Cities in developing countries with quality health, housing and water drainage systems, can more easily adapt to a changing climate, says the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
David Satterthwaite, a leading expert on human settlements and one of the two coordinating lead authors of the urban chapter in the IPCC report, told IRIN the report’s message for urban centres in developing countries is: “Good development provides the basis for climate change adaptation both in the sense of resilient infrastructure (piped water, drains, all-weather roads) and better quality houses… Providing these, also develops the institutional and financial base for climate change adaptation.”
Urban centres in developing countries often have to make difficult decisions on how much expenditure to allocate to development versus climate change adaptation, but the report’s authors says a successful balance can be achieved with clear policy direction, committed and informed staff, knowledge, and of course money.
Many cities in developing countries “are caught in a `perfect storm’ of population growth, escalating adaptation needs and substantial development deficits created by a shortage of human and financial resources, increasing levels of informality, poor governance, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, poverty and growing inequality,” writes Debra Roberts, the environmental planning head of the South African city of Durban and one of the lead authors of the urban chapter in the IPCC report.
“UN projections suggest that almost all the increase in the world’s population up to 2050 will be in urban centres in what are currently low- and middle-income nations,” says the report.
Studies by the UN and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies show that a high proportion of the world’s population most affected by extreme weather events is concentrated in urban centres and many of these “lack both local governments with the capacity to reduce disaster risk, and much of the necessary infrastructure,” says the report.
“Draw on the good experience in many cities in assessing disaster risk and investing in measures to reduce it. As you develop these, add a little extra to increase safety margins in areas where risks are likely to increase as a result of climate change,” Satterthwaite advises city planners.
The UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED – where Satterthwaite is a senior fellow) produced case studies on three cities facing significant development problems and at the same time trying to make their residents more resilient to extreme natural events.
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