New UN-backed report suggests how to boost cities’ resiliency to climate change

6 August 2008
Searching for survivors in the aftermath of the devasting earthquake in China (16 May 2008)

With eight of the world’s 10 most populous cities situated near rivers or seas and already being exposed to such hazards as flooding, earthquakes and typhoons, a United Nations-backed report released today offers suggestions on how to enhance resiliency to threats emanating from climate change.

“Climate Resilient Cities” – jointly produced by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) – serves as a primer for East Asia and the Pacific to curb vulnerability to climate change and bolstering disaster risk management.

“Ultimately, the cities hardest hit by climate change will be the ones least prepared,” said Neeraj Prasad, the World Bank’s Lead Environmental Specialist for the region.

Global warming points towards more frequent and extreme weather events, so managers must take action to protect their cities sooner rather than later, the report urged.

It said that for every one metre rise in sea levels, there will be a corresponding 2 per cent drop in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to the decrease in fresh water, damage to agriculture and fisheries, disrupted tourism and reduced energy security, among other consequences.

The surging concentration of people in cities also steps up their susceptibility to climate-related damage.

The study cited East Asia as one of the world’s most vulnerable areas. “We have seen events like the 2004 tsunami, and recently Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and a typhoon in the Philippines,” said Jitendra J. Shah, who coordinates the World Bank’s environmental programme in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand.

“Climate Resilient Cities” calls on cities to strategize to adapt to climate change and to mitigate the consequences of future natural disasters. It also appeals to them to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Some measures the report recommends are simple, such as raising awareness of global warming’s impact, promoting the use of bicycles and increasing the use of energy-efficient public transport vehicles. Others entail legislation and increased investment, including providing fossil fuel alternatives and improving public infrastructure.

“Every city is different,” said Mr. Prasad. “There is no cookie-cutter solution to climate change impacts. It’s important that you are able to anticipate the likely impacts on your city and make the decision to deal with that.”


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