Foundations for climate resilient and sustainable growing settlements (U-RES)

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Tyndall Centre

Abstract

Urban populations are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events related to climate change, especially heat waves and floods. This vulnerability is caused by a combination of factors including existing inequalities, high population, and high exposure to certain types of environmental hazards. As cities emerge from smaller settlements and nearby adjacent cities, little design goes into ensuring that they are established in appropriate locations, that new infrastructure is adequately resilient to current and future extreme weather events, and that governance systems and growth take into account the specific needs of marginalised groups. Instead, urban development often appears chaotic and unplanned, locking citizens, particularly those who are most marginalised, into high states of vulnerability.

If we could influence how burgeoning settlements turn into cities and megacities at the start of their growth trajectory, even marginally, the positive repercussions for resilience and wellbeing would be colossal. But just how and where do new cities emerge, and what are the opportunities for influencing their design while they expand to be resilient to extreme weather in a changing climate?

African urbanization, in particular, is exploding. Decisions on how development will take place have time-limited intervention points. There are as yet no pre-determined pathways for development in Africa, providing a unique opportunity for influence. There is also a growing imperative and desire from African initiatives to develop sustainably, to support the implementation of the UN Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly Goal 11 on Sustainable cities and communities. Here we will focus on setting the foundations for increasing climate resilience and sustainable urbanisation in African.

U-RES brings together a rich team of academic and non-academic experts, to explore multiple aspects of the very early stages of urbanisation:

Through the lenses of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), U-RES will examine the current state of urbanisation and how this aligns, or not, with the projected increasing risks from climate change. This will be done through remote sensing and GIS analysis techniques to assess changes in land-cover. In addition, model simulations used by the IPCC to project climate change will be analysed for two risk-related climatic indices, one around heat waves and one around heavy rainfall (a driver of flood risk). This workstream will provide an overview of the patterns of urbanisation in Africa, and an initial picture of the alignment of current urbanisation with risks of extreme climatic events.

Through the lenses of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), U-RES will conduct case studies of urban governance, two around Durban South Africa, and two in Isolo Kenya. These case studies will provide on-the-ground understanding into how information is gathered and used by decision makers, and provide insights into how this can be modified to better take into account the needs of marginalised groups.

Through the lenses of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), U-RES will examine archaeological evidence of changing positions of human settlements over time, and how the changes related to environmental factors. This will be done by focusing on Egypt and Mesopotamia, which are a good analogues for environmental changes occurring in Africa. Analogues from the past will be used here to examine how decision-making process is influenced by complex interrelationships of opportunities and constraints afforded by a range of drivers, set against long-term societal traditions, ideologies and religion. The interview material from the governance case studies will be further used to develop narratives of good governance and to raise awareness of the importance of evidence to guide decision-making on urbanization.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from the proposed research in U-RES?

National-level policymakers: Through its research U-RES will offer two direct benefits to policymakers. At a continental scale, the mapping of evolving environmental risks under climate change and projected changes in urban growth will draw attention to locations and populations that are likely to be particularly exposed if urban development follows standard practices. The analysis focusing specifically on potential for pro-poor urban development will shed light on the possible ways through which settlements could develop in a way that was more sympathetic to marginalized communities and increased their resilience to extreme events. These insights will be promoted using Oxfam's infrastructure and advocacy strength in African urban environments.

NGOs and civil society organisations: The insights generated through the project will be shared with selected NGOs, civil society organisations and networks to highlight possible interventions through which the needs of more marginalized communities can be better included as cities develop. This activity will utilize the links that and advocacy strength of Oxfam in Africa, existing networks (such as the Africa Climate Change Resilience Alliance, Africa Centre for Cities, Shack / Slum Dwellers International), the networks of current large-scale, Africa-focused research projects working in urban environments or on extreme events (BRACED, HELIX, PRISE, ASSAR, FCFA) and the infrastructure of more practice-oriented organisations (such as IIED and CDKN) to increase the uptake of this information.

Secondary city (Isiolo and Durban peri-city): U-RES researchers will engage with policy-makers within our case study areas to map the specific distribution of risks associated with extreme events and how this may change in the future. Using the insights generated through the mapping work and the literature review (tailored to highlight potential processes and strategies to encourage pro-poor urban development within this specific city context), the capacities of policy-makers to better conceptualise and respond to current and future risks associated extreme events will be enhanced. U-RES will engage with marginalised communities who are exposed to extreme events to understand current levels of participation within decision-making processes, additional opportunities for engagement and barriers to greater participation. The insights generated through this work will be synthesised with other work streams and shared with local policy makers, advocacy groups and civil society organisations to encourage changes in policy and practice (any changes will be beyond the lifetime of the project). Overall, the insights from the pilot work will be shared more widely using the networks and approaches described in the two previous paragraphs. In addition, Future Earth's Regional Centre for Europe is led from the Tyndall Centre. This gives access to further engagement with stakeholders in Africa through the sister Regional Centres in South Africa, Rwanda, and Egypt, to assist with feedback from regional stakeholders and dissemination.

International policymakers: U-REF will inform policymakers that are implementing a number of key international agreements, including the IPCC special reports and 6th assessment, the Paris Agreement of the UNFCCC, the Sustainable Development Goal particularly Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities, actions from the upcoming Habitat III United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, and the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction.

See Pathways to Impact for what we will do.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Critical issues have been faced in addressing water and climate governance in two urban sites, one is South Africa and one in Kenya, and provide suggestions on how they can be overcome. The engagement and research conducted in this project have led to the establishment of a new theme in the Tyndall Centre research strategy for 2018-2022, called 'Overcoming poverty with climate actions'.
Exploitation Route Our results have feedback to local policymakers in our case site studies through our project partners. The new Tyndall Centre theme is directed by U-RES names researcher and several team members.
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://tyndall.ac.uk/research/overcoming-poverty-climate-actions
 
Description Although this project has completed, we are still working on the outputs. The team has engaged with local policymakers and actors to discuss issues related to water and climate governance. The research team was able to present the latest findings on climate change projections at a stakeholder engagement workshop in eThekwini municipality (Durban, South Africa) and inform their resilience efforts. The local policymakers and actors were able to provide their insights into how the climate resilience interact with other development priorities. This work has led to the development of a whole research area at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (a network of UK universities) focused on 'Overcoming Poverty with Climate Actions'. Outputs are being written.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Urban sustainability collaboration 
Organisation Asian Institute of Technology
Country Thailand 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We (UEA) led the project and provided expertise in the understanding and analysis of climate data and of social responses to climate change. We also provided expertise in understanding the past from an archaeological perspective.
Collaborator Contribution UKZN and University of Nairobi provided expertise in understanding governance issues related to resilience to climate change and conducted case studies. Oxfam GB provided insights on regional context for development. BuroHappold Engineering provided expertise on how to inform urban planning at the highest possible level. AIT provided expertise on key principles of urban development.
Impact The project has been instrumental in the development of several major activities within the Tyndall Centre: (1) a new research theme on 'Overcoming poverty with climate actions' that underpins the 2018-2022 research strategy of the Tyndall Centre, (2) the submission of a large grant for the GCRF call for interdisciplinary Hubs (unfortunately no invited to full submission). We are preparing a Tyndall working paper and several publications detailing the outcome of the project.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Urban sustainability collaboration 
Organisation BuroHappold Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We (UEA) led the project and provided expertise in the understanding and analysis of climate data and of social responses to climate change. We also provided expertise in understanding the past from an archaeological perspective.
Collaborator Contribution UKZN and University of Nairobi provided expertise in understanding governance issues related to resilience to climate change and conducted case studies. Oxfam GB provided insights on regional context for development. BuroHappold Engineering provided expertise on how to inform urban planning at the highest possible level. AIT provided expertise on key principles of urban development.
Impact The project has been instrumental in the development of several major activities within the Tyndall Centre: (1) a new research theme on 'Overcoming poverty with climate actions' that underpins the 2018-2022 research strategy of the Tyndall Centre, (2) the submission of a large grant for the GCRF call for interdisciplinary Hubs (unfortunately no invited to full submission). We are preparing a Tyndall working paper and several publications detailing the outcome of the project.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Urban sustainability collaboration 
Organisation Oxfam GB
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We (UEA) led the project and provided expertise in the understanding and analysis of climate data and of social responses to climate change. We also provided expertise in understanding the past from an archaeological perspective.
Collaborator Contribution UKZN and University of Nairobi provided expertise in understanding governance issues related to resilience to climate change and conducted case studies. Oxfam GB provided insights on regional context for development. BuroHappold Engineering provided expertise on how to inform urban planning at the highest possible level. AIT provided expertise on key principles of urban development.
Impact The project has been instrumental in the development of several major activities within the Tyndall Centre: (1) a new research theme on 'Overcoming poverty with climate actions' that underpins the 2018-2022 research strategy of the Tyndall Centre, (2) the submission of a large grant for the GCRF call for interdisciplinary Hubs (unfortunately no invited to full submission). We are preparing a Tyndall working paper and several publications detailing the outcome of the project.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Urban sustainability collaboration 
Organisation University of KwaZulu-Natal
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We (UEA) led the project and provided expertise in the understanding and analysis of climate data and of social responses to climate change. We also provided expertise in understanding the past from an archaeological perspective.
Collaborator Contribution UKZN and University of Nairobi provided expertise in understanding governance issues related to resilience to climate change and conducted case studies. Oxfam GB provided insights on regional context for development. BuroHappold Engineering provided expertise on how to inform urban planning at the highest possible level. AIT provided expertise on key principles of urban development.
Impact The project has been instrumental in the development of several major activities within the Tyndall Centre: (1) a new research theme on 'Overcoming poverty with climate actions' that underpins the 2018-2022 research strategy of the Tyndall Centre, (2) the submission of a large grant for the GCRF call for interdisciplinary Hubs (unfortunately no invited to full submission). We are preparing a Tyndall working paper and several publications detailing the outcome of the project.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Urban sustainability collaboration 
Organisation University of Nairobi
Country Kenya 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We (UEA) led the project and provided expertise in the understanding and analysis of climate data and of social responses to climate change. We also provided expertise in understanding the past from an archaeological perspective.
Collaborator Contribution UKZN and University of Nairobi provided expertise in understanding governance issues related to resilience to climate change and conducted case studies. Oxfam GB provided insights on regional context for development. BuroHappold Engineering provided expertise on how to inform urban planning at the highest possible level. AIT provided expertise on key principles of urban development.
Impact The project has been instrumental in the development of several major activities within the Tyndall Centre: (1) a new research theme on 'Overcoming poverty with climate actions' that underpins the 2018-2022 research strategy of the Tyndall Centre, (2) the submission of a large grant for the GCRF call for interdisciplinary Hubs (unfortunately no invited to full submission). We are preparing a Tyndall working paper and several publications detailing the outcome of the project.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Workshop and stakeholder event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact U-RES partners conducted a workshop with policymakers and practitioners in South Africa to explore urbanisation in Durban, to learn from this local experience on the strategies and approaches that have been employed, about the successes and failures, and to hear recommendations for research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop on building resilient cities in a changing climate 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We held a workshop to review the initial results of the U-RES project, strengthen the links among partners and collaborators (private, NGO and academia), and develop a short list of follow-up projects that could be taken forward. The three sessions discussed were: (1) How can cities grow to be resilient to extreme weather in a changing climate? (2) How and where do new cities emerge? (3) What are the opportunities for influencing their design?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop organised by the project in Norwich UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop between researchers from South Africa and from the UK, over the topic of reducing poverty with climate actions. Discussions led to joint submitted proposals.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017