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Q&A: Patrick Verkooijen of the Global Center on Adaptation

Words:
Kirsten Hannema

Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation in Rotterdam, explains what the UN organisation does to promote and assist in the race to arrest global warming

What is GCA?
The Global Center on Adaptation was established after the climate summit in Paris in 2015. Three things were agreed there. One: the earth must not be allowed to warm more than 1.5ºC. Two: every year 100 billion dollars is invested worldwide in climate. Three: we must adapt our living environment to climate change. GCA was established by the UN in 2017 to draw attention to this adaptation agenda. Our head office is in Rotterdam, the knowledge centre in Groningen, and we also have offices in Ivory Coast, China and Bangladesh. We now have 100 employees and are growing to 250.
 
How did you set up?
We are a solutions broker. We unlock knowledge, from innovative agricultural methods and evacuation strategies to designs for infrastructure and cities in the Rotterdam delta. The idea is that what works here may also be useful in Beijing or Sao Paulo. We work with local authorities, companies such as Unilever and lenders. The goal is system change: embedding climate adaptation in economic development.

How are you going about it?
The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that the climate is in a state of emergency, while we are now ‘just’ at 1.1 C degrees warming. We are in a race against time, we must make drastic changes. Rotterdam is already working on this, with green roofs and water squares. As the host of the GCA headquarters, the city wants to take the adaptation agenda further. We built the largest floating building in the world in six months; GCA’s office embodies our goal to scale and accelerate sustainable solutions.

What role do you see for architecture and urbanism?
We have to build with nature instead of fighting against it and breaking it down. For example, in Bangladesh we anticipate cyclones – not only with the construction of shelters, but also with the recovery of the mangrove woods, which are important to take the heaviest blows from the storm. An inspiring example of building with nature is the Dutch government project Ruimte voor Rivieren (Space for Rivers), in which land has been ‘sacrificed’ to widen the rivers. The project links measures to combat flooding with the development of housing and urban nature.

Kirsten Hannema is an architecture critic based in the Netherlands

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