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People run away from the waves flooding Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach and its sidewalk on April 9, 2010. The unusual roughness was, according to experts, caused by the same climate phenomenon that originated the heaviest rains in the area in half a century, unleashing floods and mudslides which killed an estimated 380 people in the state of Rio de Janeiro. (Photo: Antonio Scorza/AFP via Getty Images)

People run away from the waves flooding Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach and its sidewalk on April 9, 2010. The unusual roughness was, according to experts, caused by the same climate phenomenon that originated the heaviest rains in the area in half a century, unleashing floods and mudslides which killed an estimated 380 people in the state of Rio de Janeiro. (Photo: Antonio Scorza/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite Urgent Need for Green Recovery, World's Cities Woefully Underfunded to Fight Climate Emergency

Cities around the world lack the public financing needed to protect people from flooding, sustainably retrofit buildings, and respond to the climate emergency.

Julia Conley

Although more than 90% of cities around the world report facing risks of flooding, drought, extreme weather, and other hazards due to the climate crisis, nearly half of the cities in a new survey reported that they have no plans in place to adapt to the planetary emergency, with one in four citing budgetary constraints for their inability to confront the crisis.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a global non-profit which runs the world's largest database showing disclosures from governments and companies regarding their environmental impacts, released the results of a survey of 800 cities which are home to 810 million people around the world. 

The cities were found (pdf) to be taking a total of 3,417 actions to cope with and mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, but chronic lack of funding from national governments has left a quarter of the cities surveyed unable to afford taking action, including planning green spaces, improving fuel economy to reduce vehicle emissions, implementing green retrofitting measures, and transitioning to renewable energy.

"Despite the progress cities have made to build resilience through risk assessments and adaptation planning, much more must be done to protect all populations from the worst impacts of climate change," the report reads. "For 74% of cities, climate change is increasing risks to already vulnerable populations...Joining the dots between climate change and threats to water security, public health, and social equality is crucial to effectively address these issues and ensure cities remain resilient, prosperous, and healthy places for generations to come."

"As the world seeks to recover from Covid-19, recovery funds and stimulus packages need to focus on a green and just recovery. There is an opportunity here for cities to access funding and to implement climate projects focused on increasing resilience, protecting the most vulnerable and building an equitable and fair society."
—Carbon Disclosure Project

More than 420 cities reported that 1,142 climate projects require financing, demanding an investment of $72 billion—which, CDP said, should be included in recovery plans as the world continues to face the coronavirus pandemic. 

"As the world seeks to recover from Covid-19, recovery funds and stimulus packages need to focus on a green and just recovery," the report reads. "There is an opportunity here for cities to access funding and to implement climate projects focused on increasing resilience, protecting the most vulnerable and building an equitable and fair society. If Covid-19 recovery is not sustainable and equitable, we risk locking cities into infrastructure that is not aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and a 1.5°C future."

According to The Guardian, Columbus, Ohio; Rio De Janeiro; and Southend-on-Sea, England are among the cities reporting budget constraints which have harmed their ability to prepare for the continued impacts of the climate emergency.

CDP global director Kyra Appleby noted that although 20% of cities surveyed said they face the risk of infectious diseases spreading, and linked the threat to the climate crisis—as several experts have—the need to ensure a green recovery appears to have eluded many policymakers.

"There are enormous benefits from adaptation and resilience, but they don't appear on the balance sheet," Appleby told The Guardian. "Only a fraction of recovery spending [from the coronavirus pandemic] is being put towards climate change, and even less towards adaptation."

Cities disclosing their environmental impacts and climate plans to CDP are "outperforming on urgently needed decarbonization compared to the global average," according to the organization, with 42% of their energy coming "from renewable sources compared to a 26% global average."

"To push their action further and faster," CDP said, "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%)."

According to the report, cities raised the greatest concerns about the climate emergency's effects on public health and water supply.

"Cities will require support from all levels of government, including partnerships with national governments to finance and achieve our global climate commitments," said Kelly Shultz, lead for sustainable cities at Bloomberg Philanthropies. 


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