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Climate Hotspots: World Bank Climate Action Plan Supports Cities, Urban Poor


  • 75% of all large cities are located on coasts, putting most cities at risk of flooding from rising sea levels and powerful storms.

  • In most countries, the urban poor have a higher exposure to flood risk than the average urban population.

  • The World Bank’s new Climate Action Plan helps cities adapt to and mitigate the effects of severe weather and storms, increasing climate-related lending and assistance to the urban poor.

Cities are hotspots for global emissions and climate vulnerability, so it’s no wonder they are pushing for action on climate change. Nowhere was that more evident than at COP21 in Paris, where 451 cities – representing over 1 billion people – pledged to reduce emissions by more than 50% over 15 years.

At the Climate Action Summit held in Washington, DC, last week, leaders from around the world gathered to advance concrete actions that will make the historic Paris agreement a reality.

The World Bank’s recently released Climate Action Plan aims to help developing countries deliver on their national climate plans submitted for the historic climate agreement. The plan sets ambitious targets over the next five years, including support for resilient, inclusive, and sustainable cities.

“Cities are on the front lines of climate change,” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director for the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. “Cities are responsible for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions and bear up to 80% of climate adaptation costs. We’re working to help countries increase renewable energy, decrease high-carbon sources, develop green transport systems, and build sustainable, livable cities for growing urban populations.”

" Cities are on the front lines of climate change. They are responsible for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions and bear up to 80% of climate adaptation costs. "

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

Senior Director, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, World Bank

In the report Shock Waves, the World Bank found that it’s the poorest people who are more exposed than the average population to climate-related shocks, such as floods and other extreme weather events. In cities, where approximately one billion people live in slums, the risks associated with climate-induced weather are further magnified, since the urban poor are more likely to live in unstable structures in densely populated areas along river banks or coasts, on hillsides and slopes prone to landslides, or near polluted grounds.

The Action Plan aims to increase the World Bank’s climate financing to potentially $29 billion annually by 2020, with the support of its members. The Global Practice for Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience, which houses the Bank’s experts on disaster risk management issues, is supporting governments in their efforts to increase resilience, as well as working towards efficient, low-carbon cities.

“We’re increasing our efforts to improve the resilience of the urban poor, strengthening social safety nets, and delivering climate-specific measures – such as upgraded flood management and early warning systems – to help cities cope with the dynamics of a changing climate,” said Bernice Van Bronkhorst, disaster risk and climate change Practice Manager for the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. “But also beyond urban areas, we are committed to providing support for the poor – those without access to basic infrastructure services and social protection – who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”

Examples of the urban and social development commitments to the Climate Action Plan include:

  • Partnering with the World Meteorological Organization, the World Bank’sHydromet Program has already helped modernize weather services in countries around the world. By 2020, an additional 100 million people in 15 developing countries will have access to high-quality climate data and early warning systems.

  • The Cities Resilience Program is developing and piloting approaches to build city-based resilience in 15 cities by 2020. It is taking a comprehensive look at the complex web of urban infrastructure – such transport, energy, health, and waste management – to identify critical gaps and develop innovative financing solutions to support low-carbon infrastructure development.

  • The Global Platform for Sustainable Cities will support cities directly by developing tools and knowledge products in at least 30 cities by 2020.

  • Adaptive social protection programs using social safety nets will improve the ability of the very poor and highly vulnerable to cope with and recover from natural and climate-induced disasters. By 2020, the Bank aims to increase these services to cover an additional 50 million people.

  • Expanding Community Driven-Development (CDD) approaches strengthens resilience and recovery at the local level. As previous projects have demonstrated, communities are well-equipped to identify risks, and recommend and implement appropriate solutions in partnership with local governments and other supportive institutions when given the opportunity, access to information, capacity and financial support. By 2020, resilience investments will be integrated into seven CDD country programs.

  • Scaling up disaster risk financing to help countries access climate finance. For example, the World Bank's City Creditworthiness Initiative helps cities improve their financial performance and secure the private investment they need to fund climate-smart infrastructure and services. In 2014 alone, World Bank projects helped more than 12 countries improve their financial resilience, and the Action Plan aims to ensure that, by 2020, five more countries are covered by financial protection instruments like insurance, risk pools and contingent finance.

  • Developing and piloting solution packages for transit-oriented development in at least 5 cities by 2020.

  • Developing specific strategies and program for extremely vulnerable locations and populations, like small island states and migrants and refugees. The World Bank will scale up the Small Island States Initiative, and produce a flagship report on climate change and conflict/migration.

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