Flood-prone cities look to sustainable urban design for solutions

As nations set ambitious climate goals, many consider urban design as a potential solution to flooding and other natural disasters.

Copenhagen has taken the lead, with a brand-new neighborhood designed to promote green modes of transportation. Since, 2007, architect Rita Justesen has been tasked with transforming the former industrial harbor in Denmark’s capital into a brand-new neighborhood and ensuring its 3.5 million square meters of residential and commercial floor space is financially viable and climate-smart.

Around the world, with rapid urbanization, more than two-thirds of people will live in cities by 2050, the UN projects. And cities use more than two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for about three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the UN.

That is why cities are seen as key to meeting the commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement of reducing emissions to keep the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. A 1.5-degree Celsius rise would give vulnerable populations a chance of surviving climate shocks like flooding, cyclones, droughts, and higher sea levels, experts say.

Worldwide, sea levels have risen 10 inches since the late 19th century, driven up by melting ice and a natural expansion of water in the oceans as they warm, United Nations data show. A UN panel of climate scientists said in 2014 that sea levels could rise by up to a meter by 2100.

The sea level around Copenhagen’s harbor city is expected to rise by up to one meter over the next century, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute. Copenhagen council estimated that if there were no form of protection from flooding due to storm surges, the damage over the next century would cost up to $3.14 billion. By comparison, it would cost up to $627 million to prevent this from happening.

Apart from future-proofing itself from the sea-level rise and flooding – from green roofs and parks that absorb rainwater, to large barriers that can curb flooding – the city is also on a mission to become the first capital to cut climate-changing emissions by 2025.

[Reuters]

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