Report on Wellcome Trust-funded project into energy precarity and urban heat in subtropical Asian cities, originally posted on
After everything we’ve done in the last week, we can safely say we’ve added another case study city to our collaborative activities – Fukuoka. The main purpose of our visit was the final project meeting for our Wellcome Trust-funded work into urban heat and energy precarity in subtropical Asian cities, however while there we took the opportunity to learn a lot more about climate adaptation and urban greening in Fukuoka as we move towards the next steps of our research together.
First, though, the project meeting. Amazingly, for various reasons this was the first time we managed to have all four partners – Robert Gordon University, Ming Chuan University, University of Science and Technology Hanoi and Kyushu University – together in one room. It was worth the wait, though, as we enjoyed a whole day of fruitful discussion in Kyushu University’s Department of Environmental Design. Prof Kayoko Kondo had invited the students in her lab and also her faculty colleagues along, so for the task presentations we had a friendly workshop atmosphere with about 15 participants. Chen Uren of the Kondo Labpresented the work he has been overseeing for Kyushu’s contribution, undertaking a survey of citizen awareness of urban heat, energy and greenspace in Fukuoka. You’ll need to wait for the paper to come out to find out what they found, suffice to say we were all very impressed with the findings.
Nguyen Hoai Son from USTH then brought us up to speed on his analysis of energy consumption and precarity, including new insights from the Taipei data – also making use of the GIS capability he gained after traveling to Taipei in March to be trained up by Wan-Yu. It was then Wan-Yu’s turn to report back on the progress in understanding urban thermal environments across Taipei and Hanoi, with a particular focus on some of the methodological developments and refinements she has made over the last few months to build a more nuanced understanding of climate at the city scale. Lastly, Leslie showed us his newest work on evaluating the urban climate adaptation governance landscape in Fukuoka, which has looked in particular at how a historical concern with wellbeing and a liveable environment in Fukuoka has contributed to modern-date assessment of urban climate change. There are just a couple of months left in the project funding period, but we finished with a good atmosphere and plenty of ideas of areas we might want to carry forward and develop further after the project formally wraps up.
Outside of the project meeting, we also took advantage of the opportunity to undertake interviews, site visits and societal engagement to build a solid base for future research in Fukuoka City. On the afternoon of 25 April, Leslie was hosted by the Fukuoka Center for Climate Change Actions for a lecture and discussion event with community volunteers and municipal government representatives. This event also formed part of our Wellcome Trust project activities, with the aim of making connections with people working on climate change at the community level in Fukuoka and getting some feedback on the project’s initial findings. The theme of the lecture was the importance of the urban scale in meeting climate challenges, with an emphasis on examples from Scotland and Fukuoka. An hour of energetic and enthusiastic discussion followed the presentation, with lots of opinion-sharing on how and why Fukuoka has come to have the climate expertise it does and on what the challenges are that lie ahead.
During the week, we undertook interviews with the Kyushu Environmental Evaluation Association (who have done a breadth of work on understanding the urban climate in Fukuoka); with Prof Aya Hagishima of Kyushu University (a member of Fukuoka City’s Climate Change Action Plan Formation Committee; and with the Green City Promotion Division of Fukuoka City Government. It transpires there is a lot of knowledge and a very strong scientific evidence base for climate adaptation via urban planning and greening in Fukuoka, which has managed to translate itself into the very comprehensive Fukuoka City New Green Adaptation Plan and its successor which will be launched in two years. So comprehensive is this plan, and so kind was the official we interviewed in giving us documentation to further our research, that each of us had an extra 3kg in our suitcase when we moved on to Taipei!
Lastly, pleasant temperatures and sunshine with a gentle breeze gave good opportunities to do a few site visits. Together we climbed ACROS Fukuoka, a fifteen-storey building with a stepped garden on the outside, on which 40,000 plants and trees spanning 120 species are planted. It is now nearly twenty years since ACROS was built, and the plants and trees have grown to the extent that when you’re half-way up, the vegetation is so dense you can forget you’re in a city. It is more good fortune than deliberate planning that ACROS delivers significant cooling benefits, but either way it is a terrific example of urban greening ‘in action.’ We also had a chance to visit Fukuoka City Botanical Gardens, and – never wasting an opportunity to learn something new – had a look at the old books and manuals on urban greening in Fukuoka housed in their library.
In sum: we like Fukuoka, and we like doing research there. Thank you so much to Prof Kondo, Prof Kanekiyo, Prof Hayabuchi and all their colleagues and students who made us feel so welcome in Fukuoka. We hope we can see you again soon!