STAR-FLOOD session at CFCC15

By Julien Jadot

During the UNESCO Conference “Our Common Future under Climate Change”, STAR-FLOOD organised a session allowing presenting the latest outputs of the project.

The CEPRI (Julien Jadot) coordinated the organisation of this session entitled: Facing floods and climate challenges: designing governance arrangements and unlocking financing on the pathway to resilient cities, and chaired it.

The workshop aimed to deal with two important questions:

(1) how to design and implement suitable governance arrangements for flood risk governance, and

(2) how to unlock private investments (besides public funding) and how to raise the capacity to do so?

Insights from the STAR-FLOOD project contributed answering the first question, while the main focus presented by the Climate KIC funded CAFCA-project (presented by Eric Schellekens) was to accelerate climate adaptation and mitigation by finding a pathway to unlock investments and by creating the needed capabilities with stakeholders, answering to the second question.

Contributions from STAR-FLOOD consortium were done by: Ann Crabbé, who gave the key note speech of the session (Governance for resilient cities – some insights from the STAR-FLOOD project), while Corinne Larrue sat in the expert panel. Marie Fournier presented the “Flood risk management and intercommunal cooperation: Lessons learnt from of the experiences of Nevers (Middle Loire, France) and Le Havre (Seine Estuary, France) Agglomerations”, and Ana-Paula Micou “Sharing the funding of Flood Risk Management: The impact of Partnership Funding on the River Thames Scheme, London”. The session included also a presentation from a practionner from one of the Belgian case studies, it was entitled: “Addressing flood risks at urban scale, the case of Geraardsbergen (Belgium)” and presented by Liesbeth, Van De Casteele. Two posters were also presented by Cathy Suykens and Thomas Thuillier, respectively: “Cooperation in FRM between EU Member States in IRB districts” and “Climate change adaptation: towards a legal change?”

The main points coming out from the presentations and discussions, recommendations, can be summarised as follows:

We are facing a diversification of strategies for flood risk strategies in practice, strengthened by other evolutions, new discourses etc.

We are shifting from a domination of defense and mitigation to a combination including also prevention, preparation and recovery strategies. Some trends are supporting this evolution:

  • A reduced reliance on engineered solutions (as it is the case mostly in the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom),
  • A reduced budget for defense policy, trend observed in all of the 6 countries of the STAR-FLOOD project,
  • The impact of the European Flood Directive which gives incentive for implementing comprehensive and integrated local strategies, also observed in all countries,
  • The importance of shock events that can lead to noticeable changes, notably seen in Poland,
  • The perspective of climate change which brings to an increased adaptive capacity, as seen in Sweden.

This broadening of the scope of flood risk management has some important consequences. We notice an increasing number and diversity of actors, of instruments, of strategies. This induces an increased need for more coordination.

Flood risk management strategies are constantly evolving inducing a supplementary difficulty to set up stable governance

The STAR-FLOOD project shows that the flood risk management strategies are evolving constantly. For example, the flood defense and flood mitigation strategies include now the principle of multifunctional infrastructures, preparation strategy integrates more and more technological tools (as Floodis presented in the session for example), in the prevention domain, we can see in some places cities extending on the water or for the recovery strategy, evolutions of the insurance sector. We are not anymore in front of monolithic elements. This induces a supplementary difficulty to set up and implement stable governance, as this raised complexity increases automatically the number of concerned stake holders.

What is more, we noticed different evolutions in different countries. For example in England, as shown by the presentation of the partnership funding on the River Thames Scheme, where the private sector is involved in financing the flood risk management measures (2 private companies participated), which is really different of what is happening in France where the recent GEMAPI law enhances the collectivization of the defense strategy with an increased involvement of the intercommunallities.

It is difficult to give recommendations adapted to all these situations, or integrating all. But STAR-FLOOD shows that by analyzing the links between the different flood risk strategies it is possible to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to work to enhance the global coherence.

There is a growing need for tailor made policies at the local scale.

The generic policies developed by the central governments have their limits, because of the decrease of the resources (financial, personnel …) which stimulates the decentralization of the responsibilities. Also because the “one solution that fits all” most of the time does not work, particularly in countries facing historic problems with spatial planning, as it is the case in Belgium.

We see a call for more tailor made solutions at the local scale. Their elaboration and implementation will request coordination platforms bridging together the important number of actors involved in flood risk management (governmental national and local authorities, local authorities, river basin committees, private sector…).

The project identified some bottlenecks hampering the elaboration of tailor made policies at the local scale, like the fact that there are still strong coordination ambitions from the central governments and their preference for a “uniform” policy implementation; a tricky combination of flood risk management and the economic development ambitions of local governments; and also a lack of knowledge, human resources, financial means and time with local governments to coordinate experiments.

Public authorities will no longer be the only responsible for flood risk management: responsibilities are shifting more and more towards private actors.

Traditionally flood management was a highly technocratic issue, almost exclusively carried out by government authorities, the recent trends shows changes towards a distribution of responsibilities between governmental and non-governmental actors. In Belgium we notice the role of private insurance companies in the recovery strategy and the idea, through the multi-level water safety discourses, that the government will cease to provide collective protection in all cases and that, in consequence, individuals will need to take action themselves. In France this 3rd key finding is illustrated by the willingness of the government to develop risk awareness within the population and to use the public participation as a way to responsibilise target groups. And for both countries, the duty to inform potential buyers or tenants of properties in flood prone areas.

Climate change still not enough taken in consideration

The climate change perspective appears to be still considered as a long term perspective, it is not yet really integrated in local flood risk management. For a sustainable development of our urban areas this has to be tackled.