In the run up to the UN’s international climate change conference, 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (informally called “COP24”), it is wise to ask how our cities can fortify themselves against the devastating effects of this phenomenon. According to the UN, 54.5% of the world’s population was already residing in urban areas by 2016 – a point which further stresses why we need to urgently prepare our cities to cope with climate change. Although an average global temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius may not seem like a lot, this could actually lead to disastrous consequences: drought, flooding and intolerable heatwaves which risks health implications. China’s concerns about climate change are well-founded: The Guardian claims 4 out of 5 people living in Asia will be impacted by climate change, while underlining Shanghai as the “most vulnerable major city in the world to serious flooding”. The same article states this major Chinese city may even become almost completely submerged by water, displacing as much as 17.5 million Shanghaiists.
Hence, in a bid to find relevant solutions, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zuammenarbeit (GIZ) andthe Asian Development Bank (ABD) together with the China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MoEE) and Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MoHURD) co-hosted the “International Workshop on Planning Climate Adaptive Cities”.
The workshop took place on November 22nd in Xixian New District, Shaanxi Province. First results of two pilot projects on urban climate adaptation supported by GIZ in Lishui City of Zhejiang Province and Xixian New District of Xi'an City of Shaanxi Province were presented during the workshop. The workshop was moderated by Tong Guichan, Director of the International Science & Technology Cooperation Sector of MoHURD. Sun Zhen, Deputy Director of the Climate Department of MoEE, Guo Lichao, Deputy Director General of the Building Energy Efficiency and Science and Technology Department of MoHURD, and Achim Deuchert, Director of the investment project Financial & Sustainable Infrastructure of GIZ attended the conference and gave an opening speech.
The 100 workshop participants exchanged views on policy challenges and solutions on climate adaption. Expert presentations also highlighted best practices. For example, Dr. Tian Yongying from MoHURD’s Center for Science & Technology and Industrialization Development, spoke about the “Guidelines for the Construction of Climate-Adapted Cities”. These guidelines aim to incorporate a perspective of urban climate adaption urban within the China’s urbanisation policy. Dr. Tian explained how the scheme worked by pointing out its overarching goals, sub goals, key tasks and implementation paths. Although these guidelines remain under review, they are expected to be adopted soon to boost China’s climate-adapted urban development. (Source: Center for Science & Technology and Industrialization Development, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development).
Furthermore, interesting findings from the Xixian pilot project were also underlined at the workshop. It was presented that during summer, the pilot area of Fengxi New City in Xixian New District has average low wind speed but also high temperatures, creating a “heat island effect”. This triggers harmful consequences: increased usage of air conditioners and a decline in air quality and other environmental issues. It was also noted that hardened underlying urban surfaces were particularly prone to high temperatures. According to further analysis of high temperature risk, the air temperature in Fengxi New City is significantly affected by that of the city’s surface. Hence, the presentation identified controlling the urban surface temperature as one key factor for reducing the risk of high temperatures in urban zones.
Hence, based on these findings of the Xixian pilot scheme, the following was recommended:
1. One should investigate and quantify how different urban functions and spatial forms interact with factors like temperature, humidity and wind speed. Hence, it is important to collect spatial data related to high temperatures across urban centres (i.e. to create a heat map). This information could support development of suitable measures for the design of public places.
2. There is room for improvement in regards to the content of the “Action Plan of Adaption to Climate Change in Fengxi New City of Xixian New District”. More attention should be given to controlling urban surface temperature, reducing the risk of high temperatures, boosting urban information management and establishing an early-warning system that can forecast high temperatures.
3. More specific measures and goals are needed for green building, prefabricated buildings and ultra-low energy buildings.
4. Social fund-raising and green financing to be further developed, while more research is needed in designing a multi-level risk assessment mechanism.