Seoul, South Korea
Four out of five cities worldwide faced climate risk in 2022, according to a new report released by CDP. The study tracked almost 1,000 cities from Jan. 1 through August 16, and it found that 80 percent of them faced risks ranging from extreme heat and heavy rainfall to drought and flooding. Additionally, 28 percent of the cities faced climate risk that threatened more than 70 percent of their populations.
Vulnerable communities face the most dire climate risk
More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, though cities cover just 3 percent of the world’s surface; 62 percent of them are facing climate hazards that are expected to intensify in the future. Vulnerable groups are at the highest risk of intensifying and increasing climate risk. According to the CDP report, “Between 2010 and 2020, deaths from floods, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions, compared to regions with very low vulnerability.” Because these groups of citizens are the most negatively affected by climate hazards, effective climate action must simultaneously address the risks brought about by social inequalities.
The most vulnerable are also the smallest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. Fifty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are from the wealthiest 10 percent of the world’s population. The poorest 50 percent is only responsible for 7 percent of total emissions. The World Bank estimates that 132 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty due to the impacts of climate change.
Cities can be hubs of climate innovation
Cities are responsible for 70 percent of total global emissions, but they are also key to climate progress. The new CDP report noted, “Close to half of cities have set a city-wide emissions reduction target… More than three in five cities are taking adaptation actions, while close to two thirds are taking emissions reduction actions.” Climate action in cities has also led to a number of other positive side effects, including economic, social and human health improvements.
The report found that while climate action produces positive results for all cities that undertake them, cities that center the needs of people in their climate planning and implementation processes see even greater positive co-effects. People-centered climate actions can include engaging with the community to collaborate on climate planning, creating adaptation goals that also target issues like air or water quality, or undergoing a climate risk and vulnerability assessment (CRVA) that considers the needs of the most vulnerable populations in a city.
For example, Chicago created its climate action plan with the participation of more than 2,000 residents across almost every neighborhood in the city. Organizers developed a series of surveys in order to center community priorities. The survey results showed a community priority of pollution reduction and better air quality, which were incorporated into the city’s Climate Action Plan.
Putting people at the heart of climate action
“Putting people at the heart of climate action, from planning to implementation, improves lives," said Maia Kutner, CDP’s interim global director of cities, states and regions. "It unlocks social, economic and environmental benefits, enhances equity and inclusion, and ensures a just transition to a low-carbon economy. Cities that identify vulnerable groups, engage with them, and understand their needs to deliver just adaptation strategies see the clear benefits and create a sustainable future for people and the planet.” The CDP study shows that cities implementing people-centered climate actions also saw improvements in air quality, food security, water security, job creation, soil quality and increased green space.
In its report, CDP calls on cities to set science-based emissions targets and to undertake a CRVA that considers their most vulnerable populations. Approximately 63 percent of cities surveyed are currently taking a people-centered approach to climate strategy, which will become increasingly important as cities face new and intensifying climate hazards.
Image credit: Yohan Cho via Unsplash
Mary Riddle is a writer and sustainability consultant based in Florence, Italy. As a former farmer and farm educator, she is passionate about regenerative agriculture and sustainable food systems. Currently, she and her husband also own and operate Italy in Season, a subscription box company with a mission to support small-scale Italian artisans and traditional craftsmanship.