Towards Resilient and Low-Carbon Cities: New Challenges and Opportunities

Key Points: 

Variations among cities of the developing world in terms of per-capita income, exposure to climate vulnerabilities, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions levels are very significant and have to be taken into account in order to support their active engagement in global climate action. Ninety percent of all urban growth by mid-century will occur in the developing world, and this build-up will require great quantities of energy and natural resources, further depleting the carbon budget. These cities will play an ever-greater role in global GDP generation and GHG emissions, and their exposure to climate change impacts will also increase. Urban climate action in the developing world will require good governance, technical capabilities and financial support. In view of the multiple priorities facing city governments, climate adaptation has to be mainstreamed within the sustainable provision of urban services and the build-up of urban resilience to natural hazards. Similarly, GHG mitigation should be embedded within green growth and urban welfare strategies, driven as much by quality of life goals as by climate protection considerations. Compact urban growth, connected infrastructure and coordinated governance can provide the way forward, and the resulting urban morphology can greatly contribute to reducing urban emissions. Further co-benefits can be obtained by integrating mitigation and adaptation strategies at the urban scale. Some cities in OECD countries are achieving significant GHG reductions and showing that a post-carbon urban future is possible. International city networks have emerged as vehicles for innovation sharing, learning, and advocacy for the recognition of cities in global climate action. For further action to take off in the cities of the developing world, the Paris Agreement should (a) increase the amount of international funding for urban adaptation, especially in least-developed countries (LDCs); (b) multiply opportunities for channelling carbon financing into urban green growth; (c) make international financial support dependent on innovative national urban policies; and (d) support urban learning, networking and knowledge-sharing programmes.


This paper was commissioned for the volume Towards a Workable and Effective Climate Regime published in 2015 by CEPR and FERDI (Fondation pour les Etudes et Recherches sur le Développement International). This paper also benefited from the financial support of the FERDI and of the program “Investissement d'Avenir” (reference ANR-10-LABX-14-01) of the French government.

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Document Description: 
by Anthony G. Bigio
Towards Resilient and Low-Carbon Cities: New Challenges and Opportunities