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Climate risk management for the City of Stockholm



Author: Jonatan Jürisoo

Bio: As Director of Group Sales & Marketing Operations, Jonatan combines expertise in international business, technology and markets to drive change for a more resilient society. He has held previous roles at the Swedish Foreign Ministry as well as the Swedish Missions to the United Nations.

Lena Maria Fritzberg, Safety Strategist at the City of Stockholm, and Jonatan Jürisoo discuss how the City of Stockholm is preparing for a more extreme climate.

Climate risk management for the City of Stockholm

From 2010, 4C Strategies have collaborated with the City of Stockholm to enhance its organisational resilience.

One current focus area is climate adaptation, with the importance of this subject highlighted by the summer heat waves in Sweden in recent years. 4C has also performed in-depth analyses connected to previous adverse climate events. The relationship between 4C Strategies and the City of Stockholm is a long and storied one, and continues to evolve as needs emerge, making it especially unique.

How did the collaboration 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 field of climate adaptation, 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 discovered 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.

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What are we currently doing 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 around the so-called ‘cloudburst’, a major rainfall event that is statistically 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 other places where water tends to collect, perhaps even deeper. Without going into detail, I can say that while the frequency of occurrences 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 checked whether there is 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 presented by heatwaves and their impact on society, based on data from May and June 2018, Stockholm’s hottest months in 260 years. Once completed, we intend to look at several other climate-related threats. This can, for example, include snowstorms, rivers overflowing their banks and rock and mud slides. 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 necessary measures at once. Robustness is the aim: whatever hits the city, we need to be able to deal with it.

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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 the question of “who owns the climate?” Collaboration between the safety unit, technical administrations and those who work closely 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.

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

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