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Report highlghts three 'transformative' areas for city climate action

According to the World Resources Institute, cities should incorporate climate risks into planning and focus on nature-based solutions.

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Cities need transformative climate adaptation solutions for sustainable growth
Cities need transformative climate adaptation solutions for sustainable growth

Cities are being urged to adopt climate adaptation solutions that are “truly transformative” in shifting them towards more equitable and sustainable growth in a new report from the World Resources Institute.

 

According to the paper, Unlocking the Potential for Transformative Climate Adaptation in Cities, urban adaptation should include incorporating climate risks into planning and focus on nature-based solutions as well as work with vulnerable communities.

 

Climate resilience

 

The latest report is part of a series of background papers commissioned by the Global Commission on Adaptation to inform its flagship report, Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience.

 

“Adapt Now” finds that changes in five key areas, including in cities, could generate $7.1 trillion in net benefits between 2020 and 2030.

 

“Urban development that is blind to climate risks has ended up significantly increasing exposure to climate hazards in cities,” said Anjali Mahendra, co-author of the report and Director of Research at WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities.

 

“But successful urban adaptation is about more than just withstanding storms, floods and heat; we must plan, deliver and finance infrastructure and core services in cities differently, relying significantly on nature-based solutions and more closely engaging vulnerable communities.”

 

WRI reports there are already more than 880 million people living in informal settlements worldwide, with limited access to shelter, electricity, clean water, sanitation and employment.

 

Climate impacts are likely to worsen access to such services, especially for vulnerable populations, including women, children and the elderly, migrants, indigenous populations and minorities.

 

Sea-level rise and storm surges alone could cost coastal cities $1 trillion each year by mid-century, affecting more than 800 million people. Urban areas in drylands, with over two billion people, face increased water stress and frequent droughts that exacerbate health and food insecurity, while the impacts of excessive heat continue to increase, warns WRI.

 

“Successful urban adaptation is about more than just withstanding storms, floods and heat; we must plan, deliver, and finance infrastructure and core services in cities differently”

 

The paper highlights three key action areas that cities can focus on to help advance transformative urban adaptation:

  • Mainstream information on climate risks into planning and delivery of urban infrastructure and services, while strengthening local capacity to act on that information. In Surat, India, the Surat Climate Change Trust is helping to coordinate the dozen-plus organisations previously responsible for flood management in the city, for example
  • Build climate resilience by upgrading living conditions in vulnerable communities and informal settlements, drawing upon local experience and community knowledge. The Asian Coalition for Community Action programme has supported community-led upgrading in over 2,000 communities in 207 cities in 18 countries, for instance
  • Prioritise nature-based solutions to holistically manage water and heat risks. In São Paulo, the reduction of sediment flow from restoring 4,000 hectares of forests near the city’s watershed was estimated to be $4.5 million cheaper than the cost of dredging reservoirs to improve urban water quality.

Coordinated governance and integrated planning by accountable institutions are keys to success, notes WRI. Partnerships across communities, private sector and civil society are necessary to achieve progress.

 

Opportunity for cities

 

Transformative adaptation allows cities to achieve synergies across multiple goals, including provision of core services and infrastructure (water mains, sewerage lines, electricity grids, transportation networks), climate mitigation, ecosystem protection, economic growth and sustainable development.

 

“Cities are a fantastic opportunity to get adaptation right,” said Ani Dasgupta, global director of WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities.

 

“But cities must adapt in ways that correct underlying inequalities. Done carefully, transformative adaptation can put cities on a stronger, safer path that offers opportunity and a higher quality of life for all.”

 

“Urban development that is blind to climate risks has ended up significantly increasing exposure to climate hazards in cities.”

 

The Global Commission on Adaptation is convened by 20 countries and co-chaired by eighth UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

WRI is a global research organisation that spans more than 60 countries, with international offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the US.

 

WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities helps create accessible, equitable, healthy and resilient urban areas for people, businesses and the environment to thrive. Together with partners, it aims to enable more connected, compact and coordinated cities.

 

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