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Contributed by: Stephen Tyler, Senior Associate, Victoria, B.C., Canada.

Originally posted by: ACCCRN.ORG

When we work with local partners to help them plan for climate change, one of the first barriers we run into is that it’s hard to focus attention on problems that seem uncertain and far off in the future. The typical way to plan for climate adaptation is to use complex climate modeling to project future local climate conditions and then propose measures to avoid the worst of the potential future impacts. But for many analysts and decision-makers, this logical “predict and prevent” approach is challenging. That’s one of the main reasons why ISET-International developed an alternative approach that focuses on building climate resilience.

The challenges include uncertainty, of course: climate models can never tell us what weather conditions will be like in any given year, they can only provide estimates and averages that vary depending on the assumptions and models used. And climate impacts become more severe only as we look farther into the future, so it seems that many actions can wait.  But analysts and planners also know that climate change is not the only problem— climate change interacts with other complex issues, such as water availability, or public health; city engineering standards or ecosystem degradation. These interactions can take us by surprise, often in the face of extreme events when we have no time to adapt. (e.g. Hurricane Sandy).

Resilience building is a different way to look at the problem. It strengthens key characteristics of complex systems, people and organizations to enable them to handle both anticipated and unanticipated stresses and shocks from future climate. The idea of climate resilience is increasingly common, but until now, it has not been well explained. Without a clear definition and framework for action, climate resilience could not easily be turned into operational guidance for local planners.

A Framework for Urban Climate Resilience has recently been published in the journal Climate and Development, and is available free for downloading. In this article we describe a simple operational template, demonstrating how the characteristics of resilience can be synthesized from the research efforts of many different disciplines. The resulting conceptual framework provides practical guidance for what planners should look for in their own specific context, and allows them to focus on building resilience now, rather than anticipating changes at some future time.

The Climate Resilience Framework was developed under the auspices of the Asian Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) and has been used by cities in Indonesia, India, Thailand and Vietnam to plan climate adaptation actions. By explaining climate adaptation as building resilience, and by articulating a simple framework that can be used in many different contexts, ISET provides the foundation for a range of tools for local planning and intervention. The framework can be used to guide vulnerability assessment, and explains the importance of shared learning in building resilience. It can be used to structure planning processes to design and choose local interventions. ISET has developed a series of training modules explaining the Climate Resilience Framework and how to use it for these purposes.

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