Vulnerability assessment is key

Cities need to be prepared for disaster. It should not be that a flood hits, a storm rages or a mass earthquake wakes a city up to the need for disaster risk assessment and adaptation.

The Open European Day, a pre-event of Resilient Cities 2014, broached the subject within of the need for vulnerability and risk assessments. Adaptation is gaining momentum but unfortunately it is driven by disaster. As Nancy Saich from the European Investment Bank said, “They think adaptation is only flood protection, or only one aspect. They need to realize that vulnerability assessment is key. Cities need to assess not only one aspect but the overall vulnerability of their cities. They cannot skip this part.”

Saich also stressed that there is still a learning curve when it comes to vulnerability assessments. A new approach is needed one that ensures that by preventing one disaster we are not inadvertently opening the door for another.

Cities also could learn from Marie Gantois, City of Paris. After the heatwave of 2007, Paris came up with a climate plan it was small part adaptation but more mitigation oriented. She says, “We learnt from the heatwave that killed a lot of people but we only focused on the heatwave, it was only later that we realized that the heatwave was a single aspect and we needed to look at all the climate impacts that may happen in Paris.

Griet Lambrecht of the City of Antwerp says “It is only through local action that  we can create resilience.” He adds that focusing on public-private partnerships are one way of moving forward. “Private stakeholders need to be stimulated to help the city become more resilient.”

Local action, learning from past disasters, and preventive measures all work towards creating a city that is adaptive. However, as an audience member asked how adaptation can be measured? How will you know if your adaptation strategies are working? Saich replied, “Adaptation is a long process, it can not be easily measured. However, you can measure if your vulnerability risk has been reduced and that will tell you how far you have come.”