Introduction to cities and climate change

Article, 05 September 2014

IIED is working to understand and reduce the climate change risks, vulnerabilities and impacts that are increasing in urban environments throughout the world. By working alongside urban residents and city governments, many of whom are already taking steps to reduce these risks, we can help strengthen their actions, share knowledge and integrate this risk reduction with other priorities.

The Philippines Homeless People's Federation works with the local government to identify land for low-income residents that is less vulnerable to flooding, such as in Iloilo (Photo: David Dodman/IIED)

The IPCC's Fifth Assessment identifies a range of climate change impacts that are already being felt in many urban areas, or soon will be felt. These include sea-level rise and coastal flooding, inland flooding and hydrological hazards, and changes in the social and environmental determinants of health.

In many regions, they include contributions to more intense heat waves, droughts and cyclones. These changes will affect infrastructure systems (including water and energy supply, sanitation and drainage, transport and communication), services (including health care and emergency services), the built environment, and ecosystem services.

Urban residents and city governments have already begun to show that they can take steps to reduce these risks and to integrate this risk reduction with other priorities.

Emerging systems of planning and governance (some of which involve marginalised and low-income groups) sit alongside both household- and community-scale coping strategies, and large protective infrastructure projects. These responses need to be strengthened at the local level, and supported by appropriate national and global frameworks and financing, and IIED is working to make sure that actions such as these are developed as widely as possible.

We are also working to continue strengthening the body of evidence that is available on climate change impacts and responses, by producing working papers, journal articles, and special sections in Environment & Urbanization.


David Dodman (, director, Human Settlements

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