Research Shows: Integrating Climate Resilience is Non-Negotiable for Future-Proofing Our Cities
Urban Resilience Against Climate Change: A Mandate for City Planners
A fresh report from the Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG) delivers a stern ultimatum: our cities operate on borrowed time if they continue to adopt 'climate-unfit' urban strategies. The future isn't up for negotiation—climate resilience must be integral to urban planning.
Why so dire, you ask? The 2018 data speaks volumes. CCAG's report reveals that over half of the globe's 1,146 largest cities were sitting ducks for at least one of six major types of natural disasters. We're talking cyclones, floods, droughts, landslides—catastrophes that climate change will only escalate.
And here's another kicker: The report, christened Risk & Resilience: The Role of Cities in Tackling the climate crisis, underscores that the cocktail of risk factors is expanding. Think about it: the coastal positioning of numerous metropolises, the climbing urban populace in underprivileged countries, and climate-induced migration collectively amplify the vulnerabilities of urban spaces. And who gets hit the hardest? Unsurprisingly, the economically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
Don't underestimate the economic repercussions, either. If we allow our existing city infrastructures to be ravaged by climate consequences, we're setting ourselves up for an economic fallout of epic proportions. That's why integrating resilience into urban planning isn't just brilliant—it's non-negotiable.
And businesses, listen up: You've got your work cut out for you, too. The report stresses that fortifying supply chain resilience is pivotal, especially when grappling with extreme weather events scattered across the globe. If left unaddressed, anticipate skyrocketing prices and severe resource scarcities with global repercussions.
According to CCAG member and director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka, Saleemul Huq, despite a high level of technical knowledge across the construction industry, carbon-intensive and "climate-unfit" development is continuing at an ever faster rate in almost every city of the world.
"In all parts of the world, we need cities that are resilient, keeping their people safe," he said in the report's foreword. "We need cities and construction to be fit-for-purpose in a net-zero emissions world."
The authors also drew attention to a mind-boggling statistic: cities, occupying a mere 2% of Earth's terrain, are responsible for over two-thirds of global energy consumption. Ergo, the rise of net-zero emission cities could be a game-changer in capping global temperature increases and sidestepping catastrophic climate scenarios.
Ah, the role of private finance. The report argues that private investment will be the linchpin, likely covering up to 90% of the transition to climate-resilient cities in the foreseeable future. Still, they flag a glaring shortfall—the current climate finance gap is estimated to exceed $630 billion annually.
But let's not paint all cities with the same brush. While old and new towns share climate threats, their focal points diverge. Mature cities—think London or New York—are fixated on safeguarding existing structures, primarily fearing financial losses and asset damage. In stark contrast, rapidly mushrooming cities like Dhaka face different challenges altogether, given that much of their crucial infrastructure is still on the drawing board. Hence, their approach to climate resilience will be distinct and fluid.
So there it is—the urgency couldn't be more apparent. Urban resilience against climate threats is no longer an option; it's imperative for survival. And we all have roles to play in making this seismic shift happen.
"Dhaka is a city under extreme climate stress that is taking coordinated actions to curb expansion and build greater resilience," Huq said. "The necessity for survival spurred on a new approach to climate resilience, whereby we build climate-resilient secondary cities and towns in Bangladesh away from the megacity alongside taking actions to build resilience in Dhaka itself.
"It's imperative that cities are resilient, and there are a variety of approaches that already exist to secure safe and prosperous cities for citizens everywhere - it is now up to us to properly fund and implement them."
The report's release comes after UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced a £4m national Centre of Excellence for Resilient Infrastructure Analysis in March to pool research and resources needed to better protect UK cities and critical infrastructure against the increased risk of extreme floods, water and food shortages, and energy failures.
Moreover, it follows the conclusion of a four-year, nearly £19m UK Climate Resilience Programme led jointly by UKRI, the Met Office, and the Natural Environment Research Council to understand better how to quantify climate risks and build resilience.