions. One of the problems that cities face, is the lack of evaluation of the actions they implemented in their respective cities, which is essential for the development of city’s strategies and their efficiency. One particular indicator to monitor, which we discussed about during one the workshop session, could be the level of greeneries which match with the nature-based solutions.

This monitoring could also be a means to foster collaboration within cities, especially with vulnerability mapping which provides a graphic and an emotional response to the issues of Climate Change. A problem that was common to almost every city is the lack of communication and collaboration between different departments, not having the same objectives. This difficulty lies in the priority given to economic objectives, which politicians and decision makers tend to focus on, despite the challenges at stake. If we wish to develop our societies following the Sustainable Development framework, integrating environmental and economic objectives is part of the solution. The need to take action is real and this past week heatwave in Europe has been a perfect example of what we should seek to protect from. The important issue is not what we can win, but what we can lose…

It was an inspiring journey at the European Urban Resilience forum with all these different cities and urban resilience actors spreading the word about the new urban trends to fight Climate Change. ECOTEN Urban Comfort is very glad to have had the opportunity to meet these urban actors willing to act for our planet and define sustainable foundations to our living spaces.

A special thanks to ICLEI Resilient cities for the organization of the event. See you next year!