Eyes were squinted and cameras flashed when a group of American civic leaders and professors toured Copenhagen one late-September day 2015. A rare sight indeed met passers-by at Cirkelbroen, Copenhagen’s new rotating bridge: 27 decision makers crossing the bridge in twos on matching rental bikes. The group had arranged the four-day study tour to Copenhagen to learn from the city’s success in implementing green initiatives as a municipal-level growth strategy. “If we don’t prepare our cities, any sort of climate change is going to destroy the way we live. We need to establish strong partnerships, both public and private, to get these important conversations aligned and create long-term solutions for our cities,” says Malik Benjamin, an architecture professor at the Florida International University and a tour participant.
Changes requiring action
By 2050 the number of people living in urban areas will have climbed from 54% to 66% of the world’s population. At the same time, a growing middle class is demanding a higher quality of life. This increases the risk of resource scarcity, pollution and other environmental problems. Climate change also poses risks – and demands solutions.
Preparing a city for the future is a comprehensive and expensive process. But the costs of not adapting can be even greater. Taking this view, Jeddah, a Saudi Arabian city with 3.5 million inhabitants, implemented a masterplan, designed by Ramboll, that not only had potential to save the city EUR 1-2 billion annually but also improved its water and air quality, established an effective waste management system and created green, recreational areas within the city.
Henrik Seiding, Executive Director of Ramboll Management Consulting, emphasises that a masterplan must incorporate a variety of social offerings to attract the right people and businesses to a city.
In Denmark the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg have joined forces with Ramboll and other advisors on a plan to safeguard the Danish capital against cloudbursts and heavy rainfall. Some of the excess water will be retained locally for recreational areas, while cloudburst boulevards with high kerbstones will lead stormwater away efficiently and quickly.
“We have to invest in making our cities resilient to climate change, and we might as well try to maximise the value of our work and create additional value for citizens by making the local environment more attractive. If we do it right, investments in city infrastructure become value drivers instead of cost drivers. But this necessitates that we take a holistic approach and base investment decisions on thorough societal cost-benefit analyses,” Henrik Seiding says.