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From Local Adaptation to Global Mitigation

One of the most effective tools in dealing with climate change is urban planning, because it addresses both mitigation and adaptation. However, a small percentage of cities have an adaptation plan – and none have managed full-scale adaptation. Implementation is challenged by various hurdles, from inflexible organizations to incompatible regulations. Focusing only on long drawn plans has clearly not worked - the approach now needs to be non-linear.

Mitigation as we know is global in scale—it involves the reduction of carbon emissions that are linked to rising global temperatures. Policy makers, stakeholders and experts from around the world need to work together, and some significant steps are being taken in many sectors.

Adaptation is local - and this where citizens and civic societies are the most important agents of change. The forms and combinations of adaptation could be as varied as local communities themselves, and the impacts manifest relatively quickly. Hence, with adaptation, communities can take control of their own destinies to a certain degree.

The three scales of New Urbanism—block, street, building; neighborhood, district, corridor; town, city, and region—are factors in addressing climate change. Cities and urban areas are vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of their population and infrastructure density. Cities contribute significantly to global GHG emissions, but they are also uniquely positioned to address climate change impacts.

It has been observed that little changes brought in our daily lives can yield effective results. One does not need to move mountains to bring about big changes. Everyday things like carpooling, is an efficient way to save fuel, costs, and time. Lighter traffic means lesser emissions. It’s a small step but truly effective in so many ways.

Another rather overlooked step is to plant trees - simplest way to reduce episodes of extreme heat. The cooling impact of a single healthy tree through evaporation and shade “is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 24 hours a day,” according to the US Department of Agriculture. Neighborhoods, schools, communities and local municipal corporations can come together to plan how to increase the green coverage in a given area. Activities like festivals, awards, fundraisers have proven to be effective tools to increase awareness and involve more and more people.

Town planners today are trying to create self-sufficient neighborhoods in the newer upcoming cities so that a resident does not have to depend on transport for everyday activities. Walking to the market or cycling to school can be easily adopted. New urban designs possess standard features such as multi-layer infrastructure, dynamic urban spaces, green infrastructure, modulation construction design, pedestrianization and 20 minutes neighborhood, smart mobility, electrification, waste management and recycling, micro-cities, cities-in-a-city, connected assets and infrastructure.

Policy instruments, such as green space indices, stormwater tariffs and subsidies for innovation, have proven effective in different cities in Europe, where they contribute to increased expansion of blue-green solutions and standards. A good example is the Stockholm Royal Seaport, a green and blue oasis where business, industry, society and nature all meet. And where policy instruments have placed climate adaptation as a top priority.

Addressing climate change involves creative thinking and reimagining about how buildings and cities could evolve to become more resilient, sustainable and improve the lifestyle and well-being of residents. New urbanists have long focused on designing for the infrastructure of neighborhood cohesion. That may be critical for long-term resilience; and as citizens of this beautiful planet, we can only be resilient together.

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