Strengthening Urban Resilience through Managing Risks and Grasping Opportunities

It is high time for us to strengthen the cities’ resilience through design, construction and operation of green buildings as well as investment in climate-resilient infrastructure.

Without a doubt, climate change has posed a fundamental threat to urban development around the world. Frequent adverse weather events and intense typhoons happening in many countries have drawn the attention of sustainability and green building professionals to the need for identification of climate-related vulnerabilities in their cities. Clearly, it is high time for us to strengthen the cities’ resilience through design, construction and operation of green buildings as well as investment in climate-resilient infrastructure.

How do green buildings improve resilience to climate impacts?

A lot of efforts combatting climate change through green buildings are devoted to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, green buildings are doing more than just saving energy or cutting carbon emissions. If we are to shape a more sustainable built environment that is resilient to future climate extremes, it is necessary to include both mitigation and adaptation strategies in green buildings. This is particularly important in developing countries which are more vulnerable to climate change.

It is recognized that a well-planned and early adaptation action could save money and lives later. Therefore, building resilient cities should begin with urban planning. As a green building and sustainability professional, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on urban infrastructure and the built environment. Appropriate adaptation strategies should also be included in industry standards and practices. These strategies could help predict the adverse effects of climate change and adopt appropriate measures to prevent or minimize the potential impacts or even take advantage of the opportunities that may arise.

As a matter of fact, various green building rating tools have included credits that address resilience in buildings. In Hong Kong, BEAM Plus New Buildings Assessment Tool v2.0 (beta version) has included climate responsiveness and resilience in its most recent revision. For instance, it is encouraged to assess the impact of projected climate change scenarios on a building such as its structure, façade, outdoor area or building services system. Various strategies that improve climate resilience should also be considered based on the projected variation in temperature, rainfall, sea level rise and storm surge caused by climate change. BREEAM, the world’s longest green building rating system, has also recognized the importance of adaptation to climate change through encouraging measures taken to mitigate climate impacts over the lifespan of a building. LEED, another leading green building rating system worldwide, has recently revised the three Resilient Design pilot credits to improve their effectiveness in terms of enhancing project resilience.

The world’s leading banks implementing the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TFCD) recommendations

Apart from the construction industry, the banking industry should also understand and manage climate-related risks and opportunities in their loan portfolios. Last November, Citi, one of the world’s leading banks, released its first climate disclosure report, Finance for a Climate-Resilient Future, in response to the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TFCD). This report covers the climate scenario analysis pilot project that Citi undertook alongside 15 other financial institutions to identify the potential financial impacts of climate change on its lending portfolios. Citi has also set out a five-year Sustainable Progress Strategy, which includes sustainability activities under three primary pillars, namely Environmental Finance, Environmental and Social Risk Management, and Operations and Supply Chain. Each of the pillars reflects Citi’s efforts to combat climate change. Through climate risk analyses, Citi has deepened its understanding of how they engage with clients from various sectors on climate-related risks and opportunities. This helps Citi make better business decisions responding to a changing climate, for instance, pursuing business opportunities in collaboration with their clients to develop solutions to address climate change as well as investing in infrastructure and new technologies for climate resilience and adaptation.

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