COP26, Climate Interdependencies and Resilience: What must we do?

10.11.2021 5 min read

“We see resilience is about interdependencies. Working with multidisciplinary teams at national as well as local level, in response to climate crisis but also other long-term sustainability challenges – we will empower our clients with more granular, regularly updated data analysis that can provide better evidence for decision-making.” Dr Xiangyu Sheng, Director at Temple, explains.

With COP26 currently underway in Glasgow, the current and future impacts of climate change are once again in the public eye and the focus of political discourse. The destructive effects of climate change are only becoming more intense and regular, as our use of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) continue to increase.  With these events comes the demand for climate migration and action to reduce emissions that cause climate change. However, even if GHG emissions, including CO2, were stopped overnight, we would still experience the effects of climate change for years to come. Therefore, as well as reducing reliance on fossil fuels, we must also move towards Climate adaption and resilience. These actions are taken to manage the impacts of climate change, while adaptation is mitigation to reduce the impacts of climate change that are already happening, resilience measures to protect against climate change impacts that are yet to happen. Additionally, climate adaptation is considered to only mitigate against one aspect of climate change, whereas climate resilience can mitigate against several aspects, making it more effective and efficient overall. We have also learned that applying mitigation measures to reduce impacts that are already occurring is a lot more complicated and expensive than designing mitigation plans to protect against issues before they occur.

Climate resilience covers many of the fatal extreme weather events we’ve witnessed this year, such as the flooding in Germany and China, wildfires in Greece and India, and the heatwaves that occurred in Western North America and Southern Europe. However, it also covers other non-weather-related risks such as seismic and geopolitical hazards as well as increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, and temperatures and poor air quality. With these events now becoming increasingly regular, individuals, businesses, local authorities, and governments must plan for this new environment we will face together. Climate resilience is the ability to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change through futureproof designs, so cooperation at different levels of governance is vital.

These solutions come in various forms, based on the unique combination of factors such as location in the world, the number of resources available, view on climate-related issues, community, and culture, and there is no one size fits all approach. Solutions can range in price, complexity, and scale, depending on who is implementing the measure, whether it is a top-down government approach or a grassroots community-led approach. Whilst in the developed world governments can apply these solutions across sectors and populations, it is often less developed countries who are more at risk of the effects of climate change as they do not have the resources to alleviate the pressures of climate change. This is also a problem observed in more developed countries, with the poorer members of society being pushed to
live in areas prone to the effects as the land is cheaper.

It is crucial that countries and communities move climate resilience to the forefront of planning for the immediate benefits as well as future generations. Steps to designing in climate resilience include the follows:

  • Explore Hazards – Assess Vulnerability & Risks – Assess risks (e.g.extreme weather) and identify appropriate adaptive measures such as materials or design features. The level of acceptable risk needs to be defined.
  • Investigate Options – Should measures be brought in with the initial design or is there an opportunity to introduce them later on
  • Prioritise & Plan – for example preventing the loss (total or partial) of the project or components of the project due to the (direct or indirect) effects of extreme climatic events or understanding the risks of cascading failure impacting the functionality of the project
  • Take Action

Some examples of ways climate change is embedded in project design include green walls and vegetation as well as reflective surfaces, and painting dark surfaces white, all of which prevent the build-up of heat. Green walls and vegetation also absorb water and can aid in reducing the risk of flash flooding episodes. In flood-prone areas and on land near bodies of water houses can be built on stilts to protect against rising waters, as has been done around the world for many centuries. More advanced protection from flooding can come in the way of advanced hydraulic models to predict the most flood-prone areas and advanced pumping solutions. Other measures can be implemented to protect against other climatic episodes with potential threats unique to the individual schemes.

There is increased conscience in the way investors are managing the environmental impact of their approach to investment. It is no longer all about financial returns, but increasingly about the bigger picture and adding value to their assets when it comes to the role developments play in their surrounding areas. For example, a holistic approach to zero carbon and climate resilience strategy is required.

The longer the lifetime of development, the greater the uncertainty about the impact of climate change over time. Temple’s Climate Change and Carbon team include multidisciplinary consultants who can help quantify the potential impact, recommend mitigation measures, and carry out a cost-benefit analysis. Our Climate Change and Carbon team will engage with the project’s design team and stakeholders at the earliest possible opportunity and if necessary, carry out workshops to provide integrated climate-resilient options.

Key Contacts

Dr Xiangyu Sheng Director - Air Quality, Climate & Carbon