Three Cities That Actually Get It Regarding Climate Change

Although much of the coverage of climate change just depresses me (Sarah Palin talking about Bill Nye the Science Guy? Really?), I occasionally find an article that gives me hope.

Today that article comes from Mail and Guardian Africa, titled “Porto Novo: A Small African City Taking Big Action Against Climate Change.”

The article talks about three cities doing exactly what they should be doing to prepare for the future. It is Pre-Adaptation, pure and simple. They aren’t sitting around waiting for someone to put up wind turbines or legislate your car out of existence.

These three cities–Porto Novo, Rouen and Da Nang are subject to flooding now. As best as they understand climate change, the odds are good that flooding will continue and might get more serious in the future.

“This is not surprising in coastal cities such as Porto Novo and Da Nang, or in cities located on the banks of a major river like Rouen.

All of the infrastructure that is clustered around the banks of the river Seine, in Rouen, can’t, realistically, be removed. The best many cities can do with their existing at-risk infrastructure is try to protect it in some way. One of the best opportunities for preparing for the effects of climate change comes from new urbanisation and development plans.

Rouen has taken this approach with its new, mixed-use eco-district Luciline – Rives de Seine – which is being built on an industrial wasteland. Rouen has integrated climate change adaptation into the project by creating specific infrastructure requirements in order to protect the area against floods, both from the river Seine as well as those caused by extreme rains.

Ground floor levels must be built above the level of the Seine. Green roofs will trap rainwater and water ditches. All developers have to commit themselves to the specifications laid down by the city if they want to invest in the new neighbourhood.

Vietnam’s Da Nang is revising the city’s 2030 master plan. It plans to widen the flood plains and allow more land for green areas and lakes.

Da Nang also adopted an innovative approach to retro-fitting existing buildings that are heavily affected by typhoons. The city has a fund in place to provide loans to people in vulnerable areas who generally are those with least resources for strengthening their houses against typhoons, repayable after three years.

In Porto Novo, the capital of the West African nation of Benin, the creation of appropriate urbanisation and development plans that take climate change into account is key to protecting the city.

Where Porto Novo stands out is in the opportunity it has to develop a city-wide response to adaptation – as expressed by the initiative’s name, “Porto Novo, Green City”.

With 310,000 inhabitants as of 2013, Porto Novo’s rapid geographic spread is at odds with its low growth in terms of demographics and the economy. In its peri-urban areas, the majority of the population lives in poorly structured, informal settlements and is encroaching upon flood-prone wetlands and marshy areas.


The city is geographically large but under-developed. Only a small proportion of its area is built-up. This gives the city a chance to develop in a far more climate-compatible way than many other cities whose early urbanisation patterns have not been informed by climate change.

The Green City initiative, which started in 2014 with global funding, aims to result in an urban development plan that is based on sustainable development principles. It plans to roll out development solutions on the ground that employ simple techniques, allowing the local population’s social and economic practices to be adapted to the city’s environmental challenges.

There are three development plans which the city hopes can tackle climate change. The first is to implement a promenade between land and water for the protection and development of its wetlands. To maximise the value from peri-urban agriculture backed by a multi-stakeholder platform and by a study on agricultural land in the wetlands.”

By planning carefully and thinking hard, they are solving many of their current problems while preparing for a possible future.

This contrasts so completely with over-built emssions trading schemes,  Regional Power Purity Programs that ignore the good while chasing the perfect, trying to force wood pellets to magically become less damaging than the wood peasants burn on a stove… well, it just gives me hope.

2 responses to “Three Cities That Actually Get It Regarding Climate Change

  1. The best solution is to forbid new construction within 200 meters of the high tide line, unless it’s 6 meters above sea level. Around here we will have to demolish about 50 buildings to create a larger set back, but that’s fairly easy to do. As they get too old their permits will only be issued if they build up terrain with rock fill to elevate way above the storm surge. That process should take about 100 years.

  2. It is interesting to me that you post this today. I have been stuck at home due to a major rain event that has caused widespread street and structure flooding in the greater Houston area has taken place.
    The rain even itself is not in any way unprecedented. What is tough is that the two government entities tasked with managing flooding rains, the Harris County Flood Control District and the City of Houston have both been slow in putting in place well identified and planned for infrastructure upgrades and repairs. I have neighbors who have been flooded twice no in ten months.
    My street was filled and over flowing with flood water until the last hour or so.wince early this morning local time.
    Most of this flooding was predictable and has solutions on the table.
    At least some of the problem is due to poor City of Houston planning and execution on infrastructure.
    It is not the climate that has changed. It is the competence of our local governments that has deteriorated.i
    suspect that the once you look past the cool phrasing of the problems in your three cities, you will find that they have the same issues.

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