City of Stockholm – Climate Adaptation

New methods to tackle climate change adaptation help make the City of Stockholm more resilient

4C Strategies have collaborated with the City of Stockholm since 2010 to enhance their organisational resilience. One current focus area is climate adaptation, as summer heatwaves in Sweden 2018 and 2019 have highlighted the need for action. We brought together Lena Maria Fritzberg, Safety Strategist at the City of Stockholm, and Jonatan Jürisoo, Key Account Manager at 4C Strategies, for a discussion on how the City of Stockholm is preparing for a more extreme climate.

The collaboration between the City of Stockholm and 4C Strategies goes back a long way. What are you doing for the City?

Lena-Maria, City of Stockholm: The City of Stockholm has 48 administrative units in need of support. At the Executive Office, we need help from experts to drive certain issues forward. This is where our safety consultants come in.

Jonatan, 4C Strategies: We have worked with the City of Stockholm since 2010. We are procured consultants in the area of safety and security who support the city in, for example, mitigating risks, strengthening the robustness of its critical processes and developing and maintaining sound crisis management capacity. We also perform in-depth analyses connected to adverse events that have occurred.

One of our first joint projects was crisis management exercises in preparation for the wedding of Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden. Our relationship is long-term and continues to evolve as needs emerge, which makes it special.

How did the cooperation on climate efforts begin?

Lena-Maria: The current initiative started with an informal discussion where we realised our method for risk and vulnerability analyses for the City’s operations could be used in several other areas. We are now doing this in the climate area, where those conducting the annual risk and vulnerability assessment liaise with climate adaptation officers to highlight each other’s issues. It is inspiring to perform risk and vulnerability analyses with people who are not normally involved in these processes. This is somewhat new, joining together two historically distinct fields of activity in a common risk and vulnerability assessment.

Jonatan: We began providing support for climate adaptation as early as 2012-2013 when we performed a review of how the City of Stockholm worked with climate adaptation and what threats the city faced.

One thing we quickly found was how difficult the issue of accountability is. Does accountability lie with the municipal water company, with City officials working on environmental and climate issues, with urban planners, or is it a safety issue? What was missing was an integrated group of experts from different sections tackling the issue in a holistic manner, something the City has now created.

What are we doing just now for the City of Stockholm regarding climate adaptation?

Jonatan: We conduct thematic analyses on climate threats to the city’s geographical areas. The first analysis was about the so-called ‘cloudburst’, a major rainfall event that statistically is likely to reoccur every 100 years. Given that we can expect both a hotter and more extreme climate, it is very likely that a person born today in Stockholm will experience a cloudburst during their lifetime.

How extensive is the impact of a once-in-a-100-year rainfall event?

Jonatan: Up to one metre of water will flow on some streets and in places where water tends to collect, it may be even deeper. Without going into detail, I can say that while the frequency is low, all cities are very vulnerable to cloudbursts and critical infrastructure will be severely hit.

Lena-Maria: There are buildings in Stockholm dating as far back as the 13th century, which is a challenge even without extensive rainfall. The metro system can easily become flooded too. We have looked at the low-water points and whether there are any critical infrastructure. We are also looking at all essential services within the city’s geographical area, not just at services run by the city itself. This means we have needed to study flood maps and discuss findings with representatives for a large number of public and private actors. Discussions that have led to better knowledge and awareness and resulted in direct measures within the area of city planning and crisis preparedness.

Jonatan: Having completed the cloudburst project, we are now analysing the challenges of heatwaves and their impact on society, based on data from May and June 2018, which were the hottest months in Stockholm in 260 years. Once completed, we intend to look at several other climate-related threats. This can, for example, be snowstorms, rivers overflowing their banks and rock- and mudslides. This is something we encourage all municipalities to do as the problems we see are only going to get worse.

Lena-Maria: Extensive projects need to be carried out and we need to start now, because it will not be possible to implement all the necessary measures at once. Robustness is the aim: whatever hits the city, we need to be able to deal with it.

Do you have any advice on how to start strengthening climate and safety efforts?

Lena-Maria: Start in your own backyard. Think small! Use the knowledge you already have and link up the processes within the risk and vulnerability area. Take existing material and add another dimension.

Jonatan: It is a great idea to start small! Another challenge that we often see in municipalities is “who owns the climate?” Collaboration between the safety unit and the technical administrations and those who work a lot with climate and environmental issues is necessary.

Lena-Maria: Yes, because this will lead to meetings, projects and new innovations that are both exciting and challenging.

Jonatan: These risks are almost existential in nature and therefore require particularly urgent attention. It is not a question of whether climate-related events will happen but when in time. In many ways it is the municipality’s responsibility to ensure they are managed in the best possible way. It is therefore not only a question of preparing proactively and mitigating the consequences of risk, but also of knowing what to do when a violent rainstorm hits, for example.

Finally, who is actually accountable when things happen?

Lena-Maria: Yes, that is exactly the problem; it is not clear whose responsibility this is, but everyone must take on at least some of the responsibility, which our current work is starting to address. We are primarily accountable toward future generations, and must start doing things right immediately.

Please contact Jonatan Jürisoo if you would like to learn more about how risk and vulnerability analyses can be used in the climate area, and how to build your organisational resilience. Click below to read more of our case studies.

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