These big cities are not prepare for climate change

The largest cities in the world are not adequately preparing to face the impacts of climate change, according to a study carried out by the Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3), which also shows that the adaptation plans of Spanish cities “are not designed to be effective” against this phenomenon.

Climate change and Big cities

“The climate change adaptation plans of the largest cities worldwide are not going to achieve effective results in the medium and long term, as they are currently proposed.” This is one of the main conclusions of the study published by Marta Olazabal and María Ruiz de Gopegui, researchers at the Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3), in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, the leading international publication in the discipline of urban studies.

The study identifies the adaptation plans of 59 coastal cities, among the largest in the world, and analyzes their strengths and weaknesses. In turn, it is based on another study published last year by BC3 researchers that studied the 136 largest coastal cities worldwide with over one million inhabitants. In this way, it is considered that the analysis “offers a highly representative international view of the current situation.”

The previous work showed that only 59 had adaptation plans at the local level and that many of these plans had not yet been implemented. “In the current study we wanted to achieve greater depth and see the quality of those plans since the degree of implementation is quite limited and it is urgent to know what we are failing in,” Olazabal underlines.

Lack of financing

According to the researchers, the adaptation plans of cities “are still ineffective, among other factors, because the financing processes are not well defined, insufficient responsibilities are assigned, the regulatory nature of said policies and plans is quite scarce, they do not knowledge about the impacts and risks of climate change is generated or used properly, and, lastly, the issues of equity and social justice are not yet well integrated”.

The vast majority of cities analyzed show a large room for improvement and there are no significant global regional differences. With notable exceptions, such as Istanbul and the three Korean cities, Incheon, Busan, and Ulsan, most cities in Asia score low, below average.

Importantly, the study notes, that most Asian plans have been published recently, after 2016, and more than half are revised plans.

A similar pattern can be found in Australia, with the exception of Sydney, although the sample is smaller. Only two cases, Baltimore and Los Angeles, both in the US, obtain a score higher than 30, out of a total of 53 possible points. Interestingly, these are the only plans in the sample where climate change adaptation is integrated into a disaster risk reduction plan.

Together with Los Angeles and Baltimore and the aforementioned Istanbul and Busan, Incheon, and Ulsan, in South Korea, Montevideo (Uruguay) and Lisbon (Portugal) also stand out globally.

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On the other extreme, the worst-performing urban resilience policies are Hong Kong and Shanghai (China), Sapporo (Japan), and Cape Town (South Africa).

In order for these policies to be effective in the future, the researchers advocate improving existing climate information, increasing financing channels at the local level, reinforcing the regulatory part of adaptation measures, going beyond recommendations; and taking into account vulnerable groups, among other approaches.

Cities responsible for global emissions

Cities were responsible for around 70% of global carbon emissions attributed to climate warming and thus were “key players in building a resilient future for all,” said Kyra Appleby, CDP’s global director.

Solutions included improved green spaces, recycling, mass transit and fuel-powered vehicle retrofits, and crisis evacuation procedures.

“However, in 2020, only 50% of reporting cities took action to reduce building emissions, only 42% addressed transportation emissions, and only 34% took action to decarbonize the power grid,” the report said. CDP study.

Notable climate-friendly trendsetters included Santa Fe County in the US, Greater Manchester in Great Britain and Penampang in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo.

This contributes to flood risks and produces urban heat islands, areas where temperatures are higher than in outlying areas. A recent study found that the urban heat island in Jakarta, Indonesia, has expanded in recent years as more land has been developed for housing, business, industry and warehouses.

But cities are also important sources of innovation. For example, the inaugural Oberlander Prize for Landscape Architecture was awarded on October 14, 2021, to American landscape architect Julie Bargemen for reimagining polluted and abandoned urban sites. And the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize was awarded this year to French architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Phillipe Vassal for creating resilient buildings by transforming existing structures rather than demolishing them to make room for new construction.

Just 25 of the world’s cities account for 52% of total urban greenhouse gas emissions. This means that focusing on these cities can make a big difference to the arc of long-term warming.

Cities around the world are looking at a wide variety of mitigation measures, such as the electrification of public transport, cooling with green buildings, and the introduction of low-carbon building codes. I see these steps as a source of hope in the medium and long term.

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