Bullish on the Resiliency of Emerging Economy Cities

Bullish on the Resiliency of Emerging Cities  

At NYC Climate Week, Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin and SwissRe  Chairman Philip Ryan agreed that cities in lower-income countries had bettered their developed peers in their pluck for climate resiliency.  “I’m bullish on the resiliency of emerging cities, which show no fear in taking on adaptive innovations and collaborations that are making them more resilient to current and future climate changes,” Rodin noted.


As Ryan pointed out, while there is “nothing more challenging” to his business than climate change, innovative public/private initiatives are poised to present innovative ways to manage just that.  And growing city populations in lower-income countries stand to gain a great deal from the leadership their cities are displaying in adopting cutting-edge solutions.


Many city-related institutions possess an unabashed focus on Adaptation.  The climate leadership group C40 Cities has introduced an adaptation initiative lead by Mandy Ikert, its director of Water and Adaptation. The Urban Sustainability Directors Network emphasizes climate adaptation and resilience. And don’t forget the impressive impact the Rockefeller Foundation has made by raising the adaptation question to thousands of cities, more than 800 of which already have applied to its “100 Resilient Cities Initiative.”

In itsWealthier, Healthier Cities” report, produced in partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project and C40, AECOM – the global provider of professional technical and management support services – suggests that climate adaptation is a competitive advantage. The report praises the impressive leadership that local governments have taken to spotlight the collateral benefits of climate adaptation for all sectors.

Of course, cities are hotbeds of competition. Management consultancy A.T. Kearney, which produces a resilient cities outlook every year, notes that New York, London, Paris and Tokyo remain today's leading cities. But an analysis of key trends in emerging cities suggests that Beijing and Shanghai may rival them in a decade or two.

Consider what’s happening in Quito, Ecuador.  Its climate-change strategy, formally approved four years ago (Oct. 2009), reflects the number of landslides, floods and droughts the steep-sloped Andean city of 2.1 million residents experience as well as the shrinking of the nearby Antisana glacier.  The push for the strategy actually began in 2007 when Quito hosted that year’s Clima Latino, a regional climate-change conference.

Quito’s strategy includes both mitigation and adaptation initiatives.  Its adaptation program centers on ecosystems and biodiversity; drinking water supplies; public health; infrastructure and power production; and climate risk management. The report draws on global climate models by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for impacts at similar altitudes and latitudes as Quito. The city has invested nearly $350 million so far in adaptation, using a blend of municipal dollars, international aid and philanthropic funding. In addition, Quito has moved climate adaption into the city’s main development agenda, report outside researchers.


While ND-GAIN ranks country level vulnerability and readiness, future plans include a downscaling of the Index, and cities may be our next target.

Like corporations, cities are adapting every day, and it is refreshing to know that cities in the developing world are reaping the rewards of nimble and innovative approaches to climate-change adaptation.  Their residents are fortunate to have the protection that this preparation affords. Why? Because although avoided costs are harder to quantify at a local level, the billions of dollars spent recovering from climate-related events worldwide serve as an important reminder of the need to act.