Climate adaptation efforts in cities around the globe should focus on transformative solutions that not only boost resilience but also support equitable and sustainable growth, a report from the World Resources Institute argues.
Based on case studies and a review of the literature, the report, Unlocking the Potential for Transformative Climate Adaptation in Cities (76 pages, PDF), projects that by 2050 two-thirds of the world's population will be living in urban areas facing systemic risks from climate change impacts, including sea level rise, flooding, heat and water stress, degradation of ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity. With the fastest growth occurring in Global South cities with large shares of vulnerable populations, adaptation policies, the report's authors argue, must focus on three areas: incorporating climate risks into planning, working with vulnerable communities, and prioritizing nature-based solutions.
To that end, the report calls on municipal governments to integrate climate risk information into their spatial planning, investments, infrastructure, and service delivery and to strengthen local capacity to use that information in transparent and inclusive ways; build climate resilience by upgrading living conditions and strengthening the adaptive capacity of vulnerable and informal communities; and work with regional agencies and water utilities to adopt integrated approaches that address flood and heat management and protect natural water sources holistically, including green roofs, greater tree cover, and conservation of wetlands and forests.
Released at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen last week, the report is one in a series of background papers commissioned by the Global Commission on Adaptation, whose report Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience found that investments in five key areas could generate $7.1 trillion in net benefits between 2020 and 2030.
"Transformative adaptation reorients urban climate actions around addressing entrenched equity and climate justice challenges," said Eric Chu, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis and lead author of Unlocking the Potential. "It focuses on systemic changes to development that improve people's quality of life, enhance the social and economic vibrancy of cities, and ensure sustainable, resilient, and inclusive urban futures."
"Cities are a fantastic opportunity to get adaptation right," said WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities global director Ani Dasgupta. "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."