We are facing a climate emergency. As the world wakes up to the catastrophic implications of climate change, it falls to national, state and especially municipal governments to take practical steps to prepare for the impacts.
But even the greenest cities are facing a grim reality. No matter what national governments and businesses do to reduce carbon emissions, massive climate disruption is unavoidable in the short to medium term. While firmly committed to decarbonizing, growing numbers of city leaders recognize some climate change is inevitable and they must be prepared to manage it. Some are actively exploring ways to design-in resilience, including redesigning, repurposing and retrofitting the built environment. While some cities are taking heroic steps to curb emissions and adapt their cities, it’s time they also start preparing for Plan B.
Preparing for Plan B is about adapting a mindset focused on smart, achievable and future-looking adjustments at the local level. We call this the cellular city. A cellular mindset involves hyper-localizing resilience and investing in self-sufficiency and adaptive regeneration. Cellular thinking requires every law, tax, zoning act, procurement policy, new building or purchasing decision to be embedded with local self-sufficiency, adaptability and resilience top of mind.
Building the cellular city means investing in, but moving beyond, mitigation and adaptation. It means acknowledging the “climate emergency” is a global reality, not a remote possibility. It requires seeing climate change as an opportunity for upgrading, retrofitting and re-purposing the urban landscape for a sustainable future. It will involve making investments in public and private buildings, so they are not only green and efficient, but also autonomous and self-sufficient.
The smartest cities are who invest in and subsidizing smarter public transport, electric vehicles, renewable energy plants and industrial symbiosis to promote a more circular economy, offering ideas on how to localize resilience and regenerative capacities at a granular scale.
While we must do everything we can to prevent climate change from spinning out of control, the cities that will weather the coming storm – will be cellular.