Credit East Africa Trade and Investment Hub Nairobi Business Commercial District, seen from Kenyatta International Conference Center.


Cities around the world are facing daunting challenges from more frequent and intense weather events and a more variable climate. As populations and city boundaries grow, these changes in climate will make it more difficult for cities to provide reliable services and adequate infrastructure to residents. For example, an estimated $158 trillion in assets—double the world’s annual productive output—is at risk of being damaged or destroyed by 2050 from extreme storms, floods, fires, and droughts. But as centers of economic activity, civic engagement and political will, cities are well positioned to proactively manage risks and increase the positive impact of urbanization on national economies.

Cities also have a large role to play in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings are responsible for approximately 40 percent of urban emissions. Many cities can drastically reduce emissions by improving the efficiency of building heating, cooling, and lighting systems.

City landfills release methane, a greenhouse gas many times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Improvements in waste management can cut emissions by as much as 15 percent, up to 20 percent if overall waste reduction measures are also included.

Many cities are dependent on infrastructure and the services that it provides. This makes city dwellers vulnerable to a loss of those services, which include transportation, water and wastewater, electricity, and others. Extreme heat is another concern in cities, many of which are already experiencing urban heat islands. Climate change will result in more intense summer temperatures and more frequent heat waves, putting urban populations at risk. And because many cities are located in coastal zones, they will be at higher risk of damage from flooding and coastal storm surge.

Traffic congestion generates significant urban emissions, and creates an opportunity to reduce those emissions. Encouraging people to shift away from using private, combustion engine vehicles to using mass transit, walking, and biking can reduce emissions by upwards of 20 percent, as well as improving air quality and public health.

Ensuring that cities can run on clean, low-carbon power sources is also essential. Many cities could achieve a grid mix of up to 70 percent renewables by 2030, which would reduce their emissions by at least a third.


Upcoming Events

View All Events about
USAID’s work across numerous sectors helps countries achieve ambitious climate targets and aids in building the foundation for sustainable growth through natural climate solutions.
In July, Climatelinks explored the important health and climate impacts of air pollution. As the world’s largest environmental health risk, air pollution contributes to approximately 6.7 million premature deaths each year. This is a significant development challenge, as low and middle income countries are at the highest risk for the greatest health burdens from poor air quality.
In the Philippines, women are leading the way in reducing plastic waste pollution by creating circular economies where waste is used and reused as a resource. This also offsets climate change-fueling emissions.