Climate Change in urban water system challenges: towards an integrated anticipatory planning approach

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Submission Summary
In recent times, after the defeat of the ‘sceptical approach’ on the strong correlation between global warming and mankind activities, the scientific debate about ‘anthropogenic Climate Change’ and its effects on human settlements has shifted. Nowadays, it is mostly focused on the capabilities of public policies and integrated partnerships to rethink visions and implement virtuous strategies in order to face the increasing threats and manage the vulnerability of urban realm. The substantial failure of ‘Kyoto Protocol’ (1997) and ‘Paris Climate Agreement’ (2015) makes us figure out that Climate Change impacts on cities and their inhabitants will keep on blowing up in the incoming years (IPCC 2014): waterfront cities and their hydrographic systems will be more and more vulnerable to extreme events such as heavy precipitations leading to devastating floods and alarming sea level rise (EEA 2012). Therefore, the emerging imperative for contemporary metropolitan and urban communities lies in the ability to develop policies, strategies and project solutions tackling the perverse effects of ‘Climate Change’ on the water sector. Within the EU H2020 research project SOS Climate Waterfront, the main goal is to investigate and highlight innovative approaches in Climate Change driven policies, aimed at overcoming the waterfront cities’ critical aspects. Looking at the most advanced economies across the world it is possible to focus different cultural models through the comparative analysis of specific case-studies. Findings and lessons are expected to be useful in order to extract relevant suggestions for the innovation of environmental integrated strategies and specific projects to be applied in Italy. In particular, virtuous rebounds are expected for the city of Rome. Its rather recent planning path – ‘River contracts’ – are contrasting the increasing vulnerability of its territory and looking for a sensible attitude towards the integration of water systems, green corridors and open spaces to be planned and shared through participatory democracy’s steps. The research follows the inductive method and the classic case-study interpretation keys (Yin 1984) developed with a qualitative approach and supported by direct sources and interviews. The case studies choice is referred to the main methodological approaches active globally on what can improve the response to hydrological stress, mitigate the impacts and, effectively, optimize the management of resources towards sustainability. In the international scenarios, scholars and experts specify diverse cultural trends, distinguished by their main focus: strategic policies, technical solutions or their integration. Furthermore, the scientific literature has recognized two opposite great categories of responses to extreme events: reactive or anticipatory (Repetto 2008). Reactive adaptations occur after a disaster has already taken place. They try to overcome inattention beforehand while reducing damages from future, similar events. Often, they are just an over-response in an emergency situation without durable impacts nor a positive balance between efforts and outcomes. Anticipatory adaptation, instead, looks ahead to the project scenario trying to implement policies and strategies before an extreme event or any other risky impact could occur. Virtuous planning can ensure that damages and costs are minimized by incorporating adaptation strategies into planned actions. As some schools of thought have highlighted (Shaw 2007), creative design and conscious management of urban environment embracing different spatial scales (from single blocks to neighbourhoods, from cities to metropolitan areas and their regional context) plays a crucial role in enhancing the anticipatory adaptation and resilience of the entire urban ecosystem. The variety of trends, contexts and spatial scales representing diversity, reach unity’s strength through an integrated-anticipatory planning. This shows that it is definitively time for the ‘adaptation approach’, supported by mitigation strategies, with a clear twofold aim: risks to be minimised and potential opportunities to be caught.
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4: Safeguarding the Urban Resilience
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Fo.Cu.S Centre Sapienza University of Rome
Fo.Cu.S Centre Sapienza University of Rome
Fo.Cu.S Centre Sapienza University of Rome
Fo.Cu.S Centre Sapienza University of Rome
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