Acknowledging that cities will be affected by climate change in different ways, and that operationalization of the basic principles listed depends significantly on the concrete situation, the following systematic set of principles is intended as a point of reference for developing your own principles adapted to your own city.
Principles for Adapting to Climate Change
As well as choosing technical responses that enhance climate change adaptation, cities should seek to generate deeper and more integrated relationships with nature, both inside the city and beyond urban boundaries. This is to move to an understanding of our embeddedness within nature and away from dominion over it.
- With urban settlements organized as much as possible around locally distributed renewable energy, planned on a district or precinct-wide basis, and with existing buildings retrofitted for resource-use efficiency and weather responsiveness;
- With waterways returned to maximum ecological complexity, linked to the larger ecosystem, and flanked, where possible, by indigenous natural green-spaces (re-)established along their banks, and with consideration of low-lying areas for water retention or flood control;
- With green parklands and urban woodlands — including areas providing habitat for indigenous animals and birds — increased or consolidated within the urban area, ideally connected by further linear green swathes or ribbons;
- With urban settlements organised into regional clusters around natural limits and urban-growth boundaries to contain sprawl and renew an urban-rural divide; and with growth zones of increased urban density within those urban settlements focussed on public transport nodes;
- With porous-paved paths for walking, dedicated lanes for non-motorised vehicles, and corridors for sustainable public transport; and with these dedicated paths networked throughout the city and given priority over cars;
- With food production invigorated in the urban precinct, including through dedicated spaces being set aside for commercial and community food gardens; and
- With waste management directed fundamentally towards green composting, hard-waste recycling and hard-waste minimizing.
In adapting to climate change, cities should begin now to develop a clear vision and an integrated adaptation plan through a dialogue between expert deliberation and committed municipal and civic involvement. The agreed adaptation strategy should be embedded in all policy-making.
- With adaptation governance conducted through deep deliberative democratic processes that bring together comprehensive community engagement, expert knowledge, and extended public debate about all aspects of adaptation;
- With adaptation legislation enacted for socially just land-tenure, including, where necessary, through municipal and national acquisition of ecologically sensitive areas;
- With public communication services and media outlets materially supported and subsidised where necessary to generate debates about climate change adaptation;
- With political participation in adaptation decisions and processes going deeper than electoral engagement;
- With basic ‘human security’ considerations afforded to all inhabitants as the city under-takes its agreed adaptation changes;
- With adaptation taking into account the need for on-going reconciliation with the original inhabitants of the landscape, including indigenous peoples; and
- With ethical debates concerning how we are to adapt to climate change becoming a mainstream aspect of all levels and disciplines of formal education.
Urban development should be based on an economy organized around negotiated social needs over and above conventional production-driven economics.
- With production and exchange shifted from an emphasis on production-for-global-consumption towards generating resilient mixed economies oriented to generating sustainable local livelihoods;
- With urban financial governance moved towards budgeting for climate change adaptation, which is built into relevant aspects of municipal annual infrastructure and services spending;
- With regulation negotiated publicly through extensive consultation and deliberative programmes including emphasis on regulation for climate change adaptation;
- With consumption substantially reduced and shifted away from goods not produced regionally or not for reproducing basic living — that is, food, housing, clothing, music and so on;
- With workplaces brought back into closer spatial relation to residential areas, while taking into account dangers and noise hazards through sustainable and appropriate building;
- With adaptation technologies used primarily as tools for good living, rather than a means of transcending the limits of nature and embodiment; and
- With redistributive processes that break radically with current cycles of inter-class and inter-generational inequality built into climate change adaptation implementation.
In developing climate adaptation responses, cities should treat the process as one of deep cultural engagement involving broad cultural issues of social learning, symbolism, visualization, aesthetics, and well-being. This includes recognizing that urban citizens live in natural-cultural regions, not in ‘built islands’.
- With climate change adaptation processes recognizing and celebrating the complex layers of community-based identity that have made the urban region;
- With the development of consolidated cultural activity zones, emphasizing active street-frontage and public spaces for face-to-face engagement, festivals and events, including those featuring climate issues;
- With museums, cultural centres and other public spaces dedicating some of their ongoing space to comprehensive ecological histories of the particular urban region — public spaces which at the same time actively seek to represent visually alternative trajectories of climate change adaptation from the present into the future;
- With locally relevant fundamental beliefs about climate change from across the globe woven into the fabric of the built environment: symbolically, artistically and practically;
- With conditions for gender equality pursued in all aspects of climate change adaptation, while negotiating relations of cultural inclusion and exclusion that allow for gendered differences;
- With the opportunities for facilitated enquiry and learning available to all, from birth to old age across people’s lives; not just through formal education structures, but also through well-supported libraries, community learning spaces and access to interactive websites, including access to climate change adaptation curriculum; and
- With public spaces and buildings aesthetically designed and curated to enhance the emotional well-being of people through the process of adapting to climate change, including involving local people in that curatorial task.