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World - You Need All 6 Pieces of the Puzzle to Build Urban Resilience, but Too Often It's Politics That Leaves a Gap

With most of the world’s people now living in urban areas, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of urban resilience. It’s just as important for adapting to climate change.

Put simply, resilience is the ability of a system, in this case a city, to cope with a disruption. This involves either avoiding, resisting, accommodating or recovering from its impacts.

Our research, recently published in the journal Urban Research and Practice, examined two coastal Australian cities, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Our aim was to identify ways to improve urban resilience to coastal climate hazards. We found the political aspect of resilience is often overlooked but is critically important.

Contrary to popular belief, building cities that are resilient to the impacts of climate change is not just about infrastructure. Urban resilience also has ecological, social, economic, institutional and, most importantly, political dimensions.

Why it is hard to create truly resilient cities

Urban resilience has recently become a topic for strategic planning and policy. However, many local governments are struggling to implement the necessary changes. The reasons include:

  1. a precise and universal definition of resilience remains elusive, making the idea difficult to implement in policies and plans
  2. cities are complex systems, with interlinked physical, natural, social, cultural, political and economic dimensions.

Some definitions interpret resilience as building back exactly what was lost. Others suggest it requires adjusting or even completely transforming urban systems.

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