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Three Keys for Protecting Mid-Sized Asian Cities

Today, many medium-sized Asian cities are struggling to meet important needs. Challenges like poor solid waste management, transit scarcity, and insufficient provision for water and sanitation have been exacerbated by accelerating climate change and an explosion in urban population growth—40 percent of Asia’s people live in urban areas, but that number will climb to 50 percent within the next decade.

Bangkok Underpass Bridge
Photo Credit: Patrick de Noirmont

Enter the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN). Launched in 2008 to help ten medium-sized cities strengthen their resilience to climate change impacts, the initiative has helped cities—and particularly their poor and vulnerable populations—survive, adapt and even thrive in the face of climate related disasters.

At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Community 2015 Forum, organized by the Human Development Forum Foundation, we shared experiences from our work, offering three essential keys for protecting mid-sized cities from the shocks and stresses of the 21st century:

1. Access to finance 

Funding of an estimated $100 billion globally per year—at least—are needed to adapt to climate change risks. Given the growing concentration of people and assets, it is essential that cities are able to access this support. One effort that we’ve supported as part of our plan to expand ACCCRN is the establishment of the Urban Climate Change Resilience Partnership, a $145 million grant facility hosted by the Asian Development Bank, which will provide funds for urban climate change resilience planning, project development and knowledge synthesis.

2. Capacity Building 

It is critical to provide resources that can help cities go through their own process of understanding risks, to strengthen the capacity to identify and implement appropriate measures. Through ACCCRN, a structured process of shared learning among a range of local stakeholders—including government, research institutions, private businesses, and civil society actors—helps generate a deeper understanding of how urbanization, climate change and vulnerability can shape their future. This has helped spur city resilience strategies with a set of clear, prioritized action areas.

3. Cross-sectoral collaboration 

Resilience building is not straightforward or linear. Because it depends on establishing critical interdependencies between systems, it requires cross-sectoral collaboration and information sharing. Urban climate change resilience requires investments of time and resources, not only in hard infrastructure, but also in coordination measures to ensure that information gets where it needs to go in order to enable timely decision making. This planning must include governments, policy experts, donors, development banks and the private sector.

Building urban climate change resilience plans that include these three pillars can provide a crucial entry point for cities to address the structural and systemic changes facing them in this new century. It provides a framework and a way forward to bring about the important transformations that Asian cities need.

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