Adapting Cities to Climate Change
To date, discussions of how to address climate change have focused far more on mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) than adaptation (coping with the storms, floods, sea-level rise and other impacts that climate change will bring). This page brings together material on adapting cities to climate change in low and middle-income nations.
This page brings together material on adapting cities to climate change in low and middle-income nations.
To date, discussions of how to address climate change have focused far more on mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) than adaptation (coping with the storms, floods, sea-level rise and other impacts that climate change will bring).
The limited discussions on adaptation have also given little attention to cities. But many cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean are at high risk from climate change.
There is a profound unfairness globally in the imbalance between the people who cause climate change and those most at risk from its effects. Cities with very low average greenhouse gas emissions per person still need to add climate change adaptation to their public works programmes and land-use plans. Most face very large backlogs in the provision of drains and other infrastructure needed to protect the city.
In many cities, there is the added problem of local governments refusing to work with the population living in informal settlements - often the groups most at risk. While mitigation may be a national agenda driven by international agreement, adaptation is intensely local. It requires competent local governments with a commitment to working with all those living in informal settlements. This is not present in most urban centres and is not easily achieved, and current international funding mechanisms show little capacity to address this.
Why action is needed now:
Even though some of the climate change-related risks may not become serious for some decades, there is still a need to act now. Most buildings and infrastructure (roads, piped water systems, drains......) have a long life, so what is built now needs to be able to cope with present risks and likely future risks.
Climate change risk reduction needs to be built into many other aspects of urban development - for instance, avoiding development on flood plains, protecting coasts and, where possible, their natural defences, and ensuring that built-up areas can cope with heavy rainfall.
Environment and Urbanization on-line
In particular, Vol 19, No 1 (2007) on Reducing Risks to Cities from Disasters and Climate Change
Vol 19, No 2 (2007) has papers on:
* Flood risk in unplanned settlements in Lusaka – Wilma S Nchito
* Governance and natural disasters: addressing flooding in Saint Louis, Senegal – Khady Diagne
Vol 20, No 1 and No 2 (April and October 2008) will also have papers on climate change and cities, including:
* Climate change and health in cities: a critical review – R S Kovats and R Akhtar
* Climate change risk: an adaptation and mitigation agenda for Indian cities – Aromar Revi (a draft of this is available for download; see above)
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II (see especially Chapter 7 of the Fourth Assessment Report)
Climate Change Risk: A Mitigation and Adaptation Agenda for Indian Cities, Aromar Revi (2007), 23 pages.
Paper prepared for the Rockefeller Foundation's meeting on Building for Climate Change Resilience, Taru, New Delhi; to be published in Environment and Urbanization Vol 20, No 1, 2008.
This publication reviews the risks that climate change will bring to India's rural and urban populations, and how these add to existing risks from disasters and the backlog in infrastructure. It also discusses who is most vulnerable in cities and outlines a possible urban climate change mitigation and adaptation framework for India
The rising tide: assessing the risks of climate change and human settlements in low-elevation coastal zones,
Gordon McGranahan, Deborah Balk and Bridget Anderson (2007),
Environment and Urbanization Vol 19, No 1, pages 17-37.
This paper presents an analysis of the proportion of national and urban populations living in the Low-Elevation Coastal Zone, the contiguous area along the coast that is less than 10 metres above sea level. Overall, this zone covers 2 per cent of the world's land area but contains 10 per cent of the world's population and 13 per cent of the world's urban population.
Reducing the risk of disasters related to climate change in coastal settlements will require a combination of mitigation, migration and settlement modification.
Adapting to Climate Change in Urban Areas: the Possibilities and Constraints in Low- and Middle-income Nations,
David Satterthwaite, Saleemul Huq, Mark Pelling, Hannah Reid and Patricia Romero Lankao (2007), IIED Working Paper, IIED, London, 107 pages.
This working paper discusses the possibilities for adaptation to climate change in urban areas in low- and middle-income nations, and the various constraints. It considers climate change's direct and indirect impacts on urban areas and discusses which nations, cities and population groups are most at risk. Prosperous, well-governed cities can generally adapt, at least for the next few decades - assuming global efforts at mitigation successfully reverse global greenhouse gas emissions.
But most of the urban population live in urban centres ill-equipped for adaptation - with weak and ineffective local governments and with very inadequate provision for the infrastructure and services needed to reduce climate change-related risks and vulnerabilities. Most international agencies have long-refused to support urban programmes, especially those that address these problems.
The paper also discusses innovations by urban governments, community organizations and in financial systems that address such problems, and examines how local innovation in adaptation can be encouraged and supported at national scale.
Climate Change and Coastal Cities: The Case of Mombasa, Kenya,
Cynthia B. Awuor, Victor A. Orindi and Andrew Adwerah (2007), African Centre for Technology Studies, Nairobi, 15 pages. To be published in Environment and Urbanization during 2008.
This paper discusses the risks that the city of Mombasa faces from the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. Mombasa is Kenya's second largest city and has over 700,000 inhabitants. It is the largest seaport in East Africa, serving not only Kenya but also many landlocked countries and the north of Tanzania.
The city has a history of disasters related to climate-extremes including floods which cause serious damage nearly every year and often loss of life. The floods in October 2006 were particularly serious, affecting some 60,000 people in the city and the wider province. In addition, around 17 per cent of Mombasa's area could be submerged by sea-level rise of 0.3 metres with a larger area rendered uninhabitable or unusable for agriculture because of water logging and salt stress.
Tourism is an important part of the city's economy and sandy beaches, historic and cultural monuments and several hotels, industries and port facilities would also be negatively affected. The paper also discusses the measures needed to reduce the vulnerability of Mombasa's population and economic base to climate change.