Act now or pay later: protecting a billion people in climate-threatened coastal cities

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 report formulates several policy recommendations, including: Invest at least $1bn to protect the billion people. Putting vulnerable people at the heart of solutions by allocating 20% of humanitarian funding to go directly to national and local NGOs by 2020. Mobilize every effort to ratchet up the ambition on carbon reduction – setting higher goals for domestic emissions reduction and putting in place international support for developing and middle-income countries to take a low-carbon pathway. Establish an international mechanism on Loss and Damage to support the most vulnerable communities to move forward from devastating events.

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