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Less than half of cities worldwide have plans to keep populations safe from climate threats

CDP logo for cities against climate threats

And a quarter of cities face budgetary barriers to action

CDP logo for cities against climate threats

New analysis released May 12 shows that 43% of global cities do not have adaptation plans1 to keep people and critical infrastructure safe from climate threats, despite the fact that awareness of climate risks has never been higher (93% of the 812 disclosing cities report that they are at risk from climate change). The analysis was conducted by CDP, a Europe-based nonprofit that runs a worldwide environmental disclosure system for companies, cites, states and regions and is said to hold the largest environmental database in the world.

As Covid-19 continues to impact the health of populations across the globe, CDP’s new report, “Cities on the Route Towards 2030: Building a Zero Emissions, Resilient Planet for All,” highlights the ongoing actions of cities against climate threats during 2020 despite the pandemic and examines what is needed to meet the requirements set by climate science, to build a 1.5°C aligned and resilient future.

In the past ten years, CDP has seen a 17-fold increase in the number of cities disclosing through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System, from 48 in 2011 to 812 in 2020. Producing 70% of emissions globally and with 50% of the world’s population living within their walls, cities are critical partners in tackling climate change, cutting emissions and building a resilient future for all.

CDP’s analysis of 2020 data also shows that 41% of cities have not carried out a climate risk and vulnerability assessment (CRVA) — a key step in climate preparedness where the city identifies people, infrastructure, and resources at risk from the growing physical hazards of a changing climate.

Identifying current and future risks is crucial to be able to make cities resilient. Research shows that cities that undertake a CRVA are more than twice (2.7x) as likely to report long-term hazards than those cities without a CRVA, and report almost six times as many (5.7x) adaptation actions.2

To build resilience, cities are taking a total of 3417 actions. These actions range from tree planting and greening (20% cities) to developing hazard resistant infrastructure (10%). However, 25% of cities report budgetary constraints as a barrier to further action.

With national governments’ Covid-19 stimulus packages totaling $12 trillion, national governments around the world have an immense opportunity to support a green and just recovery that tackles the dual crises of climate change and Covid-19. In the run up to COP26, all eyes will be on national governments as they submit their renewed commitments to cutting global emissions, but these commitments must recognize the role cities play by backing crucial projects with the necessary funding, says CDP.

Responding cities also point to a potential link between infectious disease and climate — 20% of cities (166) report that they are facing a risk of infectious diseases. Close monitoring and management of this risk will be essential for cities to keep citizens safe from future pandemics.

City action: Positive trends and steps to take

Cities disclosing through CDP are already outperforming on urgently needed decarbonization compared to the global average: 42% of their energy mix comes from renewable sources compared to a 26% global average, according to the report.

To accelerate this decarbonization, cities are taking actions from using energy efficiency / retrofit measures (276 cities) to improving fuel economy and reduce emissions from motorized vehicles (146 cities).

Now, to push their action further and faster, cities are seeking funding for projects in transport (16% of projects), renewable energy (12%), energy efficiency / retrofits (12%), water management (12%), and waste management (11%). What’s more, cities with action plans against climate threats identified twice as many opportunities from addressing climate change, including business innovation (27% of cities with climate action plans compared to 13% without) and additional funding (26% compared to 8%), finds the report.

Kyra Appleby, global director of Cities, States and Regions at CDP commented: “Cities are key actors in building a resilient future for all. They have a dual role to play — to reduce emissions but also to protect populations and infrastructure from the physical hazards and resulting impacts of climate change. Since March 2020, we have seen the huge and disruptive impact Covid-19 has had on lives and livelihoods across the globe, with cities needing to divert resources to saving lives, bolstering economies and protecting vital health services. Now, to build a resilient planet and ensure everyone is protected from future threats, every city must carry out a climate risk and vulnerability assessment to identify the crucial actions they must take.”

Our ability to mitigate the effects of climate change depends on cities building resilience to climate risks,” said Kelly Shultz, lead for sustainable cities at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “In the face of a global pandemic, a number of natural disasters, and an economic crisis, the need to accelerate these efforts has never been greater. Cities will require support from all levels of government, including partnerships with national governments to finance and achieve our global climate commitments.”

To accelerate the transition to a resilient planet for all, CDP calls on every city to disclose their climate and environmental data through the CDP-ICLEI Unified Reporting System, and carry out a climate risk and vulnerability assessment.

To view the new report, Cities on the Route Towards 2030: Building a Zero Emissions, Resilient Planet for All , visit the CDP website.

1An adaptation plan sets out the steps and actions a city will take to make itself resilient to climate change.

2CDP, Cities at Risk, 2019