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Climate Change and Urban Resilience – The Role of Green Building Councils

04 Aug

NEW YORK, 24 June 2013UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström today welcomed a proposal that “resilient cities” should be one of ten top global priorities in the post-2015 development agenda.

Ms. Wahlström said: “UNISDR has been running the Making Cities Resilient Campaign for three years now and our experience of working closely with both capital cities and small municipalities tells us that urban resilience needs to be at the top of the global development agenda. Many Mayors and local governments around the world are leading the way in reducing risk.” The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN), led by the eminent economist and adviser to the UN Secretary-General, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, has set out ten goals in an Action Agenda for Sustainable Development in the form of recommendations for Sustainable Development Goals. One of the ten goals — Goal 7 — is to “empower inclusive, productive and resilient cities”. Under this goal, one suggested target (Target 7c) is to ensure the integration of “climate and disaster resilience into investments and standards”.

The world’s governments agreed last year at the historic Rio+20 Summit to adopt universally applicable Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015. To support this agreement, the SDSN has mobilized global technical expertise to identify ten “priority challenges” or potential goals, each accompanied by a set of targets, which can guide global efforts to achieve sustainable development during the period 2015-2030.

A stand-alone goal on cities will serve to “mobilize and bring together the efforts of multiple actors and stakeholders such as local authorities, national governments, businesses, knowledge institutions and civil society across a range of urban issues such as disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation”, according to the Report. “It is essential that the world rallies around a post-2015 global goal to advance urban resilience and minimize creating new disaster risks and adding to the economic losses caused by increased exposure to natural hazards.” From 2011 to 2020 alone, investments in urban development are projected to increase by 67 per cent globally. Much of this new urbanization will unfold in hazard-exposed regions threatening global resilience and sustainability unless governments and businesses start incorporating disaster risks into decision-making. The recently released report by the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 agenda also echoes the SDSN report’s emphasis on addressing urban challenges. In no uncertain terms, it proclaims: “Cities are where the battle for sustainable development will be won or lost. “The recommendations of the SDSN and the High Level Panel reports are expected to serve as critical inputs to the deliberations that governments are undertaking to decide on a development roadmap that will go into effect in 2015.

This monsoon season when Uttarakhand was devastated by the mighty land-slide that followed a cloud burst; our Political leaders were quick to lay the blame on the opposition and patting their own back as how they have only let a few thousand die,( about 5000+ & about the same numbers missing) while saving 110,000.

5600 dead. Montserrat island which is a British Overseas Territory has a population of 6000. That would leave a population of 400 – the population of Vatican is 500. (read least populated countries of the World )

The Falkland Islands  archipelago located in the South Atlantic Ocean has a population of 4000. An entire foreign Nation’s population + 1500 and yet our Political masters have the guts to argue and make the matters petty as was seen in several TV News channel. Disregarding the gravity, refusing to learn nothing from it. And none even mentioned Climate Change.

This monsoon season while our Political leaders, mull over grave impacts on Law and Order situations which they claim to have averted, by sacking an Honest and Upright officer who took on the mighty sand mafia…

Similar mud slinging, but the most sinister part observed by the common man was not a single Political stalwart made a comment…

For they know not that the officer was not only doing her immediate duty but was by her act saving the Nation from a calamity which is waiting to happen.

Whenever there would be unregulated exploitation of Mother Nature, her vengeance – terrible and devastating would befall on all of us!

While righteous anger and angst is understandable, before we the “common men & women” spite the politician-mafia nexus must look deep within ourselves.

Will the need of that much of extra sand diminish if we agree not to do the “interior decoration” of our homes every 5 years just to show that we have arrived ? Tearing down the fine polished Italian marble floor which just 5 years ago one was swooning and fawning over while giving that house-warming party?

Will the need for that much of extra sand diminish if we agree not to by that second home ( actually the 3rd or 5th ) which we will hardly ever occupy just because it is – oh! so far away from the madding crowd…in the lush green vale full of fresh air……which the bulldozer of the promoter would destroy and we too with our smoke belching SUV’s.

Just as we all are directly or indirectly involved in the devastation of forests. Our ever more demand for fine wooden furniture, carved wood main-door and that perfect wooden flooring makes us partner to the crime.

How difficult is it to understand a situation like the Jamuma river angry and uncontrollable thundering down from the Himalayas to wipe out a large swat of New Delhi, the so called city of the Rich and the Powerful ?

It is not for no reason our ancestors revered Nature as Mother Goddess. Just as a mother would, she nurtures..she admonishes again and again…her intensity of punishment increase in direct proportion to the level of unruliness. Uttarakhand was a warning, just as Hurricane Sandy was. If we keep on ripping her belly and banks, we will pay for it.

The UNISDR – Making Cities Resilient cannot happen without understanding who the stake-holders are. And the most important stakeholders do not live in the cities. But in the far-flung country side between rivers and mountains from where the bounty of Nature is pillaged to feed the Cities. 

The problem is that without development the modern human civilization would wallow in decadence and perish. Creating chaos far greater than what is now. This fact can’t be denied or ignored. But solutions which are there must be presented in a proper way.

This is where the role of the Green Building Councils comes to play. They are a consortium of Business organization who wishes to make a difference. Who can make a difference.

The approach, in my understanding has to be two pronged. The first is to abate the destruction and the second is to mitigate it.

To abate the situation of people wanting to build more just because they can afford to must be stopped. Now legally no one can do that, but socially it is possible. By engaging thought leaders and socially popular personalities the Green Building Council must show and rightly so..that the Taj Mahal, the Czars Palace, the Vatican and many more would not have retained the “wow!”  Factor had the owners of these amazing buildings changed the interior décore every 5th year.

The simple though of antique is good must be made popular and fashionable at the same time. It can and will save a lot of environmental damage. While the manufacturing industry may suffer a slowdown initially, the service industry especially operation & maintenance would get a boost. We must argue the fact that their can never be “sunshine” everywhere at the same time. Inflation in currency or depression both give equal opportunity to growth.

What is opportunity for some can be misfortune for another. Capitalism however smart, still in some way follows the laws of Nature. The Carrot – The Rabbit – The Snake – The Mongoose each have a different perspective on opportunity and misfortune.  But if the rabbit lets even a little of the carrot uneaten the plant can regenerate back to life.  It is called Sustainability.

That is the art Business must adopt.

This brings us to the next solution – to create a conducive environment where waste plastic and other discarded material or composites can be used (10 Cutting-edge, Energy-efficient Building Materials). The business industry has already come up with some ideas,  what is required is to make them popular and indigenize them where ever possible. Some ideas are very futuristic(10 Building Materials from the Future), but if the Green Building council along with the CIICESD or the WBSCD come together, even these products may get created from recycled products or waste.

The infrastructure industry must make mandatory use of Composite materials and the implementation of cutting-edge technologies, such as nanotechnology,(read more). This is perhaps the only way we can limit the dependency on traditional building materials.

Moreover, there must be a legislation that industry use composite materials made of waste plastic to build their factories and warehouses. And slowly but surely try to reduce the size of the garbage island using (How the oceans can clean themselves: Boyan Slat at TEDxDelft). Once the idea is understood by all and sundry that money can be made business will surely boost the concept the clean technology propogators have been trying to introduce. (Green Business Ideas : Tall Buildings made from waste plastic is possible & its LCA is cheap – a builders delight and boon to Environmentalist)

It is one thing to be ruffled by the inconsiderate manner some people try and exploit nature for short term gains. To reverse the trend the mind and heart must think sustainable.  It is only then the world’s governments which agreed last year at the historic Rio+20 Summit to adopt universally applicable Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015 would act.

It is only then – “Many Mayors and local governments around the world are leading the way in reducing risk.” may also become true in India and around Nodia, Uttar Pradesh. (read more)

 

 

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