Cities at risk from climate change

10th July 2014

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Climate change poses a physical threat to 207 of the world's largest cities, affecting half the world's population and putting 80% of global GDP at risk, according to a joint report from CDP, AECOM and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40).

The report, “Protecting our capital”, says three quarters of the world’s largest cities have identified extreme weather and other climate change events as a major threat to the stability of their local economies and the wellbeing of their citizens, with damage likely to property and capital assets, transport and infrastructure.

Drought, storms, floods, heat waves, intense rainfall and sea level rise represent the biggest risks to cities and are becoming a financial burden for many businesses in major conurbations, finds the report.

For example, financial services business Morgan Stanley has spent US$4.4 million upgrading air-conditioning at its datacentre in London to combat rising temperatures caused by the urban heat island effect – where human activities raise the temperature in towns and cities – while the US city of Cleveland reports diminishing water in Lake Erie due to severe weather has put its $6.5 billion shipping industry at risk. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, reports that business owners are abandoning their investments because they are unable to seek compensation for losses caused by climate change. In south-east Asia, rising sea levels in Hong Kong have caused major site damage, forcing energy company CLP to spend nearly $750,000 protecting its premises and the region’s drainage services department to spend $2.7 billion on flood defences, river widening and underground water storage.

However, the report also points out that city authorities and companies are becoming more aware of the substantial financial benefits from tackling climate change impacts. Portland, Oregon, for example, reports that its city energy challenge programme achieves annual savings of US$5.5 million from energy saving projects, while London’s climate change adaption strategy highlights the tangible benefits of greening the capital through increasing tree cover and improving parks.

Larissa Bulla, head of CDP’s cities programme, said: “Local governments are storming ahead to protect their citizens and businesses from the impacts of climate change, but further collaboration with business is needed to increase city resilience. Through the provision of information, policies and incentives, cities can help equip businesses to manage these risks and embrace the opportunities.”

CDP says number of cities disclosing their climate change activities have nearly doubled in the past year and actions taken by local authorities has reduced 129 of the 194 risks reported by businesses. The report notes that investment in infrastructure and services is helping to build climate change resilience for businesses and the wider community.


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