Tuesday 6
Urban resilience & collective action
Rafael Balanzo-Joue
› 15:40 - 16:40 (1h)
Urban resilience to climate change and capabilities: for a human development centered approach of adaptation in city contexts
Béatrice Quenault  1, 2@  
1 : Université Rennes 2
Campus Villejean, Place du Recteur Henri Le Moal, CS 24307, 35043 Rennes cedex -  France
2 : Espaces et Sociétés  (ESO)  -  Website
CNRS : UMR6590, Université de Rennes II - Haute Bretagne
Maison de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales. Place du Recteur Henri Le Moal. 35043 RENNES CEDEX -  France

Since a decade, the resilience/adaptation strategies of cities to climate change are increasingly perceived as a main part of local climate policy and become a shared and discussed issue among scientific researchers, policy makers and international and non-governmental organizations. The climate science has developed new tools to anticipate climate events which can occur at local level as well as to analyze changes in urban ecosystems. Cities expect from this scientific background to better prevent extreme events and compensate changes in urban environment. They tend to build their resilience-adaptation strategies by focusing on local impacts of climate change that could affect living conditions of city dwellers. To that extent, a part of the literature as well as cities have mainly associated “adaptation” to “protection” to climate change impacts and risks more than to cope with long term environmental changes. This explains why what is currently call “adaptation” refers mainly to a set of measures which contributes to enhance the “physical” resilience of cities against floods and storms, to reduce vulnerability of citizen to climate variations. 

The main idea of this paper is that this vision of “adaptation” and “resilience” is too restrictive, in order to understand the “human development” dimensions of climate change. Even if the debate is focusing more and more on societal responses and resilience to climate change, it is not yet clearly stated what does mean “building a societal capability for adaptation to climate change” and what the pathways are to achieve this goal, in the human development perspective? To understand these dimensions, we need to consider what has been broken or lost in the relationship between natives and their built environment as well as what could be retrofitted or restored in this relationship.

In that extent, the question of resilience/adaptation is not only limited to physical protection and warning, but embraces a “capability approach” (Sen, 2010; Nussbaum, 2012) which replace human potentialities to think and to act in the core process of climate change adaptation. This means that “adaptation” can emanate not only from scientific knowledge (in a top-down approach) but also from citizen experiences and initiatives becoming able to set up empowered actions helping them to cope with climate change (a bottom up approach). But to what extent the understanding of “human development” issues of climate change opens up new perspectives in public-citizen action and can lead cities to implement new resilience/adaptation processes? This is the main question of this paper which combines theoretical and practical insights. In this perspective, our purpose is to explore two underestimated or missing aspects by:

- identifying “human development” questions which are related to cities' adaptation to climate change,

- analyzing types of capabilities which can be activated in different social and environmental urban contexts; 

- considering how Cities and local authorities can take into account these “human development” issues and can support the emergence of networked citizen experiences and capabilities in order to renew their climate change resilience/adaptation policies.


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