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Adaptation to and Mitigation of urban climate change risks

Rawalpindi floods - bigOne category of response is to prepare and adjust cities through infrastructural and behavioural adaptations, some examples being: flood defences, fortified critical infrastructure to cope with water-hazards or heat stress, development of early warning systems, disaster risk reduction plans, among others.

Even with ‘adaptive capacity’, cities are the major contributors to climate change, accounting for around 71-76% global energy use, and 37-49% global Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG). Cities must make mitigation efforts to reduce or prevent their GHG emissions, through new, low carbon technologies and renewable energy sources across different infrastructural sectors like transport, housing and commercial.

Subtheme: Water

Dry Country - tap - smallSome of the greatest risks to cities include water. Climate change leads to the increased frequency and intensity of weather events and natural hazards such as sea-level rise and increased precipitation can lead to floods and landslides. Drought can affect food security, health and livelihoods. Anthropogenic water hazards also present, including water pollution, water-borne diseases and the release of hazardous waste. The links between water, climate change and health are therefore highly salient.

Cities have been adapting to cope with specific risks, and have been taking steps to mitigate their impacts. The following articles highlight how coastal cities, Mexico City and Dhaka have unique socio-environmental histories and water-related vulnerabilities which both contribute to climate change and intersect with it to produce greater risks. In Kathmandu, changes in water availability have impacted on livelihoods and food security. The Da Nang, Vietnam, example highlights the increasing threat of typhoons and the economic benefits of resilient housing. Authors challenge local governments to think about climate change in a more proactive and cross-sectoral way.


Case study: Rio De Janeiro - A coastal mega-city Adapting to Water-Related Hazards

Rio de Janeiro is a city of 11.96 million people, the sixth largest urban agglomeration in Latin America. Rio’s geography and development has created a range of vulnerabilities to climate change: especially water-related hazards. The coastal city is characterised by sharp hills, wetlands, forests, rivers and estuaries. Facing coastal erosion and increased precipitation, it is exposed to a number of hazards including floods, typhoons and landslides.
Rio’s rapid population growth and urbanization have contributed to a highly unequal society. Over 20% the population resides in informal, unregulated, and highly vulnerable settlements which spread up the hillsides. At the same time, economic growth has led to increasing GhG emissions.

While the city has taken steps to respond to climate change, after the heaviest recorded rainfall led to disaster in April 2010, the City Government has produced adaptation and mitigation strategies through a disaster risk reduction framework. In 2011 it produced a Municipal Law on Climate Change and Sustainable Development.

Subtheme: Infrastructure and Health

Informal settlement in Lahore - smallThe adaptation and mitigation of infrastructure and business activities have been key responses to urban climate change, due to their major roles in GhG emissions. Transport, for example, contributes 25% of global emissions, according to the IPCC. On the other hand, transport in developing cities has had direct negative impacts on human health and welfare, due to congestion and pollution. The case of Mexico City highlights how a whole transport network has been adapted and upgraded to mitigate against emissions and poor health impacts. While developing cities are being expected to adapt and mitigate, concerns remain about the economic impacts, and developing city governments face severe constraints in allocating resources for implementation. Many international development institutions do not have specific policies and funding for urban climate change responses. In order to overcome these barriers, work is increasingly being conducted to make a case for how adaptation and mitigation would actually be economically beneficial for businesses and governments in the long-term.

Image credits: Amiera Sawas / Kevin Jones / Steve Dorman | Flickr / Agenbite of Inwit / Amiera Sawas

Building urban food resilience: assessing the peri-urban food system in Kathmandu Nepal
A. Dixit; M. Rokka Chettri; K. Mani Dixit / Institute For Social And Environmental Transition ISET-Nepal 2008
This report from ISET-Nepal describes how agricultural production in urban and peri-urban areas of inland city, Kathmandu, has become unable to meet food security demands due to rapid urban growth and decreased water availability and ...
Sheltering from a gathering storm: Typhoon resilience in Vietnam
P. Tran; T.H. Tran; A.T. Tran / Institute For Social And Environmental Transition 2014
This case study documents the rapid urbanization and economic development of Da Nang, a city in central Vietnam. It’s geography – being located on the tropical storm belt, and characterised by both mountain ranges and low-...
Rio de Janeiro City’s early warning system for heavy rain
Evidence and Lessons from Latin America 2013
The city of Rio de Janeiro has developed a highly efficient early warning system (EWS) that is having an impressive impact after just three years in operation. The measures employed are innovative, inclusive and non-resource intensive...
Landslide risk reduction measures by the Rio de Janeiro City Government
World Bank 2012
This chapter gives the history of the GEO-RIO foundation, an institute of geotechnics of the municipal government, which has been working to map the risk of landslides and develop prevention measures for almost 50 years. This article ...