Seminar report: Can We Ignore Climate Adaption?
Though nearly all Swedish municipalities recognize climate challenges, less than half have decided to work with the issues and only one in five have identified measures. Not least are discussions on financial aspects in their infancy.
The Almedalen Political Week (Almedalsveckan) is an annual weeklong event in Visby on Sweden’s largest island, Gotland. During the week, some 30 000 people, mostly representing politics, businesses and civic organizations, attend seminars, speeches by party leaders, mingle and meet spontaneously in the streets of Visby. Climate change has been a recurring theme for a number of years, and this year was no exception.
I attended a seminar arranged by Insurance Sweden (Svensk Försäkring) titled “Can we ignore climate adaption”, discussing the current situation in Swedish municipalities. The conclusions were interesting, but also distressing.
A starting point is the difficulties in offering full coverage insurers are facing. Even though they wish to offer full coverage, it can become difficult to offer insurance for properties that repeatedly are affected by flooding
While 96% of Swedish municipalities surveyed by the Swedish Environmental Institute IVL believe that they will be affected by climate change, only four in ten have a decision to work with climate adaption, and only two in ten have evaluated identified measures. Larger municipalities have also progressed considerably more than smaller ones. The results of the survey also shows a considerable variation, with a scoring from 0 to 95% on the factors measured.
The risks were illustrated by a case study from the City of Malmö (the third largest city in Sweden), which was hit by a massive rainfall in August 2014. In 24 hours, 100.1 mm of rainfall was recorded, which in turn is a 1:100 to a 1:360 year event, depending on the area in the city. As a result, the city holds the Swedish record in number of flooded basements, a record “we may not be very proud of” as the presenter put it.
The Malmö case highlights that urban planning is an essential component in a climate mitigation plan. In Malmö examples include designing spaces, such as parks, squares and even streets that can serve as reservoirs during a rainfall. While this can be accomplished when planning new areas, older areas still pose a challenge for urban planners. Also, trying to build systems sufficient to evacuate the water during the critical hours is simply not feasible. In Malmö the construction material alone would amount to some 1.6 Bn Euros.
Solutions discussed were largely centered on the division of responsibility between local and national government, an issue raised by Entropics in a blog post last year. While financing of adaption efforts was a hot topic, the lack of a larger financial perspective is somewhat surprising, not least given the Malmö example. One reason for this may be that, as the Director General of SMHI, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, said, “the responsibility I as a property owner should take, the responsibility of the local government, what kind of responsibility we can expect from insurers, that is pretty much uncharted territory”.
As the Scandinavian countries can expect an increasing number of torrential rainfalls, these issues call for further discussion. While a national plan for climate adaption is expected, maybe as early as this autumn, issues concerning financial aspects are still in their infancy and Entropics looks forward to contributing to that discussion.