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Strategies for Resilient Cities to Climate Change

Sabrina Lehnen Stoll

Translation: Ligia Payao Chizolini

Building resilient cities to climate change has become an imperative necessity at the beginning of the 21st century, mainly driven by international organizations seeking resilient strategies. Urban resilience, as defined by various organizations such as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Rockefeller Foundation, and 100 Resilient Cities, is highlighted as the ability of cities, communities, institutions, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of stress, shocks, or risks. This capability involves resistance, absorption, accommodation, adaptation, transformation, and efficient recovery of essential functions. All definitions converge in highlighting resilience as a constructive characteristic, emphasizing preparedness, risk management, and the ability to face adverse events (Domingues and Chiroli, 2022).

The term "resilience" was incorporated into Brazilian legislation in 2012 through the establishment of the National Policy on Protection and Civil Defense (PNPDEC). This policy marked the beginning of developing thoughts and measures related to Risk and Disaster Management (GRD) in the country. A significant innovation brought by this policy was the integration of various sectoral policies, covering areas such as land use planning, urban development, water resources, geology, infrastructure, health, and education, with the goal of promoting sustainable development (Brazil, 2012).

For Cenci and Schonardie (2015), active citizen participation in urban management is essential for building sustainable cities in all their dimensions. However, to achieve justice and sustainability, it is crucial to incorporate values into society that reject a predatory economy, aiming to eliminate social inequalities, urban segregation, and discrimination related to housing and the location of human settlements. Cities, constantly evolving, can be directed to ensure the dignity of their inhabitants. Rethinking the functions of the State in managing collective and diffuse interests in urban space is a fundamental task to transform current cities into sustainable cities.

Various initiatives for building resilient cities can already be observed, among which the Resilient Cities Program proposed by the UN can be cited. The program aims to strengthen and support local governments, community groups, and leaders in risk management, urge local administration to reduce disaster vulnerability, increase awareness of urban risk reduction, equip local entities with their own budget for risk reduction activities, and include risk reduction in planning (UNISDR, 2015).

The objectives can be achieved through ten essential steps, including organization and coordination, budget allocation, updating risk data, considering risk analysis in urban development plans, investing in risk reduction infrastructure, ensuring the safety of schools and health units, enforcing construction safety regulations, education programs on risk reduction, protecting ecosystems, and developing alert and emergency management systems. Evaluation is conducted through the LGSAT self-assessment platform, addressing aspects such as research, organization, infrastructure, response capacity, environment, and recovery. Since its launch in 2010, the program has served as a model for initiatives promoting the construction of resilient cities (UNISDR, 2015).

In turn, the OECD (2016) proposes a broader approach to understanding and promoting city resilience, highlighting the need for innovative policies and collaboration with all stakeholders, including citizens and the private sector. Following the 2014 ministerial meeting, the organization conducted case studies in ten cities, assessing their capacity to absorb, adapt, transform, and prepare for future shocks. Cooperation between cities, national, and regional governments is considered essential, and investment in areas such as industrial diversification, innovation, and infrastructure is fundamental. The resulting report contributes to implementing global disaster risk reduction and sustainable development initiatives.

The Rockefeller Foundation has played a fundamental role in developing climate resilience in urban and rural regions. Its work aims to provide a common understanding of the concept of city resilience, culminating in the City Resilience Framework (CRF, 2015) in partnership with Ove Arup & Partners Ltd. This framework highlights eight critical functions for resilient cities, including meeting basic needs, protecting human life, preserving assets, promoting human relationships, stimulating knowledge, defending the rule of law and equity, supporting livelihoods, and fostering economic prosperity. The Foundation promotes the 100 Resilient Cities Project, challenging cities worldwide to improve their resilience based on this framework. The goal is to empower cities to face various challenges, such as climate change, pandemics, and other stresses, promoting sustainable development, well-being, and inclusive growth.

The event "Building Resilient Cities" held on September 14, 2021, in Brasília – DF, highlighted strategies adopted by cities to promote resilience. Salvador and Campinas, participants in the Building Resilient Cities campaign, shared inspiring practices. Both cities, which are among the 117 Brazilian subnational governments in the campaign, aim to ensure inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities by 2030. Salvador's Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Plan, launched in 2020, focuses on climate adaptation to promote sustainable, innovative, and inclusive development. Campinas, chosen as a model city by the campaign, received awards for its resilient actions, including implementing a Disaster Alert System that significantly reduced risk areas in the city. Cross-departmental coordination, international partnerships, and popular participation are essential elements in developing these strategies (ICLEI, 2021).

Bianchi and Zacarias (2016) highlight the importance of engagement between the public authorities and society in effectively implementing actions related to disaster risk management. They emphasize not only post-event recovery but also preparation for future events. They discuss public policies aligned with the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, seeking commitments at all levels of public administration to strengthen community resilience. The focus is on the benefits for communities in preparing for disasters, reducing inevitable impacts through effective joint actions.

By comparing emergency actions in disasters in America and China, Lixin and Junxue (2011) highlighted that the main difference lies in social participation. In America, volunteers and non-governmental organizations play an important role in disaster management. The Chinese government encourages non-governmental organizations and volunteers to actively participate in disaster prevention and mitigation work, but there is currently no corresponding legal mechanism and solid organizational form to ensure the validity of participation.

From this, Lixin and Junxue (2011) suggest necessary measures to improve the quality of national disaster management, which also includes raising awareness about disaster prevention and mitigation, encouraging and promoting non-governmental organizations to join disaster management, allowing the disaster insurance system to play an important role, and aggregating the investment of pre-funds for disaster prevention and reduction.

Given the challenges posed by climate change, it is crucial for cities to adopt resilient strategies to ensure their sustainability and the quality of life of their inhabitants. Various measures, such as investing in green infrastructure, adaptive urban planning, and community engagement, are essential to mitigate adverse impacts and promote urban resilience. By implementing such strategies in an integrated and sustainable manner, cities can not only face current climate challenges but also be prepared for an increasingly unpredictable and challenging future in terms of environmental changes.


BRASIL. Law No. 12.608, April 10, 2012. Available at: http:// http:// Accessed on: Jan 29, 2024.

CENCI, Daniel Rubens; SCHONARDIE, Elenise Felzke. Right to the city: sustainability and development in urban areas. Revista de Direito da Cidade, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 166-180, 2015.

DOMINGUES, Thuany Nascimento; CHIROLI, Daiane Maria De Genaro. Resilient cities: a model of innovative actions focused on hydrological events. Revista Gestão & Sustentabilidade Ambiental, vol. 11, pp. 104-123, 2022.

LIXIN, Yi. LINGLING, Ge. DONG, Zhao. JUNXUE, Zhou. ZHANWU, Gao. An analysis of the disaster management system in China. Revista Riscos Naturais. International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Risks. No. 60, pp. 295-309. 2012. Available at: Accessed on: Jan 27, 2024.

FGV, Fundação Getúlio Vargas. MCMV slowed the increase in Brazil's housing deficit, which hit a record in 2017. FGV Direito, 2018. Available at: Accessed in Jan 2024.

UNISDR. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction. Our Mandate. 2015.

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