URGENT: How to Build Resilient Cities in an Era of Climate Change

Flooding, coastal erosion, drought, storms — Asian cities are striving to cope with the increased pressures brought on by climate change. Even as they face these challenges, more and more people are moving into urban centers that are aging, fragile, and under increasing pressure. To help Asian cities prepare for these upcoming problems, The Rockefeller Foundation launched the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) to equip communities with the resources they'll need. (See Rockefeller Foundation: Grants for Climate Change.)

The Rockefeller Foundation has funded numerous projects through ACCCRN — mainly for improving urban climate resilience in Thailand, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia. ACCCRN itself started in 2008 with $9 million as a nine-year initiative to catalyze funding and action in Asian cities. The initiative has three main goals: 1) building capacity, 2) disseminating knowledge, and 3) encouraging support from funders and policymakers. In particular, the initiative hopes to help poor and vulnerable communities successfully respond to problems brought on by climate change. (Read ACCCRN Senior Associate Director Anna Brown's IP profile.)

The issues that Asian cities face often revolve around water, energy, health, and transportation. Changing climate patterns can alter water sources, leading to seawater intrusion, flooding, and drought. Energy systems reliant on hydroelectric power may be affected. Heat waves may lead to blackouts as power grids fail to cope with sudden increases in air-conditioning use. Health may be affected as extreme weather events such as typhoons and floods cause injuries. Disrupted water and food supplies can also affect nutrition. Finally, changing weather can flood highways, damage infrastructure, and inhibit transportation. Climate change will have numerous effects on communities worldwide and will call for numerous solutions.

The Rockefeller Foundation has funded a variety of grants through ACCCRN, ranging in size and purpose. Grants as small as $25,000 have been given to the International Institute for Environment and Development to fund participation in adaptation conferences. Meanwhile, the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition received more than $1.5 million in 2013 to scale up resilience practices in Vietnam. Other projects have focused on outreach to local communities and national stakeholders, pilot projects to develop new adaptation approaches, the provision of technical assistance, and the production of synthesis papers.

ACCCRN was planned as a nine-year initiative, and those nine years aren't over yet. The Rockefeller Foundation also appears committed to helping Asian cities build their resilience to climate change going forward. So far, ACCCRN projects have been diverse, seeking a range of solutions to the problems brought on by climate change.