Stresstest to raise awareness of threats and opportunities of climate change in the Rotterdam region.
Through the implementation of a quick and simple method called "stress test" or quick scan, it was intended to raise community awareness of potential threats and possible opportunities caused by climate change. According to the results of the test, small-scale cities can decide whether or not it is urgent and/or useful to design and execute a climate adaptation strategy and if so, what are the most important issues to take into account. In this regard, the stress test shows which information is lacking in order to make a well-thought of decision.
Local Task Force
The City Region of Rotterdam (Stadsregio Rotterdam) acted as the facilitator in cooperation with the city of Schiedam. In addition, the design and test of the stresstest involved the support of various experts in order to achieve a shared understanding of what is meant by climate adaptation. Thus, the project included the participation of various experts and policy makers (e.g. landscape architect, urban planner, ecologist, water manager, economist etc.) from neighbouring cities (such as the city of Vlaardingen and the city of Barendrecht) as well as experts from the regional water management authority and the Hoogheemraadschap Delfland.
The organisation of a workshop event in the city of Schiedam was key not only to exchange knowledge but also to discuss those gaps arising from the questionnaire. In this way, it enabled the participating group to develop a shared image of how climate change affects the city. Moreover, after the workshop, people began to understand that they themselves could do something in order to strengthen the city’s ability to adapt to climate change.
At the political level, there was a direct link between the City Region and the deputy mayor of Schiedam. Once the results of the pilot were available, they were presented to 14 other deputy mayors, trying and convince them to perform the stresstest in their own cities.
One week after the workshop in Schiedam was held, a presentation was given to all experts responsible for Green, Spatial Planning, and Environment of the region of Rotterdam. The main topic was the stresstest, and the request of the City region of Rotterdam was to support the quick scan in all small and medium-sized cities within the region (the Rotterdam city was not included as already had a climate adaptation strategy). Almost all cities agreed upon the stresstest implementation and in fact, in three cities, the test was actually carried out during the fall of 2014.
Deciding not to take action is also an important decision as long as it is based on sufficient information. In addition, sometimes action is already taken without framing it like 'climate adaptation'. At the same time, it is worth not only to focus on the threats but also on the opportunities. Those are the really quick wins.
One of the main obstacles to overcome was the existing perception that people had on the subject 'climate change' as "a toy from Brussels". To overcome this, it was key to show relevant examples within the region and the city itself.
Counting on human resources as well as a strong political will was key to open the discussion on the topic, even though it was unsure whether or not this process would result in relevant actions for every department. In addition, as high-quality climate information was already available, visualised on a map of the region, the main focus was put on processing the existing data. After all, climate adaptiveness is defined as the sum of three variables:
- The degree of exposure to the effects of climate change (e.g. high water level in an unembanked area)
- The vulnerability level of areas, people, objects, etc for the effects (houses are built wet of dry proof, but streets become inaccessible)
- The adaptive capacity of the area and people (high adaptive capacity refers to people with food and enough water stored in their home and with cars parked on designated and higher located areas; while low adaptive capacity refers to the opposite situation).
Strokes of Luck
Some opportunities that push the project were: the occurrence of a heavy rainfall event as well as the presence of tropical birds in the local park (showing the relevance of the subject), the enthusiasm of a group of individuals (willing to invest time and effort in seducing colleagues to do the same), and the availability of a small budget from the City Region (so that each city would not need to invest money during the phase of determining threats and opportunities and hence, could not refuse to participate).
During the project, a report with relevant local climate information was elaborated to prepare participants for the workshop. After the workshop event, a final report was prepared, to summarise the main outcomes, identify key actions and suggest advice for the deputy mayor.
The long-term time frame of climate adaptation, as well as the possibility to link this topic with other priorities (such as safety and health), offers the possibility to deal with this issue strategically, improving the quality of both the public and private space in the city of Schiedam. Furthermore, even though the City Region of Rotterdam took the initiative to develop the stresstest and considering that this governmental organisation does no longer exist (was terminated in December 2014), the national government has decided to continue with this initiative, using the method developed by the City Region and therefore, it is expected that this project will spread nationally.
Key Lesson Learned
"Rising awareness of an important phenomenon such as climate change – and also of certain ‘knowledge gaps’ hindering stakeholders to become active – is a seemingly easy, but very important and often underestimated ‘First Step’. But it is even more important to then have already something at hand – a project, a group, a programme – to keep the momentum alive afterwards."