The Cities Most Prepared For Climate Change

More than half the people on Earth now live in cities, so they’ll be where we have to face our changing weather patterns. The most prepared cities are finding ways to keep citizens safe–and make them money.



Even if you haven’t been paying attention to the seemingly nonstop stream of wacky weather recently, chances are that your local government has. According to the first Global C40 Cities Report, a look at how 42 of the world’s largest cities (including Jakarta, Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York) are preparing for climate change, local governments are moving quickly to mitigate the effects of climate change–and profit from them, too. Few of these changes are happening at the nation level. But because cities can react more nimbly, we may see some of the most innovative responses to climate change coming out of our urban governments:

Plans To Increase Resilience

Twenty six of the C40 cities already have
plans to protect their infrastructure against climate change. Sao Paolo
has sped up the implementation of a drainage master plan, and Copenhagen
plans to become the world’s first carbon neutral capital city. Jakarta
is taking advantage of an anticipated uptick in rainfall to think about
extending green areas.


Capitalizing On Climate Change

very smart cities–Seoul, London, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Yokohama, and Rio de
Janeiro–believe climate change is an opportunity “for economic growth
and as a key area for differentiation, improved competitiveness and a
timely opportunity to kick start a green economy.” These cities realize,
in other words, that they will be at a competitive advantage if they
are more prepared, and that everyone is going to be needing climate-proof technology soon.

Incorporating GHG Emissions Reductions Into Growth Plans


Some of the C40 cities–including Dhaka, Lagos, Jakarta, and Caracas–expect to balloon in population over the coming years. That requires planning on a number of levels–including maintenance of greenhouse gas emission reductions in the face of population growth. So a total of 29 cities are incorporating GHG reductions into their larger growth plans. Rio De Janeiro’s master plan, for example, demands that “climate change and its effects has to be in scope of urban planning and development.”

Emissions Targets

An impressive 27 cities have set greenhouse gas emissions targets, with two cities (Melbourne and Copenhagen) aiming for 100% emissions reductions by 2030. In the U.S., Seattle, Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans and Portland have all implemented more aggressive emissions targets than the national standard. Cities plan to achieve these goals through increased building retrofits, renewable energy, tree planting, better public transportation, and more.


These are all promising steps, but they aren’t enough. It’s currently difficult for cities to compare emissions, because there is no standardized greenhouse gas measurement methodology. And remember: The cities that responded to the CDP’s survey are probably more climate change savvy than most. As recent weather disasters have proven (flooding in the Mississippi, droughts in Texas), we are still woefully unprepared for a climate shift.

[Image: Flickr user Monika Thorpe]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.


Read More: Fast Cities 2011


About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more


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