Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.
According to a new report, governments in Latin American and Canada are doing the most, American cities come in dead last.
Cities around the world are creating plans to deal with our changing climate. But it's not the richest or largest urban governments taking the lead.
The cities taking the most proactive approach to climate change are those in regions most vulnerable to its risks, according to a new report [PDF] out from ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Climate change planning is most prevalent in places where natural disasters have been increasing and where wide temperature and rainfall variability is creating very noticeable effects on the environment. Most of these cities tend to be in Latin America.
95 percent of major Latin American cities are actively planning for climate change, according to the report.
"One feature that is central to Latin American cities is that they see strong links between climate adaptation and economic development, housing, migration and public health," notes the report.
Canadian cities are also preparing themselves, with 92 percent of its major cities currently undertaking adaptation planning efforts. Similar preparations are being made in 80 percent of African cities, 84 percent of European cities and 86 percent of cities in Australia and New Zealand. Asian cities are less involved, with 67 percent reporting climate adaptation planning. And at the bottom of the list is the U.S., where only about 59 percent of major cities are actively preparing for the impacts of climate change.
468 global cities participated in the survey. Of those, 372 cities, or 79 percent, have reported noticeable environmental changes attributable to climate change over the last five years, such as sea level rise, increased or decreased rainfall and extreme temperature swings. Two thirds of cities surveyed either have or are in the process of creating climate action plans. About one-fifth of cities have completed a climate impact assessment, and another fifth are currently conducting one.
Cities have long been the leaders on such climate adaptation – mostly because national leadership has been lacking. The report notes that only 7 percent of responding cities believe their national governments "fully understand the realities of adaptation planning at the local level."
Climate plans, however, don't necessarily mean climate action, as we reported recently in this article about how there's been no causal link found between carbon emissions reductions and climate action plans in California cities. Emissions have been going down in many of these cities, though – mainly because of the actions of environmentally conscious residents.
Residents and local officials worried about the impacts of climate change are also behind many of the climate adaptation plans in cities all over the world. Their interest may be the best asset they have, because as survey respondents noted, the number one challenge facing cities as they pursue climate adaptation plans is securing the funding to put these plans in place.
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