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Research Report

Towards pro-poor adaptation to climate change in the urban centres of low- and middle-income countries

Caroline Moser
David Satterthwaite
Copyright Date: Oct. 1, 2008
Pages: 50
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)
    Caroline Moser and David Satterthwaite

    To date, the need to begin addressing climate-change risk in the urban areas of low- and middle-income countries is not fully appreciated by most governments and the majority of development and disaster specialists. Low- and middle-income countries not only have close to three-quarters of the world’s urban population (United Nations, 2008), they also have most of the urban population at greatest risk from the increased intensity and/or frequency of storms, flooding, landslides and heatwaves and constraints on fresh water that climate change is bringing or will bring (Wilbanks, Romero-Lankao et al. 2007; Satterthwaite et al. 2007). Since 1950, there has...

  2. (pp. 2-5)

    Table 1 summarizes the main manifestations and likely impacts of climate change in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, as identified by the IPCC. These include increased frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events including heatwaves, heavy precipitation events and intense tropical cyclones. These events have long been among the most common causes of disasters, independent of climate change. But there is a clear upward trend in the frequency of disasters from 1950 to 2005, and especially from 1980 (UN-Habitat 2007), and most of this upward trend is due to extreme-weather-related events (Hoeppe and Gurenko 2007). Of any...

  3. (pp. 5-8)

    A social development perspective on urban climate-change adaptation focuses on both the risks and the impacts of such changes on the poor, excluded and marginal populations living in urban areas. Recognition that poor populations are particularly vulnerable to climate change in terms of individual lives, but also in relation to their household and community assets, makes it useful to draw on earlier conceptual and operational frameworks on poverty, vulnerability and assets (Moser 1998; 2007; 2008), and to modify these to address the particular problems associated with climate change.

    Analysis of the risks arising from climate change to low-income urban households...

  4. (pp. 8-12)

    Hazards created or magnified by climate change combine with vulnerabilities to produce impacts on the urban poor’s human capital (health) and physical capital (housing and capital goods) and their capacity to generate financial and productive assets. Some impacts are direct, such as more frequent and more intense floods. Those that are less direct include reduced availability of freshwater supplies. Finally, others that are indirect for urban populations include constraints on agriculture and thus on food supplies and increased prices that are likely in many places.

    There is also considerable variation in levels of vulnerability to climate change within low-income populations,...

  5. (pp. 13-16)

    The quality of government, both at national level and, as crucially, at local (district or municipal) level, influences the levels of risk from climate change, especially for those with limited incomes and assets.

    Risk levels will be much influenced by:

    the quality of provision for infrastructure for all areas (that limit risks of flooding for the whole city area, not just the wealthier areas) and land-use management (to limit or make more resilient buildings and settlements in high-risk areas);

    good disaster-preparedness (including warnings, measures taken to limit damage and, if needed, provision to help people move to safer areas quickly);...

  6. (pp. 16-27)

    The responses of individuals, households and communities to the increased risks that climate change brings to urban areas (and rural areas) have greater importance in low- and middle-income nations than in high-income nations. In part, this is because, in many locations in low- and middle-income nations, risks are higher. But more importantly, in most instances, the web of institutions, infrastructure and regulations provided by government that is the core of protection and adaptation capacity in high-income nations is absent or only partially present in other nations.

    If most city or municipal governments have proved unable or unwilling to provide the...

  7. (pp. 27-33)

    Previous sections have emphasized the need for household- and community-based initiatives for adaptation to climate change, illustrated with a discussion of asset-based adaptation strategies for floods and storms. They also noted the critical interventions for climate-change adaptation that go beyond the scope, capability and financial budgets of households and communities, and discussed how the effectiveness of community-based and local-government-directed adaptation measures are often much enhanced if they work together. This section considers the potential role of local and national governments and international agencies in supporting household- and community-based adaptation.

    Section 5 discussed the important roles that city and municipal governments...

  8. (pp. 33-33)

    This paper identifies the ways in which climate-change adaptation provides the rationale for far stronger linkages between social development and the urban sector. It shows how climate-change adaptation will affect ‘traditional’ urban physical infrastructure concerns such as housing, water, sanitation, roads and drainage. At the same time it identifies the crucial roles and responsibilities that individuals, households and communities adopt in their own adaptation processes, independent of government. Supporting such communities, and their contestation and collaboration with local institutions such as municipal governments, will be essential if climate-change adaptation is to move beyond its identification as a ‘technical’ domain, towards...