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Climate change and the urban poor: risk and resilience in 15 of the world's most vulnerable cities

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This report outlines lessons learnt regarding the principal effects of climate change on 15 cities in low-income countries, and what makes them vulnerable to these effects. It notes that coastal cities are mostly located in tropical areas with hot and humid climates and low-lying land. This makes them susceptible to a rise in sea level which aggravates coastal erosion, causing persistent flooding, loss of wetlands, increased salination of groundwater and soil, and an influx of diverse pollutants.Dryland cities, on the other hand, suffer from scarce water resources due to low rainfall and extended periods of climate change-induced drought. They are also prone to desertification and sandstorms which have severe effects on health and infrastructure, as well as provoking coastal erosion. The report argues that in dryland and other inland cities, the level of poverty, rapid urbanisation and lack of education about climate change increases vulnerability and aggravates the effects of climate change.The authors conclude that, in all the cities studied, the people most vulnerable to climate change are low-income residents of slums and squatter settlements. Because of their systematic exclusion from the formal economy of the city, their lack of basic services and entitlements and the impossibly high costs of entry into legal land and housing markets, most of the urban poor live in hazardous sites and are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.Innovative urban policies and practices have shown that adaptation to some of these effects is possible and can be built into development plans. These include community based initiatives led by organisations formed by the urban poor, and local governments working in partnership with their low-income populations.The report recommends that urban authorities and municipal governments take action to reduce the impact of climate change through their influence on regulatory frameworks, by way of the following:

engaging in detailed consultations with citizens and community organisations at early stage in the adaptation planning process
ensuring that infrastructure works for the poor by improving waste collection services from low-income communities and attending to poor drainage systems
supporting slum and squatter upgrading through properly constructed houses and the provision of basic services
facilitating household coping strategies through better sharing of forecasted information for extreme weather events and better provision of evacuation services
supporting sustainable livelihoods to enable households to invest in many protective measures for themselves
gathering information on the impacts of extreme events
making improvements in disaster preparation.