Cities need $72bn boost to protect residents from climate change, CDP reveals

Pictured: Flooding in Texas following Storm Harvey in 2017

Conducted by CDP, the analysis looks at the data disclosed through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System by 812 cities in 2020. Collectively, these cities are set to represent some 5% of the world’s population by the end of the decade.

While CDP welcomes the fact that more cities are disclosing using the system than ever before, with just 48 cities having used it in 2011, the analysis raises several red flags in terms of climate adaptation – preparing cities for environmental impacts that are already ‘locked in’.

More than four in ten of the cities assessed have not carried out a climate risk and vulnerability assessment (CRVA). CRVAs, CDP claims, are a key tool in helping cities to assess long-term risks and to respond appropriately in terms of infrastructure and resources. On the former, the average city to have completed a CRVA report almost six times as many long-term risks as the average city without a completed assessment.

When cities were asked why they had not undertaken CVRAs or, if they had done, why they are failing to respond appropriately, funding was raised as a key concern. A quarter of the cities analyses stated that budgetary capacity issues are a top barrier to delivering adaptation.

This underfunding, CDP is warning, has led to many cities delivering adaptation on a piecemeal basis. Planting trees and creating or expanding green spaces is, the report reveals, twice as popular as more expensive defensive infrastructure upgrades. Other challenges include decarbonising transport systems and retrofitting buildings.

CDP has calculated that, if the results paint a similar picture for the rest of the world’s cities, a further $72bn will be needed to help them deliver climate adaptation.

While this is a hefty sum, CDP is warning that the cost of inaction will be far higher, and that national and state governments could easily use Covid-19 stimulus packages to better support adaptation. More could also be done through international finance mechanisms. Adaptation and resilience is notably a core theme of the COP26 conference.  

CDP’s global director for cities, states and regions Kyra Appleby said: “Since March 2020, we have seen the huge and disruptive impact Covid-19 has had on lives and livelihoods across the globe, with cities needing to divert resources to saving lives, bolstering economies and protecting vital health services.

“Now, to build a resilient planet and ensure everyone is protected from future threats, every city must carry out a climate risk and vulnerability assessment to identify the crucial actions they must take.”

Renovation wave

In related news, a group of 24 European cities have joined an EU-funded initiative, convened by the World Green Building Council (WGBC), aimed at accelerating building renovations.

Renovations, the Council states, can improve energy efficiency and tackle energy poverty while also helping nations to create jobs as the economic Covid-19 recovery continues.

Under the initiative, member cities will use a framework called BUILD UPON2 to track retrofitting. The framework will not only help determine which neighbourhoods need more assistance, but to quantify the benefits of retrofitting schemes, enabling future business cases to be bolstered. Benefits will be tracked across a range of environmental, social and economic metrics.

Cities in Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK will implement the framework, following a successful pilot scheme with eight cities. Participating UK locations are Cambridge, Essex and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

WorldGBC’s director of the Europe Regional Network Stephen Richardson said the involvement of the 24 cities “will contribute to making the Framework an invaluable resource to deliver the Renovation Wave and the EU Green Deal.”

Sarah George

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