The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has finalised the second part of the sixth assessment report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. It is the most comprehensive review of climate impacts and adaptation. The first part of the report was released in August 2021, and it challenged the likeliness of achieving 1.5 degree celsius global average before  2040. The report explores how climate change affects human societies and the important role of social justice. Working group 2, responsible for preparing part 2 of the report, focused on every part of the world and the entire ecosystem. The report includes a global assessment of water, terrestrial, freshwater, ocean and coastal ecosystems; their services, food, fibre, and other ecosystem products. 

There is a major focus on “cities” and the impacts and risks of climate change on urban settlements and key infrastructure. It discusses the vulnerabilities and future risks to the most vulnerable and marginalised people, as well as enabling conditions and adaptation options for cities. Here is a brief account of what the report says concerning cities.

Climate change impacts on cities

The report outlines how climate risks in cities are becoming increasingly intense, complex, and difficult to manage for people and city infrastructure. In the case of global warming exceeding 1.5°C, the resulting “overshoot” impacts, including wildfires and sea-level rise, are often irreversible, even if temperatures decline again later on.

Some of the key risks, vulnerabilities, and trends cities need to know about:

  • Human health, livelihoods and critical infrastructure are being damaged and disrupted by the impacts of climate change. Cascading impacts reach down the supply chain and alter resource flows. Therefore, food and water security will be affected even in cities not directly exposed to climate hazards.
  • Highly exposed areas, especially those along the coast, are experiencing rapid urbanisation. As people and infrastructure congregate in low-lying coastal areas and at-risk regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, and Small Islands, they are becoming increasingly susceptible to climate consequences. It is estimated that an additional  2.5  billion people will be residing in cities by 2050, including 1 billion living in the Low Elevation Coastal Zone (less than 10 metres above sea level).
  • The informal settlements are the most vulnerable. The most economically and socially marginalised urban residents live here, and the growth of this population outpaces the state’s ability to provide adequate basic services.
  • Global climate change will disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, with the threat of poverty and migration threatening to pull millions more into poverty by 2030, particularly in coastal cities.

What cities should do in response

According to the report, adaption efforts have been modest and even ‘maladaptive’ in the past. The investments are poorly planned and trap greater risks, which might be difficult and expensive to correct now. However, it is necessary to take transformative action. The report illustrates how climate-resilient development, which incorporates mitigation and adaptation into long-term sustainable development, can have significant health, wellbeing, and equity advantages.

The report recommends the following for cities :

  • Facilitate diverse communities in co-creating solutions. Adaptation outcomes will be more sustainable and effective if different groups and local expertise are included in an inclusive planning process, especially marginalised people most impacted by climate change.
  • Increase public and private investment in adaptation through building a pipeline of investable adaptation initiatives, speeding up their implementation, and directing resources to vulnerable communities. 
  • Utilise nature-based solutions, which are critical to climate-resilient development because they assist mitigation and, more importantly, adaptation while also improving people’s health and decreasing disaster risks. Overheating and floods are reduced by natural vegetation and green roofs.
  • Avoid ‘maladaptation’ through flexible, multi-sectoral, inclusive planning and implementation that considers the long term.

Cities have a crucial position in global systems like energy and trade to have greater influence by undertaking transformational initiatives. Finally, cities can improve their work by collaborating with national governments and international organisations.

The above article is based on: Climate change 2022 : Impacts,adaptation and vulnerability/IPCC 

Feature Image credit : The world economic forum

Nithya Arumugam

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