Climate change has become a very concrete reality for a considerable share of humanity. This phenomenon leads to the depletion of available resources and strongly compromises the economic development of poor regions, who are the less likely to have the means to adapt.
Climate change affects tangible consequences on access to essential urban services
The high levels of density in cities of the global South leads to an increased vulnerability of populations to climate change related disasters (Droughts, floods, typhoons…). In informal settlements, the quality of housing and physical facilities does not prepare citizens to hedge against climate risks. Over half of African and Asian cities being located in coastal areas, the number of people affected by floods each year should keep increasing with rising sea levels to reach over 10 million people. Areas that combine high population density and low altitude areas are the most at risk.
Consequences of climate change should also affect the health condition of millions of poor urban dwellers as it is bound to increase malnutrition, diseases generated by heatwaves, floods, storms, wildfires, and droughts. Despite these forecasts and the scale of expected disruptions, there remains a certain level of uncertainty regarding the reality of climate change impacts. These uncertainties slow stakeholders’ capacity to look to the future and more generally delay the whole decision-making process in development strategies. In the face of those uncertainties was developed the notion of “No-regrets” approach to decision-making and investments, whose peculiarity is to achieve positive returns under all climate scenarios.
Water and energy: two multi-faceted elements at the core of climate change impacts
Water and energy are two fluids at the core of the climate issue and are intricately intertwined in the development of mitigation and adaptation strategies. Cities represent 75% of global energy consumption and produce 80% of Greenhouse Gas effects. Under the cumulated effect of urban population growth, local changes in weather patterns and economic growth, demand for energy could strongly increase. Energy lies at the heart of climate change issues – especially because of environmental impacts – yet it also offers a range of opportunities in terms of mitigation (hydroelectricity, renewable energy, improved infrastructure energy efficiency…).
Water resources are strongly impacted by climate change both quantitatively and qualitatively and are on top of adaptation strategies given the multi-dimensional nature of opportunities (reducing leakage in water networks, improving water management methods, managing flood risks). Just like energy, demand for water in cities should increase due to more frequent heatwaves and urban population growth. Consequences of climate change on precipitations and on sea levels could also affect water treatment and quality in cities.
Climate change adaptation and the conditions for resilience
Adaptation strategies have taken a crucial dimension in developing cities where poverty is an important vulnerability factor. Protecting and strengthening essential services infrastructure, developing early warning systems, as well as promoting renewable energy are major conditions framing cities climate resilience.
Mitigation may appear to be a global level effort, yet the implementation of public policies to tackle climate change effects falls under the responsibility of local governments and requires to involve all stakeholders and especially citizens. Several countries prepare “national climate adaptation frameworks” and a great number of initiatives arise such as the Rockefeller Foundation program that aims to reduce socio-economic impacts of climate disasters and vulnerability of poor communities through better planning, coordination and implementation of city resilience strategies.
Since 2015, the United Nations General Assembly (Sustainable Development Goal No 11), COP21 and forthcoming COP22 have urged decision-makers to work at building more resilient and sustainable cities.
- The international community launched climate negotiations during the Eath Summit held in Rio in 1992.
- Kyoto protocol, adopted in 1997, set internationally binding emission reduction targets for industrialized countries.
- According to the 5th report published by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), GHG emissions increased by 2.2% between 2000 and 2010. If nothing changes, the 2oC rise in temperature threshold will be reached in 2030.
- Rising sea levels is a major concern given the high degree of urban concentration in coastal areas.
- By 2025, 1/3 of global population could be facing water stress.
- During COP21, the topic of mitigation was preferred over adaptation.
- Morocco wishes to set water as the core of both mitigation and adaptation strategies. Morocco set water, energy and agriculture as priority areas; these areas target communities’ needs, especially in Africa.