Pathway to achieving urban climate resilience in Thailand
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The Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning (DPT), the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), spatial planning experts and GIZ are working together to develop resilience criteria and indicators for a monitoring and evaluation framework for spatial planning.
Why do resilience indicators matter?
Urbanization is a rapid process and a key driver of changes in land use. It also influences socio-economic development opportunities and vice versa. In this era of climate change, the government is taking collaborative action in planning its cities so that these are safe and allow both the livelihoods of their citizens and business to thrive.
In the context of urban planning and city development, United Nations Member States have developed frameworks to guide sustainable urban development and local implementation, namely the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, in particular, SDG 11 that addresses Sustainable Cities and Communities as well as SDG 13 for Climate Action. In addition, the New Urban Agenda (NUA) is one of the tools that can be used in localizing the sustainability concept for implementation. It sets out standards and principles for the planning, construction, development, management and improvement of urban areas.
In Thailand, important milestones have been achieved in terms of policy and planning in response to the changing climate through the development of the National Adaptation Plan in 2019. In particular, the human settlement sector addresses rapid urbanization, human security and negative consequences from climate change. It also includes the elaboration of target indicators as well as the revision of the Town and Country Planning Act in 2018 that opens opportunities for resilient urban planning.
Although the concept of urban resilience is often understood as being part of the wider concept of sustainable urban development, the importance of measuring and monitoring urban climate resilience has received limited attention.
Other unresolved challenges include gaining clarity on
1) where we currently stand, as a country, with regard to climate risks and the resilience of our cities and
2) what the focus of urban policy development and implementation should be. This focus will have to respond to the rapid changes and also establish adequate tools for decision makers. These indicators will be used to increase resilience and track effectiveness, efficiency and progress to achieve resilience in Thailand.
The first steps for tracking urban resilience in Thailand
“Resilience criteria and indicators for spatial planning are important bases for long-term national development planning. They also are a good starting point… Addressing climate change issues in cities will result in adaptive capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change.” said Dr. Phirun Saiyasitpanich, Deputy Secretary General, ONEP during a focus group meeting to exchange draft resilience criteria and a list of indicators as well as introduce guidelines for adaptive spatial planning for Thai planners. The meeting was organized by DPT and ONEP with the support of the Risk-Based National Adaptation Plan (Risk-NAP) project of GIZ Thailand on 24 July 2019.
Mrs. Pochanie Kajonpredanon, Acting Senior Advisor on Urban and Regional Planning, DPT emphasized the role of spatial planning in tackling the problems caused by climate change. Not only should the planning focus on construction and zoning but also on legal tools and organizational mechanisms, especially in provincial offices that serve as the implementers at the local level.
Mr. Heinrich Gudenus, Director of Risk-NAP project, GIZ, said: “Testing and piloting the applicability of these resilience indicators in practice will be relevant, both to fine-tune the set of criteria and indicators as well as to provide valuable feedback for national level policy making. Urban planning is a cross-cutting topic that can help to reduce climate risks in a number of key sectors that will be affected.”
Ms. Anchalee Tanwanich, the Director of the Evaluation and Analysis Bureau, DPT, presented and introduced the current monitoring & evaluation system together with existing practice and indicators being used in the Thai spatial planning system. This provided better understanding on how the current system works and set the scene for exchange and discussion.
The workshop brought together representatives from key departments within DPT as well as representatives from ONEP. The meeting discussed suitable resilience criteria and indicators for spatial planning. The additional inputs on revising the draft spatial planning guidelines for climate change adaptation carried out since 2018 were also collated. In parallel, data obtained through focus group discussions in the 6 pilot Andaman coastal provinces were collected by spatial planning experts, Ms. Joanna McMillan, University of Stuttgart and Dr. Nopanant Tapananont, Chulalongkorn University.
What opportunities lie ahead?
The output of this meeting is a foundation for further development and the sharing of resilience criteria & indicators that underline potential efforts in preparing for data gaps and the identification of what can be achieved collectively to create opportunities for future collaboration between government agencies.
It is expected that the set of proposed resilience criteria and indicators could be integrated into DPT’s existing monitoring and evaluation framework for the comprehensive spatial plan. These criteria and indicators will potentially be used in the pilot areas before upscaling into the current standard.
The New Urban Agenda lays out standards and principles for the planning, construction, development, management, and improvement of urban areas along its five main pillars of implementation: national urban policies, urban legislation and regulations, urban planning and design, local economy and municipal finance, and local implementation. It is a resource for every level of government, from national to local; for civil society organizations; the private sector; constituent groups; and for all who call the urban spaces of the world “home” to realize this vision.