A new World Bank study examines the inter linkages between climate change, disaster risk, and the urban poor. We spoke to Judy Baker, lead author of the study and lead economist at the World Bank Institute, Urban Practice Group.
Q: What are the main findings of the study?
JB: Poor people living in slums, are at particularly high risk from the impacts of climate change and natural hazards. They live on the most vulnerable lands within cities, typically areas where others do not want to live, and are thus affordable. This means that they are exposed to the impacts of landslides, sea-level rise, flooding, and other hazards. Exposure to risk is then exacerbated by overcrowding living conditions, lack of adequate infrastructure and services, unsafe housing, inadequate nutrition, and poor health. These conditions can turn a natural hazard or change in climate into a disaster, and result in the loss of basic services, damage or destruction to homes, loss of livelihoods, malnutrition, disease, disability, and loss of life.
Q: What is the role of city governments in this context?
JB: City governments are the drivers for addressing risks. Local governments play a vital role in financing and managing basic infrastructure and service delivery for all urban residents. Basic services are the first line of defense against the impacts of climate change and natural hazards. Cities can build resilience by mainstreaming risk reduction into urban management. Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction can be best addressed and sustained over time through integration with existing urban planning and management practices.
It is also important that local governments and communities work together on local solutions. There are a number of successful partnerships between communities and local governments on basic services. For example, initiatives in Iliolo, Philippines and Quelimane City, Mozambique demonstrate effective community mapping and partnerships for effective service
Q: What are the biggest challenges that cities face to make this happen?
JB: Cities need significant financial support. Local governments need to leverage existing and new resources to meet the shortfalls to address climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Cities need financing for risk assessments, urban infrastructure, basic services for the urban poor, capacity building, and tools for integrating climate change and disaster risk management into urban planning. This will require bringing together existing resources and drawing on new and innovative instruments.
Q: What is the role of the World Bank Institute to help cities which deal with issues of climate change and disaster risk?
JB: Investments in building capacity for better urban planning and management can strengthen the resilience of cities. That’s where WBI comes in. There is a new Safe and Reslient Cities Program, which offers a set of capacity building measures: from training to mentoring towards Resilience Action Planning, to practitioners exchange and specific actions in the Regions. We want to make sure that these examples are spread and help connecting those who look for solutions with those who have already found them. Check out our new e-learning course for city officials on Safe and Resilient Cities, urban vulnerability and risk assessment to build climate resilience. It will be piloted through the UN ISDR’s Making Resilient Cities campaign over the summer.
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