To address climate change and its effects, there are two basic and complementary strategic approaches:
Mitigation strategies are, by their very nature, long-term measures and are therefore difficult to implement successfully. Climate change mitigation has been addressed by both legal frameworks – at global (Kyoto Protocol); regional (EU Climate and Energy Package); and national levels – and market instruments, such as the European Emissions Trading System. However, their success is not guaranteed. Therefore, there is a need to adopt adaptation strategies, which will have a clearer, more immediate impact on reducing climate change related losses. Adaptation measures, in relation to real estate, can be grouped into a number of categories:
However, adaptation goes beyond individual buildings and planning rules. More than anything the lessening of risk is based upon wider public infrastructure and city-wide flood defences.
One such example of flood defences is the Thames Barrier, which protects an estimated £200 billion worth of property, including 500,000 homes. Its value was clearly demonstrated recently during the UK’s wettest winter in recorded history, when the barrier was closed 20 times in February 2014 compared to only four times during the entire 1980s, when it was originally built.
Another well-known example is the system of dams and dunes that protect the Netherlands from tidal flooding, which is vital as 70% of the country’s GDP is generated in areas that lie below sea-level. This includes the Delta Works, which were constructed between 1950 and 1997 and are the planet’s largest flood barrier system, measuring a total of 25km.
With rising sea levels, however, even these mega-structures will not be enough to protect lives and property indefinitely. Instead, cities will need to constantly strengthen their defences. London is already discussing the possibility of another tidal barrier, while the Netherlands is considering whether to modify its system and allow certain areas to be flooded.
Originally published : April 2014