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Adaptation responses to climate change differ between global megacities


Urban areas are increasingly at risk from climate change, with negative impacts predicted for human health, the economy and ecosystems1,2. These risks require responses from cities to improve their resilience. Policymakers need to understand current adaptation spend to plan comprehensively and effectively. Through the measurement of spend in the newly defined ‘adaptation economy’, we analyse current climate change adaptation efforts in ten megacities. In all cases, the adaptation economy remains a small part of the overall economy, representing a maximum of 0.33% of a city’s gross domestic product (here referred to as GDPc). Differences in total spend are significant between cities in developed, emerging and developing countries, ranging from £15 million to £1,600 million. Comparing key subsectors, we demonstrate the differences in adaptation profiles. Developing cities have higher proportional spend on health and agriculture, whereas developed cities have higher spend on energy and water. Spend per capita and percentage of GDPc comparisons more clearly show disparities between cities. Developing country cities spend half the proportion of GDPc and significantly less per capita, suggesting that adaptation spend is driven by wealth rather than the number of vulnerable people. This indicates that current adaptation activities are insufficient in major population centres in developing and emerging economies.

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Figure 1: Megacity spend on adaptation and resilience to climate change in 2014/15.
Figure 2: Breakdown of spend on adaptation and resilience to climate change in 2014/15 by subsector (%).
Figure 3: Spend on disaster preparedness in relation to climate change for 2014/15 (£million).


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The authors would like to thank S. Smith (Department of Economics, University College London) for detailed comments and suggestions on the study, and the London Climate Change Partnership, W. Distaso (Imperial College London), Ricardo-AEA, the Greater London Authority, Defra, Triple E Consulting, S. Surminski (London School of Economics), and A. Townsend (Climate Change Committee) for their input in developing the definition of climate change adaptation activities. We would like to thank the following organizations for financially supporting this project: L.G.; ESRC and NERC (grant number ES/J500185/1), M.M.; Royal Society Industrial Fellowship, M.P. and S.H.; GLA, Defra and BIS.

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L.G. and M.M. conceived and wrote the paper, M.P. and S.H. provided the unique data and contributed to the analysis and interpretations.

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Correspondence to Lucien Georgeson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Georgeson, L., Maslin, M., Poessinouw, M. et al. Adaptation responses to climate change differ between global megacities. Nature Clim Change 6, 584–588 (2016).

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