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Cities must share infrastructure resilience information, says ICE

Global cities must learn from the efforts their counterparts have made to improve the resilience of their infrastructure, an ICE report says this week.
The report explores whether it is really possible to future-proof modern cities against climate change, and examines options for policy makers looking to improve their resilience.

The Availability of Infrastructure: Resilient Cities report is the result of an examination of three cities - New York, Vancouver and Rotterdam. It looks at how they each tackle the resilience challenge and where lessons could be learned in the UK.

The UK is facing more frequent extreme weather events like severe flooding. These have disrupted infrastructure networks - often triggering a “domino effect” where the failure of one system affects the operation of another.

New York subway after superstorm sandy

New York: Extreme weather cause parts of the Subway to flood in 2012

The ICE said that the growing frequency of these events combined with the approaching General Election was forcing politicians to recognise the need for well developed city resilience policies. It said they should learn from other cities’ successes and mistakes.

The report says that the individual characteristics of each world city means that the resilience policies of one cannot be directly transferred to another. It says policymakers must work with the interwoven climate, demography and economy in which a particular city operates. This will better equip them to develop long term ways of mitigating the effects of climate change.

Rotterdam has suffered river and coastal inundation for centuries, including severe flooding in 1953. As a consequence, it has led the way in flood defence systems with much of the city and the surrounding area protected by a network of surge barriers, dikes and dams.

But the report says that what works well for Rotterdam might not work for cities such as London or Birmingham.

The analysis also shows the value in developing objectives that are measurable.

Vancouver has set itself the task of becoming the “greenest city in the world” by 2020, but offers no clear indication about why the goal was chosen or how it will be measured.

The ICE says cities should avoid setting vague, unquantifiable targets, and says efforts should instead be put into developing policy specific to a city and its environment.

This was a feature of New York’s annual ‘PlaNYC’ infrastructure update, which considers the progress of work to build the city’s climate change resilience.

“City infrastructure cannot be expected to be resilient to every eventuality. Resilience is about developing and implementing policies, which maintain and quickly return infrastructure networks to operation, as opposed to reactive emergency resilience planning,” said Jim Hall, a Fellow and director of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. Hall is one of the report’s authors.

“It is crucial that politicians recognise the need for well developed city resilience policies, learning from other cities’ successes and mistakes but also recognising the uniqueness of the UK’s cities and the unique challenges they each present.”

  • Availability of Infrastructure: Resilient Cities can be accessed at: The case studies and analysis form part of ICE’s Commit to Infrastructure campaign. Twitter users can join the debate by following @ICE_engineers and using the hashtag #Commit2Infrastructure.

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