Cities and Urbanization

Cities are vulnerable to the effects of climate change — and key to the solution

Developing our cities in a sustainable way can aid in the fight against climate change.

Developing our cities in a sustainable way can aid in the fight against climate change. Image: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Kristy Henrich Klein
Specialist, Urban Transformation, World Economic Forum
Sharon Lai
Lead, Downtown Revitalization, Urban Transformation, World Economic Forum
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Cities and Urbanization

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Leaders at the 54th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting brought forward sobering realities on the global impacts of climate change.
  • Cities are on the frontline of this challenge, but also serve as incubators and accelerators of solutions.
  • Public, private and civil society leaders shared insights and offered concrete guidance for how to create livable, thriving places.

Leaders at the 54th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting presented sobering realities on the global impacts of extreme climate events, economic uncertainty and managing pressures for land development.

As these global challenges increase, cities are on the frontline of disruptions — but they also serve as incubators and accelerators of new solutions.

In Davos, public, private and civil society leaders shared insights and offered concrete guidance for how to achieve progress as we strive to create liveable, thriving places. Here are just some of the key messages.

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Urban solutions to extreme weather

Using maps and visualizations, Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science at the Harvard University, showed how natural disasters, floods, wildfires and other extreme weather events from climate change disrupt lives and livelihoods, and reverse conservation and economic progress.

“So much of our infrastructure has been built to withstand a range of conditions. When that range of conditions is exceeded – as is now happening because of these extreme weather events – people are extremely vulnerable. This is happening across the globe.”

Naomi Oreskes, Professor of the History of Science, Harvard University

While new technologies to predict and address climate disasters earlier can support progress, collective action will be our most powerful ally. Public and private collaboration can accelerate the progress toward a climate-resilient future in cities.

Managing land use for resilience

The stability and resilience of communities not only depends on mitigating and adapting to a changing climate but also the sustainable and equitable management of land resources at a local level, especially given the competing demands on land for food, fuel and economic opportunity.

Ilona Szabó de Carvalho, President of the Igarapé Institute, highlighted the complexities of deforestation in the Amazon basin, home to 30 million people. A small portion deforestation each year happens for profit, according to Szabó de Carvalho, while most happens for survival. She highlighted the imperative for leaders to offer jobs and livelihoods in local communities.

Responsible land management rests with the private sector, too. Michael Gelchie, Chief Executive Officer of Louis Dreyfus Company, spoke about his company’s transition to regenerative agriculture practices, demands from consumers and responsible supply chains.

Breaking the permit deadlock for green infrastrucutre

How can we say yes to the right energy, housing, high speed rail and other infrastructure projects to support the development of more prosperous, resilient and sustainable communities worldwide?

Panelists from Hong Kong, Turkey, Canada and the US offered insights from their expertise advancing developments in cities around the globe bringing together public, private and community stakeholders – the “public-private-people partnership model.”

The private sector has an ability to execute. What we need from government is support in the permission phase.

Ebru Özdemir, Chairperson of the Board, Limak Holding

Tiya Gordon, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of itselectric, echoed this sentiment, adding that funding is critical to advance the adoption of EV infrastructure for electrification goals in urban communities.

Land continues to be under global pressure, from climate change to housing and infrastructure development needs. Cities offer hope for progress as they tackle our world’s greatest crises each day with on-the-ground solutions.

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Cities and UrbanizationDavos Agenda
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