Cities in developing countries face a ‘closing window of opportunity’ to future proof themselves against the risks of climate change, concludes a new study.
Over 50% of the world’s population already live in cities and this is expected to climb to around 75% by 2050. The bulk of this urban expansion will be in the developing world.
The report, published by Atkins in partnership with the Department for International Development and University College London, says these cities must act now before they are locked into ‘unsustainable and unsuitable development’, which would put them at greater risk of natural hazards such as flooding, drought and temperature extremes as well as resource scarcities.
The study assessed 129 cities ranging from mega cities like Bangkok to smaller cities such as Zaria in Africa and identifies practical measures that they can take now to manage future risks. It highlights that a strategy based on ‘grow first, tackle environmental risks later’ is unlikely to be effective given the risks to economic growth and the urban poor from depletion of natural resources, climate change, and global population pressures.
Atkins’ UK Chief Executive Officer David Tonkin said: “The earlier cities take steps to future proof themselves the better. As this report demonstrates, these are complex challenges which require deep technical skills brought together to understand the scale and urgency of the risks that cities face.”
However, it also adds that city level policies developed to respond to environmental risks can generate wider economic and social benefits as well as environmental ones. “Many cities have a degree of autonomy which allows city policymakers to act more nimbly than national policymakers in delivering integrated responses to environmental risks. They can also work closely with regional and national policymakers to create the right policy frameworks for action”.
Professor David Price, UCL vice-provost (research), said: “The report reveals significant gaps in our data, knowledge and evidence, highlighting the need for high quality research on the governance of urban environmental risks and the enrolment of multiple actors in planning and decision-making. Yet the report also speaks to the amount of positive change that it is within our grasp to bring about more sustainable, fairer and safer cities in less developed countries. This kind of change will be better achieved through the effective engagement of international development agencies with academics, policymakers, practitioners and citizens.”
More information on ‘Future Proofing Cities’.
Listen to the 2degrees webinar 'Future cities in a resource constrained world' with Shell’s Future Scenario’s team.