Securing investment to prepare and protect cities from the adverse effects of climate change has become one of the most urgent challenges for mayors around the world. In fact, 70% of C40 cities report that they are experiencing the effects of climate change. As major economic hubs and highly dense living spaces, the impact of natural disasters on cities can be severe; for example, the economic cost to New York City of Hurricane Sandy is estimated to have reached $19bn.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is just one of many mayors helping ensure his city is able to adapt to the impacts of climate change, as well as mitigate its effects.   

“Cities are continuing to set the pace on climate action”, said Mayor de Blasio. “New York City is investing over $20 billion in a multilayered adaptation and resiliency program that is well underway, strengthening coastal defenses, upgrading buildings, protecting infrastructure and critical services, and improving the vibrancy and resiliency of our homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. At the same time, we’re investing billions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Despite the huge need, it too often remains difficult for cities to access the finance and support they need. Just 3% of global climate finance is spent on adapting cities to makes them safe and resilient to future shocks. A recent study by Professor Mark Maslin and Doctoral Researcher Lucien Georgeson from University College London and Martyn Poessinouw and Steve Howard from the data analytics firm kMatrix in the journal Nature analysed the adaptation economies of ten C40 cities. They found significant disparities between the financially tracked investments for adaptation between New York and Beijing and other cities such as Jakarta, Lagos or Addis Ababa, which have not been able to invest in adaptation as much as they would have liked to. 

At a recent urban resilience panel, Deriba Kuma, Mayor of Addis Ababa, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, said:

"Delivering basic services like water supply, sanitation and housing is not an easy task. There aren't enough financing mechanisms that are accessible to African cities like Addis Ababa. We need heavy investments in climate change adaptation to make this city resilient and more liveable to its residents."

Larry Susskind from MIT has also cautioned that the money invested in a certain city does not necessarily align with the most urgent risks that need to be addressed.

“Coastal cities face very different risks from inland cities. Riverine cities face very different climate-related risks than cities that have no rivers. What we really want to know is whether each city has developed down-scaled climate risk assessments and what these say.”

It is therefore not only essential to invest in adaptation but also to champion climate change risk assessments, a crucial first step to good adaptation investment. Just 50% of C40 cities currently have risk assessments in place and a key priority for the years ahead will be to support all C40 member cities to carry out this crucial process.

In 2015 the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction released data showing 87% of disasters over the past decade were climate related. 2015 was also the Earth’s warmest year in 134 years of recorded history. There can be little doubt that in the years ahead the world’s megacities will face an ever-growing threat from floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

However, there are signs of hope that adaptation is becoming a greater priority for all of those concerned about climate change. The Paris Agreement recently signed by 175 countries, included a pledge to allocate a greater proportion of the $100 billion in climate finance to adaptation.


Today, C40 Executive Director Mark Watts addressed the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, to share the inspiring efforts of megacities around the world to tackle climate change. He also highlighted the support available to cities through the C40 network, including the Climate Risk and Adaptation Framework and Taxonomy (CRAFT), the C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF), and a new partnership with kMatrix that will analyze the green economies of seven cities in C40’s Green Growth Network.

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