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09 September – ENSURING CLIMATE RESILIENT DEVELOPMENT

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate (IPCC) recently released the first part of its sixth assessment report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.

The IPCC report warns that the global average air temperature may rise by more than 1.5C over pre-industrial levels within the next 20 years.

The IPCC report also predicts that India will see a rise in extreme weather events such as floods, cyclones and heatwaves over the years.

Each extreme weather event heavily impacts the infrastructure (public and private) of the country creating stresses for developers and owners alike.

Natural disasters cause a loss of 2% of GDP every year in India.

An increasing number of extreme events over the last decade has resulted in improvements in disaster response and recovery systems within the country. However, it is equally important to take steps to minimise the effects of disasters before the event occurs. This will reduce our vulnerability to the impact of disasters on property, livelihoods and lives.

 Introducing climate resilience plans at a local, state and central level is one way of doing this.

• Climate resilience is the ability to prepare for, recover from, and adapt to the impacts of climate change events.
• Climate resilience actions integrate mitigation, disaster risk reduction and management along with climate change adaptation approaches.

Majority of the efforts to address climate change through green buildings is focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Measures to reduce GHG emissions associated with energy, transportation, water, waste and construction materials are incorporated in green building rating systems as well as national building codes. These mitigation measures need to be supported with sufficient adaptation measures to ensure that all new construction is resilient to future extreme weather events.

Within the construction industry, designing for resilience will mean that citizens are safer, business operations remain uninterrupted, workplace productivity is maintained, and supply chains are protected.

Several frameworks have been established to help practitioners design and build climate resilient infrastructure and buildings. Frameworks such as Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System, the RELi Rating System, Strategies for Multifamily Building Resilience —  Enterprise Green Communities etc provide strategies for short-term hazard preparedness, monitoring and maintenance, community engagement, mitigation and long-term adaptability.

Similar to green building rating systems, these frameworks include strategies addressing transportation, energy, water, waste, food production, health and diversity.

 Building rating systems and frameworks have proven to be an effective way of making a market shift in the way buildings are designed, constructed, operated and maintained. They can be easily adopted by different stakeholders globally and provide policy makers with a collection of actions that can be integrated into building byelaws.

The impacts of climate change must be addressed at a hyper local level through appropriate actions. For example, Enhancing Resilience in Boston, is a guide to help commercial buildings in Boston adapt to climate risks related to extreme floods. The guide provides 32 strategies to address vulnerabilities unique to Boston including actions to protect against and reduce damage from floods — an extreme weather event that Boston is vulnerable to. Similar guides have been prepared for different cities globally based on risk assessment studies.

In India, the 100 Resilient Cities (100R) initiative supported four cities — Surat, Chennai, Pune and Jaipur — to develop a resiliency strategy to help the cities survive, adapt and grow irrespective of the stresses they experience.

Different city level interventions in areas such as institutional development, land use planning, drainage and flood management, emergency response systems, ecosystem strengthening, citizens awareness building and disease surveillance have been initiated that demonstrate practical ways to build resilience of systems, sectors and communities to the effects of climate change.

While vulnerability profiles were prepared for 20 cities across India, it is necessary to prepare similar resiliency plans for all cities across India to help reduce India’s vulnerability to climate change events.

Climate resilient development requires climate considerations to be mainstreamed into development planning.

 Climate resilient strategies must be integrated into building bye-laws and national construction codes to ensure large scale adoption. As India is still building a lot of its basic infrastructure, we have the opportunity to make the infrastructure climate resilient from the out-set.

Interventions in early design and construction phases will reduce additional costs and help us avoid expensive retrofitting later. It will also be necessary to include strategies to re-design and reconstruct existing infrastructure in climate resilience plans to reduce damages in vulnerable regions.

These rating systems, policies and development plans will help provide the necessary know-how to building resilient cities, and need to be supported with appropriate institutional mechanisms.

This includes necessary capacity building and training, improving engagement and coordination between all stakeholders, market mobilisation and providing financial support to build climate-proof infrastructure and buildings.

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