29. 07. 2018

Will our cities be resc(c)ued? An interview with Rafaela Matos

The RESCCUE project has recently reached the halfway. Rafaela Matos, Principal Researcher of LNEC, Coordinator of the European H2020 BINGO project and leader of the Lisbon research site in RESCCUE, shares her thoughts on the first two years of the project.

Aira Buskute: Rafaela, how would you sum up the essence of the RESCCUE project in just one phrase

Rafaela MatosIt is in our hands to decide if our citied will be resc(c)ued and with H2020 RESCCUE project we are doing it!

AB: What does participating in RESCCUE mean to the city of Lisbon?

RM: It clearly means valuable gains, sharing knowledge and win-win learnings and opportunities. I would highlight, among others, 3 key aspects: 1) the opportunity of strengthening multidisciplinary team-work inside the Municipality of Lisbon, through the integration of experts from several departments & units; 2) the increased knowledge on the multi-dimensional and multi-sectorial aspects of resilience and the improvement of innovative tools such as HAZUR to help in assessing sectorial connectivity and impact of possible cascade events; 3) the co-production of a sound Resilience Action Plan (RAP) for Lisbon, a city that is intensively working to be climate resilient and addresses sustainability in its several dimensions, but aims as well to be one of the best places in the world to live.

AB: The Portuguese RESCCUE team is very multidisciplinary, from research and consultancy to local authorities and urban service operators. Was it always easy to align such different professionals? On the other hand, what benefits does it bring?

RM: It was not evident since the beginning. The integration of teams from different professional backgrounds, cultures, geographies, know-hows and habits is always a growing process. It needs to be built together, step-by-step, paving the way through increasing mutual understanding, respect, confidence and trust. The benefits are enormous. In a coherent and integrated team the global achievements are always better than the sum of the best individuals. This is, in my view, one of the most exciting and worthwhile investment in European projects. And the valuable way they can live and have a legacy beyond its duration time. In Cape-town, this week, at the Adaptation Futures Conference, Leigh Cobban, manager of the Education Portfolio of the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI), was advocating that Research & Innovation (R+I) would better be replaced by Research, Innovation and Learnings (R+I+L), that I fully agree.

AB: Two RESCCUE years have already passed by, in your opinion, what is the biggest project achievement at the level of Lisbon until now?

RM: In line with what I said before, I guess the greatest achievement so far at Lisbon city level was the effective integration and teamwork of different units and departments that H2020 RESCCUE required & promoted, as well as the way how this enlarged team is working together with other RESCCUE partners, Portuguese and others. It is fair to enhance however that this success would not have been possible without the strong involvement, energy and capacity of mobilization of the Lisbon City Council´s core team in the project leaded by Maria João Telhado. A good indicator of the valuable work done so far is the success of the 1st RESCCUE stakeholder’s workshop that took place in Lisbon, on 17 May, engaging close to 60 participants. The main results and lessons learned were already shared in the RESCCUE PCM, in Paris, early June.      

AB: Another topic worth mentioning is joint dissemination activities along resilience and climate change-related projects, such as co-organisation of the 2019 edition of European Climate Change Adaptation (ECCA) conference. It seems that nowadays R&D is no longer enough, it is a must be coupled with communication and dissemination activities in order to ensure the widest possible resonance. What are your thoughts on that?

RM: It is clearly a great challenge and an excellent opportunity that we, H2020 BINGO and H2020 RESCCUE, together with H2020 PLACARD, and under the umbrella support of the European Commission, accepted to join in the co-organisation of ECCA2019, in Lisbon, next May. The Ministry of Environment of Portugal and the City of Lisbon, recently awarded the European Green City 2020 are relevant sponsors of the event. And we are convinced that many others will follow. Adaptation to climate change needs poses huge challenges to society and need a breadth of integrated and cross-sectoral solutions. At ECCA 2019, we’ll bring together adaptation and resilience specialists with diverse experience to share knowledge and ideas. ECCA 2019 is a timely opportunity to share and learn from professionals in adaptation, while discovering new products, new business and new tools as well as alternative approaches to engaging with stakeholders. Nations, regions, cities and metropolitan areas will be presented. In the transition from H2020 (2014-2020) to Horizon Europe (2021-2027), we will be delighted to share and discuss the main achievements of H2020 climate action projects as well as to convey expert´s opinion on the main gaps to be addressed in the new cycle. In the stand of the European Commission, at the Adaptation Futures Conference, in Capetown, we had the opportunity to present BINGO and RESCCUE and also connect with other EU and international projects. We had the chance to flag ECCA 2019, as well, and the reception seems to be extremely good.It will certainly be a busy and stimulating year for us!

AB: Talking about joint activities and collaboration among the projects, you are sailing two boats at a time by leading the BINGO project and participating in RESCCUE; what are the synergies between these two projects?

RM: Clearly, there are synergies between BINGO and RESCCUE and it is interesting to underline that, in the course of the parallel progress of both projects, other synergetic aspects are always emerging. There are synergies at several levels, for instance: 

– climate scenarios: in both cases decadal predictions (2015-2025) are used, powered by FUB (in BINGO) and FIC (in RESCCUE). In BINGO we focus at the southern Tagus area, 60km north of Lisbon and at Badalona city, while in RESCCUE we do pay attention to the cities of Lisbon and Barcelona;

– both projects assess climate related vulnerability and risk management, while at different scales of space and time;

– both projects are developing adaptation strategies and measures, at the cities level in RESCCUE while at city, basin and regional levels in BINGO;

– a strong point in BINGO was the development of Communities of Practice (CoP) in the 6 research sites, since the very beginning. More than 35 workshops already took place engaging around 100 stakeholders. This experience has been very useful to design and prepare the Stakeholder´s workshop in RESCCUE.

AB: Finally, – and now looking very far into the future –  in your opinion, will initiatives as  RESCCUE and BINGO have a long-lasting impact or, in other words, will our cities be resc(c)ued?

RM: I am absolutely convinced that our projects will have a live and legacy beyond their project duration. We are working enthusiastically and seriously, and we do feel co-responsible in advancing new knowledge for action. I think we do have good signs so far and we will do our best to contribute to a better future under climate change.