Most of the world’s major cities, from London to São Paulo, have warned that climate change presents a very real, physical risk to the businesses that operate within them, as part of a major new report.
In an urbanised age, cities play a vital role in the global economy. They generate more than 80% of global GDP and are home to more than half of the population – a proportion set to rise significantly this century.
They are also often referred to as being on “the frontline” of climate change.
In Protecting our Capital, published on Thursday by the carbon reporting not-for-profit CDP, 207 cities from around the world, also including Johannesburg, New York and Tokyo, voluntarily disclose their concerns about climate change and their strategies to fight it.
This is almost twice as many as the 110 that disclosed in CDP’s last annual report, illustrating a growing acknowledgment among city authorities of the risks of global warming.
Of the 207, some 76% say that extreme weather, sea level rise, droughts, and other effects of climate change are a threat to local properties, infrastructures and the health of residents.
Of these risks, the cities list 53% as being serious and near-term.
The city of Cleveland, Ohio, for example, says that severe weather is affecting its $6.5 billion (£3.8bn) shipping industry. In San Diego, wildfires caused by drought threaten electricity infrastructure that serves over 20 million people in the state of California.
Manchester, meanwhile, fears that rising temperatures will increase demand for cooling, in turn affecting energy supply and prices.
Thankfully, the report finds that much is already being done improve resilience around the world. This year, the 207 cities are undertaking 757 adaptation activities, while 102 cities have detailed climate adaptation plans in place.
The study authors say this is heartening, but suggest more can be done to work with the businesses that are affected.
“Local governments are storming ahead to protect their citizens and businesses from the impacts of climate change, but further collaboration with business is needed to increase city resilience,” said Larissa Bulla, head of CDP’s cities program.
“Through the provision of information, policies and incentives, cities can help equip businesses to manage these risks.”
Some 79% of the cities also say that adapting to climate change presents new economic opportunities.
Portland, for example, reports that its City Energy Challenge – an initiative launched to promote efficiency and cut carbon emissions – saves $5.5 million (£3.21m) every year.
“Three quarters of the cities that have taken part in CDP’s cities program this year identified substantial benefits that flow to both public and private economies from climate adaptation initiatives,” said Gary Lawrence, chief sustainability officer at AECOM, who collaborated with CDP.
“These benefits can be amplified through closer collaborations and sharing of knowledge and technical resources,” he added.
In February, a separate report published by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group also found that 63 of the world’s biggest cities have almost doubled the measures they are taking to combat climate change since 2011.
These include introducing new energy efficiency regulations, public transport initiatives or flood mapping efforts in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Speaking in May, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, now a UN envoy for cities and climate change, said, “Those actions will save lives.
“They’ll strengthen and protect the national economies, they’ll make cities more healthy and economically vibrant and together they’ll make a difference in the global fight against climate change.”
Photo: Ben Sutherland via Flickr