Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta top list of Asian cities facing brutal climate future

Posted on 12 November 2009

Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta are topping a WWF ranking of the climate vulnerability of 11 major cities in Asia.
Hong Kong – Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta are topping a WWF ranking of the climate vulnerability of 11 major cities in Asia.

As Heads of States gather in Singapore for the APEC summit, WWF says that developed and developing countries must cooperate to prepare these cities for a brutal climate future, highlighting that their vulnerability is yet another compelling reason for a fair, ambitious and binding deal at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December.

According to Mega-Stress For Mega-Cities, many of the cities analyzed are extremely exposed to threats such as storms and flooding, while huge numbers of people and assets at stake result in worrying levels of socio-economic sensitivity. At the same time, the cities often lack capacity to protect themselves from devastating impacts.

“Climate change is already shattering cities across developing Asia and will be even more brutal in the future”, said Kim Carstensen, Leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative. “These cities are vulnerable and need urgent help to adapt, in order to protect the lives of millions of citizens, a massive amount of assets, and their large contributions to the national GDP.”

“The APEC summit this week in Singapore provides an opportunity to exploit the true win-win potential offered by low carbon growth strategies for countries in the Asia Pacific region, with benefits for both the economy and the climate.”

The WWF report covers 11 urban centers across Asia, all located in coastal areas or river deltas. Following Dhaka (9 out of 10 possible vulnerability points), other cities at high risk are Manila and Jakarta (8 each), Calcutta and Phnom Penh (7 each), Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai (6 each), Bangkok (5), and Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore (4 each).

“Asia is urbanizing rapidly, and we can be certain that urban areas will be crucial battlegrounds in the fight against climate change”, said Carstensen.

“Cities are responsible for most of the world’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, but they are also pioneers when it comes to developing innovative solutions. We can’t afford to surrender them to climate change. Instead, we must empower them to become change agents and protect both rural and urban areas from devastating impacts.”

The report also includes rankings for sub-categories such as environmental exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Poorer cities often lack sufficient adaptive capacity and generally rank higher in terms of their overall vulnerability.

“Leaders in hotspots of danger like Dhaka, Manila or Jakarta need urgent support from their counterparts in the industrialized world. Effective near-term and long-term adaptation will depend on financial support, technology cooperation, and capacity building”, said Carstensen.

According to WWF, this week’s APEC summit in Singapore provides leaders from developed and developing countries around the Pacific with a great opportunity to boost cooperation on adaptation to climate impacts as well as low carbon economic growth.

“Now we are only a couple of weeks away from the Copenhagen Climate Summit, but so far leaders have failed to clear the way for success next month in Denmark”, said Carstensen.

“APEC is the last chance before Copenhagen for leaders from a number of key countries to show that they really want to protect the planet from climate change.”

For further information:

Christian Teriete, WWF Global Climate Initiative, email: cteriete@wwf.org.hk, phone: +852-2864-1412, mobile: +852-9310-6805

Phil Dickie, WWF International Media Relations, email: pdickie@wwfint.org, phone: +41-22-364-9562, mobile: +41-79-703-1952

Notes to editors:

An EMBARGOED copy of the full report Mega-Stress for Mega-Cities can be downloaded from: http://assets.panda.org/downloads/mega_cities_report.pdf

A separate Executive Summary with raking tables covering the overall vulnerability and the sub-categories is available at: http://assets.panda.org/downloads/mega_cities_executive_summary.pdf

In the report, the overall climate vulnerability of a city is a combination of its environmental exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Assessing these sub-categories, the report reveals that Manila’s 11.5 million people are most exposed to impacts such as storm threats, sea-level rise and water stress from droughts or flooding – followed by Dhaka (13 million), Ho Chi Minh City (9 million) and Shanghai (20 million). Analyzing the level of socio-economic sensitivity, the report shows the highest rating for Jakarta, Shanghai and Dhaka, based on the numbers of citizens, the cities’ wealth and their contributions to national GDP. With respect to adaptive capacity, Dhaka and Phnom Penh are identified as the least prepared cities, followed by Calcutta, Jakarta and Manila. Hong Kong and Singapore, in contrast, have the highest capacity to adapt.

More on WWF’s climate work and the latest news on the APEC Summit and the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December can be found at: http://www.panda.org/climate

About WWF:

WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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Massive flooding in China in 2007 affected nearly 20 per cent of the country’s 1.3 billion population.
According to the Times Online, the 2007 floods in China "have affected nearly 20 per cent of the country’s 1.3 billion population. The economic losses are estimated officially to be 52.5 billion yuan." Dong Wenjie, director-general of the Beijing Climate Centre, said in an interview on the centre’s website: “The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are increasing – records for worst-in-a-century rainstorms, droughts and heatwaves are being broken more often. This in fact is closely associated with global warming.”
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