Post by Laura Kavanaugh, Resilient Cities Team Leader, ICLEI World Secretariat:
Resilience as a concept within the field of environmental sustainability is a relatively new development. Previously, policy makers and sustainability professionals tended to think in terms of Urban Risk or Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). That is to say, they were concerned with how well cities (as the largest centers of population) would cope with natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as anthropogenic hazards like fires, industrial accidents, or power outages. What planners had in mind were specific threats, whose occurrence was unlikely but possible.
As the impacts of climate change became more evident, this model changed. The risks of climate change are chronic: the shocks and stresses will recur, and increase in severity. Climate change also generates long-term stresses, such as increased drought. This is not a one-off threat but a consistently worsening environment. With the emergence of climate change as a threat, it made less sense to think exclusively in terms of reducing the risk of disasters.