Participatory scenario workshops on adaptation pathways in the coastal megacities Lagos, London and Kolkata

  • 2015•03•12     Nigeria


    By 2050, London’s population is expected to increase by 37% to more than 11 million, putting incredible pressure on infrastructure such as public transportation services as well as energy and water supply (London Infrastructure Plan 2050). Also by 2050, a study published in Nature Climate Change in 2013 found that Kolkata could lose as much as $3.4 billion annually due to flooding. Increasingly we see that coastal megacities are faced with great challenges as they are at the frontline of two of our century’s intersecting megatrends: urbanization and increasing climate change impacts.

    In coastal megacities, strong population pressure, demographic change and high socio-economic vulnerability are typically met with great exposure to natural hazards including heat waves, flooding, storm surges and sea level rise. How will coastal megacities adapt to these new challenges? What adaptation pathways will be most effective and what risk management measures need to be put in place now and in the future?

    These are questions the Transformation and Resilience on Urban Coasts (TRUC) project addresses. TRUC is a collaboration of social, environmental and climate scientist as well as policy stakeholders and is funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). The project aims to analyze the feedbacks between large-scale coastal urbanization and socio-economic vulnerability in five selected coastal megacities and to examine potential adaptation pathways. Funded by the Belmont Forum, TRUC is the only project focusing on coastal vulnerability stream with an explicitly urban focus. The project focuses on Kolkata, Lagos, London, New York, and Tokyo.

    An important component of the project is the participatory scenario development which is conducted in each of the five cities, bringing together urban planning practitioners, risk managers and other civil servants with academic and civil society experts. Dr. Matthias Garschagen, head of the VARMAP section, leads the participatory scenario development workshops. The workshops in Lagos, London and Kolkata have already been conducted.

    The main objective of the TRUC scenario workshops is to develop and debate, in a participatory manner with stakeholders, different development and adaptation trajectories of the cities up to the year 2050. A stepwise scenario method is applied, specifically developed for TRUC. The resulting scenarios and the underlying storylines are within the TRUC project further utilized to inform quantitative risk modeling and scenarios assessments in each of the cities, lead by collaborators from the University of Reading, the University of Tokyo and the University of Stuttgart. The participatory scenario workshops allow to examine linkages between climate change adaptation and other overall development trajectories that are important to the countries and cities in the study, paying particular attention to past drivers of vulnerability (e.g. decline in social housing, uncontrolled urban sprawl or inadequate infrastructure).

    Apart from the scientific insight generated, the workshops aim to inspire strategic discussion of adaptation decisions amongst the city’s decision makers. Special emphasize is therein given to the juxtaposition of four different adaptation paradigms:  1) Collapse, where no effective adaptation and risk management strategies can be implemented; 2) Resistance, where adaptation and risk management strategies are mostly reactive and maintain the status quo; 3) Resilience, where system-wide change is undertaken however, without fundamentally questioning the system configuration as such; 4) Transformation, where fundamental aspects of the system are changed.

    Additional workshops will be taking place in NYC and Tokyo, which are scheduled for the first half of this year.