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Stuttgart – Just recently, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn ended. More than 25,000 representatives of nations, NGOs, science, media and companies participated in the event. Previously, Oxfam, an international network of aid and development agencies, has published a report, in which stated that the effects of global warming between 2008 and 2016 have already turned more than 20 million people into climate refugees worldwide. According to the authors, this number could increase tenfold in the coming decades. The societal relevance of the issue is obvious, but given some governments' refusal to engage more in the fight against climate change, the question arises as to whether the consequences could be averted at all and how we can protect ourselves against the effects of global warming. The researchers at the Institute for Industrial Science and Technology Management of the Stuttgart University, which works closely with the Fraunhofer IAO, address these and other questions about climate resilience together with partners from industry, research and communities in the SMARTilience project. We spoke with the project manager Veronika Zettl and found out how she and her team help cities identify and implement appropriate climate measures.
1. Hello Veronika. Although many municipalities have made climate protection one of their tasks, they are far less consistent in addressing the effects of climate change. The SMARTilience project aims to correct this situation and help municipalities develop suitable climate measures to become more resilient. How exactly do you proceed and why is climate resilience so important?
V.Z.: The consequences of climate change present a major social and economic challenge, especially for cities, where currently the majority of the world's population lives. Heat islands are harmful for the citizens´ health. Heavy rainfalls and storms endanger life and can cause considerable damage - and thus expenses. Cities are therefore forced to react if they want to remain attractive and liveable. Fortunately, the relevance of climate protection has already reached the minds of most people. However, the scientific community agrees that some of the consequences of climate change can no longer be (completely) prevented today. Therefore, climate protection must be supplemented with climate adaptation measures if attractive, liveable and secure living and living space is to be maintained. The cities must become climate-resilient. In SMARTilience, we therefore develop an integrated, socio-technical management model to support decision-makers and stakeholders in municipalities in forward-looking, efficient climate action. Then we test this model in the real labs Halle (Saale) and Mannheim and thus make a concrete contribution to achieving the climate protection goals of the Federal Republic of Germany.
2. The SMARTilience project is still in the definition phase until the end of April 2018. What exactly is going to happen in this project phase and after it?
V.Z.: In the definition phase, we plan to accomplish important preliminary work and to establish partnerships. Right at the beginning, we identified and inspected existing research results on climate resilience in cities, as well as related management models. Based on the obtained results, we designed the full project, analysing needs, urban challenges and relevant legislation. In addition, we planned the real labs Halle (Saale) and Mannheim with the relevant actors on site. In October 2017, we submitted the application for the full project together with our partners Drees & Sommer, Malik, HafenCity University Hamburg and the both cities. And now we cross fingers! We will use the coming weeks to network with other projects of the funding program "Implementation of the Flagship Initiative Future City" of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and to prepare the real labs for the full project. If we receive the grant, we will start research and development in May 2018.