UBC TALKS discussed the cascading consequences of climate hazards and how to make cities more resilient

Climate change is already here, and we have no other choice but to start preparing, adapting, and dealing with the consequences. The first UBC TALKS webinar of 2021 discussed climate hazards and how cities in the Baltic Sea Region can build resilience and was co-hosted with the Safe Cities Commission.

The invited speakers provided us insights from their experiences from working with the CASCADE project, which aims to increase practical risk management capabilities of local authorities in the region. The webinar was moderated by Kaspars Vārpiņs, the chairman of UBC Safe Cities Commission.  

Gaps in addressing new and emerging climate risks   

The first speaker of the webinar was Heidi Tuhkanen, Senior Expert at SEI Tallinn. She explained the difference between climate hazards and climate risks, introducing climate risks as a much broader concept combining vulnerability, hazards, and exposure. Furthermore, she specified the possible consequences of climate hazards and illustrated the connections between different events. Tuhkanen also taught us about the barriers to climate adaptation that prevents us from adapting successfully. In the BSR this can take the shape of, for instance, lack of financial resources, expertise and technical skills, political will, capabilities, and communication across sectors.  

How to understand, assess, and treat current and future climate change related risks on the local level  

Miikka Toivonen, Coordinator for the CASCADE Project and Policy Officer for Southwest Finland Emergency Services, gave a presentation about the aims of the project. There is a lack of capacity and knowledge sharing among professionals working with climate change, thus increasing the capacity to understand, assess, and treat climate change related risks is crucial. The CASCADE project does this by increasing practical knowledge of the effects of climate change and how to manage them, as well as creating a framework for the coordination of risk management including all institutional levels. 

Climate-smart civil protection experts – Increasing the climate change adaptation knowledge  

The third speaker of the webinar was Jürgen Krempin, Head of International Cooperation at Hamburg Fire and Rescue Service. He spoke about the different effects of climate change, including the increase of temperatures, changes in weather forecast patterns, droughts and heat waves, storms, sea level rise, heavy rain and deglaciation. Following that, Krempin brought up the consequences that climate change can have on both humans and the environment, including hunger and water crises, increasing spread of pests and pathogens, economic implications from dealing with secondary damage, ocean acidification, and loss of biodiversity. All these factors create a need for raising awareness around adaptation and risk assessment for all people involved, which the CASCADE project is doing through creating a training course for civil protection experts. Furthermore, Krempin introduced more in detail the set-up and the development of the training course curriculum. 

What’s new in climate adaptation policy  

Valdur Lahtvee, Policy Officer at the Council of the Baltic Sea States, gave us an overview of the current state in climate adaptation policy. This includes the EUSBSR Renewed Action Plan, the new EU Climate Adaptation Strategy, and Interreg Baltic Sea Region 2021-2027. Common themes found in today’s adaptation policy arena are the mainstreaming of climate consideration, including discussions of resilience, prevention, preparedness and adaptation.  

Q&A session

We finished the UBC TALKS webinar with a short Q&A session together with all the panelists. One of the questions was what the biggest climate related risks are for the cities the panelists repersent, and what the challenges are when dealing with the impacts. Miikka Toivonen from Turku said that storms and floodings are big risks in Finland that can have negative impacts on human health and buildings. Jürgen Krempin said that some of the most challenging impacts of climate change seen in Hamburg are heavy rainfall, floodings, and heat waves. These create health risks, rescue related risks, and city planning risks. Toivonen and Krempin both talked about including these topics in the discussion to raise awareness, preparedness and capacity of the staff dealing with these issues. They also brought up the important cooperation between countries when it comes to resources to fight climate hazard events such as fires.  

As a final question, the panelists were asked if they think that the CASCADE project has been successful in making a difference, where the conclusion was that it indeed has helped with raising awareness of climate change related issues.

Full recording of the webinar and the presentations available here.