The effects of urbanization and climate change are converging in dangerous ways. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052, and approximately 3°C in 2100 based on current national government commitments. This will have disastrous impacts on cities.

The challenge

Urban areas are major contributors to climate change, accounting for 71 to 76 per cent of CO2 emissions from global final energy use, and represent high concentrations of financial, infrastructure and human assets and activities that are vulnerable to climate change impacts. In the coming decades, hundreds of millions of people in urban areas are likely to be affected by rising sea levels, increased precipitation, inland floods, more frequent and stronger cyclones and storms, and periods of more extreme heat and cold.

In fact, many major coastal cities with populations of more than 10 million people are already under threat as over 90% of urban areas are coastal. Climate change may also negatively impact infrastructure and worsen access to basic urban services and quality of life in cities. In addition, most of the vital economic and social infrastructure, government facilities, and assets are located in cities. The most affected populations are the urban poor – i.e. slum dwellers in developing countries – who tend to live along river banks, on hillsides and slopes prone to landslides, near polluted grounds, on decertified land, in unstable structures vulnerable to earthquakes, and along waterfronts in coastal areas. The urban poor is indeed increasingly vulnerable: more than 1 billion people live in slums and informal settlements and are highly vulnerable to climate change.

Despite these risks, many cities have not yet addressed climate change. The reasons include a lack of relevant city policies and action plans; existence of regulations on urban planning and environment which have not been adjusted to manage climate change; slow response to climate disasters due to lack of capacity and resources; and lack of public awareness on climate variability and climate change-induced hazard mitigation.


Using the City Resilience Profiling Tool
139 cities
in 27 countries have measured and strengthened their resilience to multi-hazard impacts, including those associated with climate change.
More than
10,000 cities
joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, making it the world’s largest network of cities committed to climate action.
Thanks to
22.2 million
USD worth of investments for expanding access to urban basic services, countries like Lao PDR have received support to catalyze climate change preventive decentralized wastewater systems.

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Related Sustainable Development Goals

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Leaving no one and no place behind

Hover over or click the icons to learn about UN-Habitat's work on social inclusion here.

City dwellers are increasingly feeling the impacts of climate change on their enjoyment of human rights, from loss of human life from climate-related disasters, to threats to food security and access to clean water. Even if the scale and urgency of climate change requires bold action, UN-Habitat makes sure that human rights are at the core of strategies, policies and projects.

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Gender equality is critical to the fight against climate change. In particular, women experience barriers that restrict their ability to take an active seat at the table in climate change negotiations and policy planning, further limiting their opportunities when it comes to mitigating, adapting, and coping with the effects of climate change. UN-Habitat recognizes women as vital agents of change and makes sure their needs and their contributions are part of the solution.

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Children and the elderly are most exposed to the effect of the impact of climate change because of their increased risk of health problems, malnutrition and migration in cities around the world. UN-Habitat addresses their needs in adaptation and resilience projects.  

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With greater vulnerability during storms, floods and extreme heat and the complex challenges of relocation and forced migration, climate disruptions are harder for people with disabilities.  UN-Habitat looks at each specific climate change impact to be addressed for the different categories of people with disabilities.

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Donors and partners

UN-Habitat works with international climate bodies and global city networks to influence climate policy and action, promoting the role of cities and human settlements in mitigation and adaptation. At the national level, UN-Habitat brings together all levels of climate action (national, regional, local) towards achieving common climate related goals. Multi-level governance from city to country level helps bring different actors to agree on plans, policies, strategies and implementation to address climate change challenges, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate resilience. UN-Habitat also works with networks of urban and regional planning professionals to help develop climate-proof planning practices, and communities to address the multiple effects of climate change in strategies and actions for low income and informal settlements.