Urban resilience: Helping vulnerable city dwellers adapt to climate change

March 06, 2018
Local representatives visit flooded home in Gbegbeyesi.
IDRC / Joan Baxter

As cities expand, climate change compounds the stress on poor communities that already struggle with unplanned growth and limited municipal services. Many of these areas — among the world’s most densely populated urban centres — face a range of climate-related risks, from flooding and droughts to saline (salt) contamination of groundwater and coastal storm surges.

To improve adaptation to global climate variabilities, a growing number of cities are attempting to understand the degrees of vulnerability of those living within urban areas and the role they can play in making their city more resilient.

How do we define “resilience”? For IDRC it means a city’s capacity to anticipate, adapt to, and persevere through diverse climate shocks and stresses. We’ve spent more than a decade working with urban communities to increase their resilience through practical, policy-relevant solutions. In that time, IDRC has supported more than 40 research projects in 42 countries that range from improving access to basic services to better climate risk-preparedness programs.

These initiatives have used a range of approaches, objectives, and conceptual frameworks to develop, study, and evaluate effective urban adaptation solutions. We recognized early on that a warming climate threatens not only the physical environment, but human development as well. The people bearing the heaviest burdens from climate-related impacts — including desertification, erosion, and rising sea levels — are often the poor and marginalized.

IDRC’s work in this area aims to:

  • Ensure that our research partners are engaging with the best international networks on urban climate resilience;
  • Secure partnerships to scale up our work on cities and climate change; and
  • Identify specific actions that cities can take to reduce climate risks and take advantage of opportunities.

Here are some examples of our current efforts to help developing countries adapt to climate change: