Like most people throughout the world, the Danes have already felt the first consequences of climate change. Violent cloudbursts and storms have hit most areas of the country more frequently, with the torrential rain storm in Copenhagen in July 2017 as the most expensive example. Insurance companies estimated damages at around one billion dollars.
The OECD, the Stern Review from the London School of Economics and numerous experts have concluded that investing in climate mitigation and adaptation is far cheaper than not investing at all. Executive Director Henrik Seiding from Ramboll Management Consulting agrees. But he emphasises that any investment must be thought through.
“Cities are responsible for 70-75% of global CO2 emissions, and air pollution kills seven million people every year,” he says. “But climate change and air pollution are not solved separately through silo initiatives. They are solved through urban leadership, integrated master- planning and cross-sector innovation.
Projects with added value
Ramboll has just released a report for the Climate Cities Network C-40 that addresses the added values of climate adaptation. Central to combating the effects of climate change is developing a framework for describing and measuring the wider impacts of urban climate action; any solution goes hand in hand with prosperity, health and equality.
Henrik Seiding points out that “when we invest in making our cities resilient to climate change, we need to create additional value by such initiatives as making the local environment more attractive for citizens – for example, using flood protection areas for recreational purposes when there is not heavy rain. Investments in city infrastructure can become value drivers rather than cost drivers if we take a holistic approach and base investment decisions on thorough analyses of the social and economic impacts,” he says.
Denmark’s largest current climate adaption project, the Blue-Green Garden City in Kokkedal North of Copenhagen, is designed to improve the life of residents not just environmentally, but also socially and culturally.
Holistic cost-benefit calculations
Ramboll has used this approach in several projects in Denmark. After two severe floods, Fredensborg Municipality in North Zealand has separated all rainwater from the wastewater system in one of Denmark’s largest climate adaptation projects aimed at environmental, social and economic sustainability.
The municipality used the opportunity to carry out a much- needed upgrade of a socially deprived residential area with new drainage and irrigation systems and providing the basis for increased biodiversity, new recreational areas, and more activity and increased safety. For example, the so-called Wave Place is not only intended for rainwater collection, but can also be used for sports like basketball, skateboarding and parkour.
URBAN BLUE GREEN SOLUTIONS
Create blue and green infrastructure where trees, plants and water are incorporated and integrated in the city planning. This can build resilience and innovative, aesthetically pleasing recreational areas that improve quality of life for the residents and increase the cities’ global values.
In Kagsåparken in Greater Copenhagen, the principle is the same. The project is not only about flood protection but also expanding and improving the recreation areas while creating better conditions for biodiversity, not least rare species of bats in the old trees along the creek. The project also contributes to achieving more international goals, including the EU’s Floods Directive, UN and EU targets for biodiversity and several of the UN’s Sustainability Goals.
Examples such as these, as well as the realisation of the Copenhagen cloudburst plan, led to New York City choosing Ramboll to conduct a “Cloudburst Resiliency Planning Study”, according to Alan Cohn, Climate Program Director at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP).
Alan Cohn points out that Ramboll not only possesses water engineering expertise but can also factor all other aspects into the overall calculation and simplify it. Cost-effectiveness means not just the amount of savings in terms of avoided property damage but also the extent to which the new green areas will improve health and quality of life for the city’s residents.