Disaster risk management and climate change adaptation in urban contexts: Integration and challenges

University dissertation from Lund University

Abstract: Popular Abstract in English Disasters continue to affect urban populations and housing infrastructure. They are intensified by extreme weather events caused by climate change. This situation has made the creation of synergies between climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk management (DRM) urgent. Despite their similarities and the recognised need to unite CCA and DRM efforts, the fields remain separate. Furthermore, it has been difficult to reach a consensus on how to merge approaches in ways that avoid duplication of actions and reduce disaster risk. The integration of CCA approaches into DRM systems relies on collaboration between multiple stakeholders with different interests and objectives. This complex environment creates important challenges. While much effort has been put into understanding the barriers to integration, little attention has been paid to understanding the challenges encountered when attempts are made to integrate CCA into DRM. This thesis contributes to our understanding of the issue. It provides new knowledge about ways to evaluate and compare DRM systems, and how to investigate challenges to the integration of CCA. It focuses on urban areas as they are particularly affected by rapid changes such as spatial expansion and population growth. It is important to improve the ability of DRM systems to deal with climate-related events, as a disproportionate number of disasters are due to this type of hazard. Consequently, we need to develop the foundations before finding ways to overcome challenges to CCA integration. Taking Nicaragua as a case study, it identified challenges to progress in policies, regulatory instruments, perceptions and practice in the fields of DRM, urban planning and environment. It became apparent that some challenges were difficult to detect solely through an analysis of policy and practice, and therefore a theoretical model was developed and applied to the Nicaraguan and Swedish DRM systems. The initial results indicated that although there has been some progress in CCA integration in Nicaragua, further advances depend on up-to-date, comprehensive policies and regulatory instruments, while stakeholder’s lack of understanding of CCA limits its integration into practice. The application of the model identified that processes were fragmented: two of which are relevant here. The first concerns the difficulty of sharing scientific and non-technical information such as risk analyses between administrative levels (national, regional and local) in ways that are useful for decision-making. The second is that municipalities rely on local information regarding risks and vulnerabilities. Both of these challenges influence the integration of CCA into DRM, as it becomes difficult to analyse and communicate the potential benefits of CCA measures. It was clear that progress (in terms of policies and regulation) has not been reflected in the implementation of measures at the local level. These findings led to the development of assumptions regarding the usefulness of risk descriptions for decision-making, which were empirically tested. The results showed that the presentation of the risk description influenced its usefulness. This thesis provides an approach to the investigation of challenges to CCA integration, which can only be detected through an in-depth exploration of the DRM system. Furthermore, it shows that DRM systems can be evaluated and compared in terms of what they produce (e.g. DRM plans). Finally, it shows that CCA integration concerns not only its addition into DRM, but also that improving the DRM system itself is crucial. Better synergies between DRM and CCA will reduce disasters, increase resilience and contribute to sustainable development.