Intermediary Cities and Climate Change

An Opportunity for Sustainable Development

image of Intermediary Cities and Climate Change

The consequences of climate change in developing countries are worsening fast: many ecosystems will shortly reach points of irreversible damage, and socio-economic costs will continue to rise. To alleviate the future impacts on populations and economies, policy makers are looking for the spaces where they can make the greatest difference. This report argues that intermediary cities in developing countries are such spaces. Indeed, in the context of fast population growth and urbanisation, these small and medium-sized cities silently play an essential role in the rapid transformation of human settlements, not least by supporting the massive flows of population, goods and services between rural and metropolitan areas. Most of those intermediary cities are still growing: now is therefore the time to influence their dynamics, and thereby the entire design of urbanisation in those regions, in ways that limit the exposure of urban dwellers to climate shocks and avoid carbon lock-in. To that end, based on fresh evidence and policy analysis on the challenges faced by these agglomerations in the context of climate change, the report makes the case for new development approaches to avoid the unsustainable paths followed by too many cities in the recent past.


Executive summary

Intermediary cities provide an unprecedented opportunity for advancing with climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. Increasing evidence, including the latest assessment of the International Panel on Climate Change, reaffirms that global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are not decreasing at the expected pace. The world is thus reaching a tipping point that could lead to irreversible damage to ecosystems and our societies. In parallel, intermediary cities in developing countries are transforming. Many are rapidly expanding, sometimes outpacing the capacity of governments to reduce vulnerability to climate shocks, invest in low-carbon infrastructure and establish plans, mechanisms and institutions that limit climate-risks and GHG emissions. If adequate actions take place now, many of these small and medium-sized cities can experience a green transition by design, i.e. they can be planned and organised to grow in a sustainable way that avoids the “grow now, clean later” strategy followed by many larger cities.

English Also available in: Italian

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