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What are the key challenges for urban adaptation from a governance perspective?

In this video we explain in detail what the challenges are that actors in urban governance face to plan and implement adaptations.
SHUAIB LWASA: Imagine a city which is facing extreme climate events and impacts to people, infrastructure, and livelihoods. Dhaka, in Bangladesh, is such a city. It is experiencing extreme typhoons and the impacts of sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, delta flooding, coastal erosion, infrastructure breakdowns, and loss of livelihoods. Such a city would be facing a challenge of planning and implementing adaptation plans. But actually, perhaps the key challenge is how to bring all actors together to make decisions on how to adapt. Let me explain the challenges that such a city is facing in making the right decisions to adapt. The first key challenge in adaptation is to increase the involved actors’ knowledge of climate risks.
This will support them in understanding the risk magnitude, developing public interest in tackling the risk, and adapting to climate change. Many cities suffer from the knowledge constraint, largely due to institutional capacities, to main staff and resources, as well as inadequacy of climate risk information. The second challenge is that most city administrations are structured in a way that departments are sector-based. For example, engineering departments for roads, drainage, sewage, and electricity, a public health department for waste, health services, and emergencies, while the planning department focuses on development control, special plans, and land management. This sector-based approach in city management is a key hindrance to adaptation governance because adaptation solutions span several sectors.
Thus, there is a tendency to not have a responsible department for adaptation, yet each tries to address climate adaptation. This tension between agencies and department hinders timely and integrated adaptation planning, financing, and implementation. The third key challenge is power in decision making among actors in urban adaptation that is not distributed evenly. Political leaders tend to wield power over most of the other actors. Communities, civil society, and businesses are seen as receivers of decisions made by the authorities. This asymmetrical nature of power in urban adaptation is a big challenge to implementation of adaptation plans. For example, the mayor and city council will design adaptations and instruct the communities to implement, often without involving those communities in their decisions.
This is often met with resistance by the communities. To reduce such resistance, at the eThekwini City in South Africa, established a forum for community participation, initiated prepreneurship programme that communities sold tree seedlings for greening the city. Through this programme, communities participated fully in other adaptation projects, including flood management. This happened with the establishment of a fully-fledged department on climate change with staff and budgetary support. Laws, regulations, and policies are interpreted by households, communities, as constraints to their freedom. And thus, this could result in resistance of actions promoted by city authorities. Often we are dealing with situations where enforcement or regulatory capacities are part of the problem, together with a lack of bottom-up participation of communities. This hinders adaptation implementation.
In conclusion, multiple actors should be part of the decision-making regarding adaptations in the city. But due to uneven power, unfortunately this is often not the case. This barrier can be addressed by creating platforms for dialogue, discussion, and making decisions on adaptation and responsibilities. And finally, as was already stated at the beginning, building a common knowledge base to understand risks is an important requirement for the actors.

In previous steps we explained what governance is and the actors in urban areas. In this video we explain in detail what the challenges are that actors in urban governance face to plan and implement adaptations. In this video GCA expert on urban adaptation and governance challenges Shuaib Lwasa explains in detail what the challenges are that actors in urban governance face to plan and implement adaptations.

  • Power is not distributed equally among actors in urban adaptation
  • Laws, regulations and policies tend to give uneven power to political leaders and technical practitioners of urban authorities
  • Households, community and civil society organizations’ voices in decision making tend to be undermined by uneven power by urban leaders
  • Knowledge, financial resources are a big hindrance to implementation of adaptation plans in cities
  • Institutional tensions between agencies that are sector focused in a key challenge for integrated urban adaptation planning
  • This article is from the free online

    Sustainable Cities: Governing Urban Adaptation Under Climate Change

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