By including the affected parties in the process as fast as possible, one achieves the best solutions on the difficulties of climate adaptions. That is what 14 years’ worth of projects tell us.
Climate adjustment is a complicated task and it involves a lot of different players as well as a great many and varied interests. The risk of floods due to storm surges and torrential rain storms alike is growing and the extent of the damages might easily reach new highs. This happened during the storm Bodil in 2013 and no one can say for sure when something like it will happen again, where it would hit or how severe the damages would be. It would be wise to take precautions but the level of urgency or how much protection we would need are all a matter of qualified guesses and the weighing of interests.
These decisions will have to be made on an informed, but unsure basis. Experts may analyze the risks and the options available in order to avert them, but in order to come to an agreement on tenable solutions one must include a wide section of representative citizens and stakeholders as early on as possible. It allows for a constructive dialogue between players and provides time to understand and combine the different considerations.
Changing the law on costal protection
This is a recommendation which the Danish government disregarded when they presented their proposal on changes of the law on coastal protection in Parliament on the 17th of November. In fact, the government went in the opposite direction and suggested that as a part of the effort to simplify the municipal cases on coastal protection, the municipalities will not need to involve the citizens until they have already decided on a specific project. Allegedly, this should help shorten the time spend on processing the casework but in reality it might have the exact opposite effect.
In a response to a hearing on the 4th of October, the Danish Board of Technology Foundation wrote: “If there is anything that might draw out cases, cause local dispute to arise or make people bridle and uncooperative it is precisely the experience of having a ready-made solution forced on you”. At present, the law has not yet been passed; several parties have announced amendments to be considered.
The draft bill is a follow-up on the Coastal analysis, which was initiated by the then Minister of Environment, Kirsten Brosbøl in 2014 and made public by the Ministry of Environment and Food in September this year. The analysis was to examine the risk of erosion and flooding, and assess whether the municipalities have the tools necessary for securing a cost-effective effort on coastal protection, focusing on the areas in which the risk of economic loss is highest.
According to the law, landowners are responsible for protecting their own land against the sea. If several properties benefit from the protection, then they are obliged to contribute to the payment in accordance with the level of practical value that the project has for them. The municipalities are entitled to carry out consecutive projects for a large group of landowners and ultimately demand a financial contribution from every estate.
Engagement reduces the number of complaints
The Danish Board of Technology Foundation has contributed two reports to the Coastal analysis: one involved the municipalities’ experiences by a written hearing and a workshop for the relevant public servants from coastal municipalities. The other described 14 representative cases from coastlines at risk for erosion, low-lying cities and summer house areas.
Several participants complained that the cases were drawn out and complicated, and that the cooperation across administrations caused additional difficulties. They asked for improved funding models and simplified rules, but none of the participants wanted to limit the level of democracy by postponing the citizen engagement. “On the contrary, in all the summaries it is stated that a positive and efficient engagement of citizens reduces the number of complaints and offers a better chance at realizing more projects. The chances of getting the project approved without any significant delay or complaints improve significantly when the citizens were engaged in the process from the very beginning and their suggestions and objections were taken into consideration”.
A citizens’ summit cleared the way
The plan for climate adaptions in Kalundborg municipality is a great example on the usefulness of early and thorough citizen engagement.
Based on technical and scientific expert reviews, 25 local players and stakeholders developed four very different scenarios for the future climate adaptions. The next step was a citizens’ summit where 350 representatively selected citizens from within the municipality received the four scenarios along with a thorough information material. They spend a day discussing the issues with each other and then formed their own final opinion and voted via electronic polls. The municipal politicians and public officials had the opportunity to listen to the discussions and they came to discover that a vast majority of citizens favored selecting especially low-lying summer house areas for a gradual out-phasing rather than building large, expensive dams for protection.
The Committee for Environment and Technology decided that the recommendations collected at the citizens’ summit should be included in the municipal climate adaption plan, and so it has been, to a large degree. When the plan was completed and approved in the spring of 2014, The Danish Board of Technology Foundation did a number of focus group interviews with local politicians, public officials and citizens who had participated in writing the four scenarios and the citizens’ summit. They said that the approved plan largely reflected their input and that citizens’ engagement had brought the subject to attention and created a sense of shared responsibility for climate adaptions. Several participants said that the controversial suggestions would never have been included, had the citizens’ summit not given their full support in advance.
The free dynamics of nature
The Danish Board of Technology Foundation added climate adaption to the political agenda as early as 2002-2004 with a project on adaption of the future rising water levels in Varde Ådal and Ho Bay in Esbjerg Municipality along with the area Karrebæksminde Bay in Næstved Municipality. This project helped inspire the Ministry of Environment to start working on the first national climate adaption project in Denmark.
Local politicians, technicians and representatives for the interests of real estates, industry and nature composed future scenarios. They agreed that large dams should not be built all around the area, but that the free dynamics of nature should be allowed to play an active part, making the naturally occurring wetlands spread to low-lying, marginal agricultural areas. The participants agreed that important city- and summer house areas along with road systems and sandy beaches which attracts tourists should be protected with local dams and the likes. They emphasized the importance of including the citizens early on in planning the future of their local community.
In the climate adaption projects which The Danish Foundation of Technology has been involved in, numerous municipalities and stakeholders have requested a collective plan for when the free dynamics of nature should be left free to roam. Without such a plan, chances are that nature will be unable to move further into the countryside. As a result, the near-coastal areas would disappear in time with the climate changes.
Start thinking in multi-solutions
In 2010, The Danish Board of Technology Foundation arranged a conference in cooperation with the Danish Climate Change Adaption and the coordination unit for research on climate adaption, KFT. The focus was on the benefits of solving multiple problems simultaneously, e.g. by combining climate adaption with nature rehabilitation, establishing new recreational areas, leisure time activities or improving the city environment. Since then, this way of thinking has become significantly more widespread, especially in connection to local draining of rainwater.
The conference also drew attention to the fact that solutions most often are expensive and less effective if “one sits in one’s own silo and simply takes it as it comes”, as the head of development at Copenhagen’s Energy, Niels Bent Johansen puts it. There is a need of collaboration across sectors and municipal borders, and citizens should be included early on in prioritizing and planning with a clear goal and framework.
A bridge between top and bottom
The Danish Board of Technology Foundation has gathered its experience through several EU-projects over the years, such as BaltCICA(2009-2012) og BASE(2012-2016). The purpose of the BaltCICA-project was to develop a set of concrete plans of action for densely populated and vulnerable areas in the Baltic countries. The Danish Board of Technology Foundation helped educate its foreign partners on the use of scenario-workshops and performed the mentioned project in Kalundborg Municipality.
The BASE-Project (Buttom-up Climate Adaption Strategies towards a Sustainable Europe) sought to build a bridge between the overall ’top-down’-strategies and the unified plans which are necessary for obtaining a coherent solution as well as the locally anchored ‘bottom-up’-effort which is necessary for a successful implementation. One of the main goals was to strengthen the involvement of local stakeholders. The Danish Board of Technology Foundation has acted the main coordinator in this connection and additionally advised the other partners on how to apply methods of engagement.
Cost-benefit analyses are not enough
One important goal of the BASE-project was to connect the overall and more general cost-benefit analyses with the actual local conditions. Experience from the project shows that a simple cost-benefit estimate offers a rather insufficient insight into who will benefit from implementing a specific climate adaption initiative. Clarifying who benefits and how it should be valued depends on local political debates. This in turns depends on an existing dialogue between local stakeholders.
As a part of developing the Copenhagen municipality’s strategy for safeguarding against a storm surge, The Danish Board of Technology arranged a workshop where a ‘multi-criteria-analysis’ and an adaption pathway exercise helped procure a more specific valuation from the participants’ point of view. Several stakeholders from the Coastal analysis mentioned the difficulties of valuating as one of the most considerable barriers for implementing more coherent and cost-effective costal protection projects.
The municipalities have asked for a fixed basis for distributing the value of benefits from various climate adaption initiatives, but the questions is whether that is even possible, desirable, or if it should be up to the municipalities themselves – through a continued dialogue with the involved stakeholders and citizens – to assess the value and thereby the distribution of associated expenses. One could argue that such a distribution would be a political discussion and never simply a technical or economic one.
Discussing the value of climate proofing is connected to the discussion of funding, if only by a thin thread. Who should pay how much? This is a constantly reappearing question in every project. Is climate adaption a national task, which the government should fund to a higher degree, as it funds the safeguarding against floods along the Jutland’s west coast? Should the municipalities pay, as the local climate adaption is in the interest of the general public – like it has been done in Aarhus, Lemvig and Roskilde municipality? Should flood-prone properties only pay according to their own individual risk or should everyone pay the same amount, as it has been suggested in Korsør?
At a strategic forum which The Danish Board of Technology Foundation held during the spring of 2014 as a part of the BASE-project, the Local Government Denmark suggested that a framework for climate adaption should be a part of the yearly economic negotiations between the government and the municipalities. It was pointed out that The Danish Storm Council’s insurance scheme can weaken the municipalities’ incentive to take preventive action and that it could be compensated by using some of the means allotted The Danish Storm Council for preventive initiatives.
A price for letting your field flood
Holstebro municipality is an example of the complicated weighing of risks, loss in value and economic compensation. The city of Holstebro suffered a significant flooding in 2011 and once again in 2015. In the municipal climate adaption plan, the possibility of allowing Storåen, a stream close to the city, to flood the fields of a few farmers in order to keep the water from rising inside the city is mentioned.
As a part of the BASE-project, the Department of Environmental Science at Aarhus University examined how willing the farmers are to take on the role of ‘water-agent’. Naturally, most would prefer not to have their land flooded but two thirds of the interviewed were willing to enter into an agreement. The majority supported a model that offers them a yearly amount for making their land available for flooding as well as a full compensation for crops lost.
On average, the farmers wanted between 1800 and 3300 kr. pr. hectare for participating. These amounts are rather high, compared to the current income pr. Hectare, according to scientists. The farmers are concerned about a number of issues, such as whether EU’s farm subsidies would be annulled or if the fields used for the production of food risk being contaminated by the discharge water for Storåen.
Salt water penetration
The fresh water resources of the world are under pressure. At numerous coastal areas, salt water penetrates and pollutes the ground water and especially so if great volumes of water is being pumped up due to a growing population and an increase in consumerism. This problem grows in step with the climate changes.
The Danish Board of Technology Foundation is a partner in the project SUBSOL, which aims at testing and spreading new Dutch technologies for preventing salt water penetration while at the same time making sure that fresh water remains available for the water companies. These technologies are being tested in Mexico, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark; in Denmark, it is being tested at Marielyst.
In close cooperation with Guldborgsund municipality, the water company Guldborgsund Supply and GEUS, The Danish Board of Technology Foundation designed an engagement process intended to include the municipality, local stakeholders and experts in shedding a light on local challenges and assessing the potential of this new technology. Clarifying local knowledge and user-preferences insure that any future implementation of technology can take place with local support and accept. In addition to this, The Danish Board of Technology Foundation also acts as an advisor to the other EU-partners involved in this project, with regard to methods for engaging stakeholders in the local testing projects.
Hearings in the Capital Region
The Danish Board of Technology Foundation’s latest project on climate is conducting hearings of the Technic and Environment Committee’s members in the 29 municipalities of the Capital Region.
These meetings start with a short film that presents the current challenges and political considerations on climate adaption. Secondly the politicians are actively included in a conversation about their view on local political challenges, the collaboration between municipalities and supply companies, and their opinions on which challenges should be solved locally, cross-municipal, regionally or nationally.
At a workshop in March 2017, common political messages will be articulated which The Danish Board of Technology Foundation will present to the Regional Council and to the relevant committees in the Danish Parliament.
By Ebbe Sønderriis