Thriving: Making Cities Green, Resilient, and Inclusive in a Changing Climate

This is a summary of the recent report issued by the World Bank. You can download the full report here.

Why coastal cities in low- and middle-income countries are facing greater threats from the climate change:

  • Climate change is exposing cities to increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Global sea-level rise of about 0.125 mm per year is also increasing the risk of flooding for coastal cities
  • Globally, about 70 % of ­ anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions emanate from cities. Cities in lower-income countries, however, accounted for only about 14 % of all global urban CO2 emissions in 2015, and cities in low-income cities ­ contributed less than 0.20 %.
  • Cities in low- and lower-middle-income countries face the highest exposure to projected climate change–related hazards. AT the same time, they are less resilient to increasingly frequent climate change–related shocks and stresses.
  • These cities suffer larger negative impacts to their local levels of economic activity from extreme hot, dry, and wet weather events, as well as from tropical cyclones, than do cities in higher-income countries.
  • Cities suffer indirect impacts of climate change, especially in low- and lower-middle-income ­ countries. These indirect impacts occur through a variety of channels. For example, when extreme weather events hit, people in the countryside often seek safe harbor in cities. Extended droughts in rural areas result in faster expansion of urban areas. The resulting new settlements are often informal and established on the outskirts of cities, in urban floodplains with limited access to services.
  • Construction in countries is gravitating toward cities that will be most affected by climate change. Since the 1960s, construction in countries has increasingly gravitated toward cities ­ projected to become unbearably hot because of climate change—the opposite of what would be expected in the face of intensifying changes in climate.
  • Lack of inclusiveness contributes to the lack of resilience of cities in low- and lower-middle-income countries. This lack of resilience can be explained, in part, by these cities’ higher rates of poverty and lower levels of access to basic services such as health care and education; water, electricity, and other utilities; solid waste management; digital and financial services; and emergency rescue services.
  • Cities in low- and middle-income countries are less green in terms of air pollution, and air pollution from key urban sectors presents a greater challenge for larger cities in countries at all income levels.
  • Lack of vegetation, especially evident in large cities and cities in upper-middle-income countries, can exacerbate the impacts of extreme heat events in cities (the urban heat island effect).

What are the policy instruments at the disposal of policy makers?

These instruments fall into five broad groups, which together make up a sequenced set:

  1. Information helps people and firms better understand, and therefore better adapt to, climate risks both across and within cities:

The diffusion of accurate risk information facilitates better decision-making by ­ households, firms, and local governments. It also provides the facts that citizens need in order to hold their locally elected officials accountable. Early warning systems7 can save lives and, if activated sufficiently in advance, property. Access to early warning systems is, however, lower among poorer populations, who also usually have the least access to other tools to mitigate or transfer risk

  1. Incentives will encourage people and firms to properly factor in climate change risks, and government officials to address the challenges of pursuing green, resilient, and inclusive development.

Better information on climate risks could encourage people to increase investments, either for in situ adaptation to risks or to fund migration to areas with lower risks.Migration responds to pull factors, such as access to better labour market outcomes in destination locations, and push factors, such as adverse shocks to livelihoods in origin locations. Through its influence on these factors, climate change acts as an important driver of migration

  1. Insurance: People, firms, and governments can insure against losses associated with climate change and against unavoidable environmental shocks and stresses. Social safety nets can also be an important source of social insurance for the poorest to help manage the risk of natural hazards. Safety nets and anticipatory action can be deployed ex ante to prevent and mitigate the impact of a natural disaster.
  2. Integration (within and between cities) Within cities, integrated planning promotes more compact energy-efficient development.

Integration matters to the poor. They may be aware of the hazards they possibly face, but the poor depend more than the well-off on public services that are often inadequate. Multi hazard risk assessments could be deployed to better protect cities by better identification and understanding of risks. Such risk assessments can also help increase local capabilities, beyond those of public officials, by drawing in community stakeholders, including those from vulnerable communities.

  1. Investments in green, resilient, and inclusive infrastructure, including in nature-based solutions can help cities address climate change–related risks.

Investing in basic services in cities in low-income countries—no matter their size—is a leap toward integration. Expanding investment in basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, clean fuels for cooking, and digital connectivity, as well as ensuring access to financial, technical, and institutional resources, not only builds resilience in vulnerable communities but also enhances mobility by connecting smaller cities to medium and large cities and reducing migration barriers between them.





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