Adaptation and Mitigation: Counter-efficient?


Presenters and speakers (from left to right): Nuno Lopes (Head of Environmental Studies and Management Division, City Council of Almada), Astrid Westerlind-Wingstroem (Senior Resilience Expert, ICLEI European Secretariat/Consultant, Freiburg), Robert Kehew (Leader, Climate Change Planning Unit, UN-Habitat, Nairobi), Stelios Grafakos (Lead Climate Change Specialist, IHS, Rotterdam), Juan Carlos (Vargas, Principal, GeoAdaptive LLC, Boston), Holly Vaughan (Adaptation and Resilience Planner, ICLEI Canada, Toronto, Canada), Kaj Fischer (Research Analyst, adelphi consult GmbH, Berlin).

Climate change mitigation and adaptation are areas of high priority action in the urban context. While both approaches encompass a process of positive changes, they can also impede the benefits of one another. In this context, we need to address an intrinsic problem of our society: our ability to respond to and manage change. This conflict is obvious when we look at the shape and characteristics of our cities. Astrid Westerlind-Wingstroem gave the interesting example of our desire to increase urban areas’ density to reduce GHG emissions from transportation. While it helps to mitigate climate change, it increases heat island effect and impedes our adaptation to rising temperature. Astrid W-W closed her presentation on a positive note, showing successful measures of green infrastructures implemented in the city of Rotterdam and Copenhagen.

The City Council of Almada, Portugal, seems to have found a trade off between adaptation and mitigation. Nuno Lopes presented the inspiring concept of Nature Based Planning. This approach promotes ecological services and territorial resilience.

Green infrastructures are very interesting planning tools to build natural and human resilience because they provide short-term benefits, and they are of lower cost than grey infrastructures. […] Multidimension provision of ecosystem services can tackle different hazards at the same time, with several benefits from win-win solutions.

- Nuno Lopes

It becomes counter-efficient to set up rigid grey infrastructures. The uncertainty associated with climate change calls for flexible and evolutionary infrastructures. This is where green infrastructures become the most relevant option. That being said, should we adapt, mitigate or do both? I would say both, if the adaptation measures put in place were green infrastructures.

I recommend the following links/projects to all urban planners, city representatives and other experts interested in resilience building:

- Geoadaptive

- Adaptation Nexus Series

- And the work of Stelios Grafakos (Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Rotterdam, the Netherlands) and Kaj Fischer (Research Analyst, adelphi consult GmbH, Berlin, Germany)




Mr. Houle received his bachelor's degree from McGill University in Environment and Developement and is completing his master’s degree in Urban planning at University of Montreal, Canada. His research focuses on the use of crowdsourcing technologies for disaster risk reduction (spatial planning perspective). Michaël is the author of the «How can crowdsourcing provide more efficient disaster risk management ?» proposal selected as one of the 2014 MIT Climate CoLab contest. He also won the 2013 MIT Climate Colab Urban adaptation: Climate resilient cities contest. He is currently developing a new environmental migration management strategy in Vietnam. LinkedIn profile: