Climate change and rapid urbanisation

James Kavanagh MRICS

MRICS, Director RICS Land Group (RICS)

As climate change exerts even more of malignant influence on rural livelihoods in the developing world, it really is time to consider how many of these affected nations will deal with what are essentially ‘internally displaced’ climate refugees. What measures can be used to alleviate some of the pressures on land and rapidly growing but unplanned urban environments?

Experts are coming to recognise and highlight what is happening on the ground. This recent article from Place (Thomson Reuters Foundation) focuses on the disastrous drought that has seen agricultural harvests fall by nearly 40% in Sri Lanka and describes how rural populations are moving to already hard pressed cities desperate for work and a better life for their children.

USAID has produced a well know expert guide on the potential effects of climate change on land tenure security and has funded a $13.5 million initiative to test and research the land ownership effects that climate change is causing.

International Land Measurement Standards

Professionals in land, property, construction and valuation have a critical role to play through the implementation of global standards and best practice. International Land Measurement Standards (ILMS) will help create a transparent, robust and fit for purpose framework for reporting on the basic land data elements needed to effectively transfer land for a variety of purposes.

This could help climate change displaced population realise whatever value still exists in their land and help secure its transfer (if needed) to those that remain or may inherit their property. Eventually we will have to deal with the issue of climate change compensation or even the acquiring of ‘blighted’ land by the nation state or by a global fund of some kind, ILMS (and the International Valuation Standards) should help establish the framework for fair compensation for those effected.

The growth of cities

As cities grow, usually, in a haphazard and unplanned way, ILMS should help government agencies efficiently acquire peri-urban land for infrastructure development and the provision of basic urban services.

Other standards such as International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) will help control and plan construction costs and International Valuation Standards should support the establishment of sustainable property taxation systems to help fund local service provision and municipal services.

Urbanisation can lead to vast informal settlements (shanty towns) and all of the social, environmental and political issues that these can cause. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda are key initiatives in the global race to alleviate the effects of climate change.

Each of the International Standards can be directly connected to an SDG (as with ILMS in the graphic below), professional surveyors really need to get behind the SDGs and that starts with professional associations, coalitions and global bodies such as ourselves. The clock is ticking…

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