Cities at Risk


Cities at Risk: Building Adaptive Capacities for Managing Climate Change Risks in Asian Coastal Cities (CAR II)

Global environmental change, including climate change, is expected to exacerbate the risks and vulnerabilities inherent to the multistressor context of urban systems. Indeed, climate change will aggravate existing urban challenges and likely add layers of risk that will continue to threaten urban well-being and growth. Cities also offer opportunities, however—opportunities for innovative collaboration and policy responses to climate change. For these reasons, climate risk management and adaptation in urban areas, particularly in coastal cities at risk, is one of the fastest growing parts of START’s portfolio
in Asia and Africa.

Through its Cities at Risk initiative, START carries out a number of activities each year with the aim of enhancing adaptive capacities for managing and reducing risks and vulnerabilities brought on by the combined effects of climate change and rapid urban growth. In Asia, START convenes international conferences, organizes intensive training institutes, and supports city-specific research, communication, and outreach activities. These activities encourage coordinated action among scientists, policymakers, and the public and the integration of scientific information about vulnerabilities, impacts, and adaptation into planning and policy.

Cities at Risk Workshops

Cities at Risk I
26-28 February 2009, Bangkok, Thailand
With support from APN, ICSU and Ibaraki University (Japan) the first Cities at Risk workshop brought together nearly 80 scientists, urban planners and officials, and representatives of disaster management and development agencies to review scientific findings and projections regarding climate-related risks (e.g., sea level rise, extreme climate events, intensification of storms and storm surges) for Asia’s coastal megacities. Participants examined potential vulnerabilities and current coping mechanisms in the cities and then discussed actions, in both the short and long term, that would enhance the capacity of cities to manage the risks and vulnerabilities posed by climate change.

Cities at Risk II
11-13 April 2011, Taipei, Taiwan
With support from the Academy of Sciences located in Taipei, Taiwan and other partners, a second international conference – Cities at Risk: Building Adaptive Capacities for Managing Climate Change Risks in Asian Coastal Cities (CAR II) – was held. The conference aimed to assess progress, to consolidate a network of researchers, decision‐makers and institutions in the region and to identify priorities for the next several years. CAR II was sponsored by the IRDR International Center of Excellence and hosted by the Academia Sinica, Taipei. The conference was co-organized by START, the East-West Center and CCaR (Canada).

Cities at Risk – Africa Workshop
25-28 March 2013, Durban, South Africa
START and partners convened a four-day scoping workshop on “Cities at Risk: Africa” in March 2013 in Durban, South Africa. Attended by scientists, municipal representatives, and representatives of relevant African Universities and research centers, the event sought to assess the state of knowledge and capacity needs regarding vulnerability and risk in the urban sector, and to share knowledge, insights and experiences on pathways for effective climate change adaptation and resilience in African cities and urban systems.

Integration of Social Vulnerability into Robust Decision Making I and II
Cities at Risk activities in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Vietnam, and Shanghai, China, aim to integrate social vulnerability considerations into the city’s decision-making and policy processes. Robust decision making (RDM) is an iterative decision analytic framework that offers a means to evaluate urban plans over a wide range of plausible futures, identify ways to make those plans more robust, characterize the vulnerabilities of such plans, and facilitate discussions with stakeholders. Three-day workshops organized by START and the RAND Corporation in June 2013 and September 2014 brought together practitioners, technical specialists, decision makers, and academics from the region to review and discuss an RDM analysis recently completed for the city. Participants generated a list of measures of social vulnerability, potential policy interventions, and relevant uncertainties to consider for HCMC. Discussions focused on how social vulnerability indices could be quantified as an input to the risk model and add richness to model outputs. These workshops will inform future analysis that considers tradeoffs and tipping points and helps identify creative new policies that meet the needs of a broader range of groups.

Cities at Risk Projects

Planning Integrated Coastal Adaptation Strategies for North Jakarta (PICAS)
Efforts initiated in early 2012 in Jakarta, Indonesia, are supporting collaborative urban planning by researchers, provincial government, and communities at high risk for flooding. The START-supported project, Planning Integrated Coastal Adaptation Strategies for North Jakarta (PICAS), designs and facilitates a collaborative process for integrating previous recommendations on climate related risk and disasters in Jakarta; assessing the priorities, feedback, and additional ideas of at-risk populations; and leading collaborative development of a risk management and adaptation action plan for selected study sites in the city. PICAS activities and emerging results are receiving significant media attention in Indonesia and the region. A conference marking culmination of the project occurred in November 2013.

Building Adaptive Capacity for Managing Climate Change on Coastal Megacities
The International START Secretariat and the Southeast Asia START Regional Research Center (SEA-START) support capacity building efforts for this initiative, commonly called the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project. CCaR promotes research and knowledge exchange among cities in Southeast Asia, West Africa, and Canada. The primary objective of the project is to develop the knowledge base and enhance the capacity of mega-cities to successfully adapt to and cope with risks posed by the effects of climate change, including sea level rise,in the context of urban growth and development. Work on the “City Resilience Model” has included an original systems framework for quantifying resilience and a Generic System Dynamics Simulation Model guide. Knowledge on hazard characterization, health and economic systems, and developing and validating a System for Bangkok and an exchange between Canada and Bangkok led to Bangkok’s City System Simulator. Parallel work on adapting the city simulator framework in Manila and Lagos is ongoing.

For more information about workshops and/or follow-on activities, contact Sarah Schweizer,

Last Updated on October 14th, 2015