By Christian Aid, May 2016
More than a billion people across the world are living in cities seriously threatened by climate change. These are coastal cities, and most are already experiencing increased flooding, extreme weather and storm surges.
In the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
has given a timely reminder that every $1 spent on reducing the risks from disasters now will save around $7 of damages later.1 It’s essential that we act urgently to prevent the suffering of millions of poor and vulnerable people.
Mega-cities such as Kolkata, Lagos and Dhaka are already facing serious climate threats,
and there are hundreds of smaller cities at risk across Asia, Africa and South America.
Although US and Chinese coastal cities will face the biggest financial losses, it’s the
poorest urban dwellers who have the most to lose.
For people already living in severe hardship, it may be almost impossible to recover from
such disasters without significant help. With the number of urban poor predicted to swell in coming decades, this is a humanitarian crisis waiting to happen.
The good news is that improvements in science make the impacts of climate change
increasingly predictable. It is possible to put measures in place now to identify the most
vulnerable people and places and minimise the impacts.
The first action has to be to reduce carbon emissions rapidly and limit temperature
increase by encouraging a shift in investment from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources. Next is to help vulnerable communities survive and thrive, by better protecting their homes and livelihoods. Finally, is to put in place agreed, international systems that support communities to recover from ultimate loss and damage caused by devastating storms and floods.