Urban Growth and Climate Change Strategies for Effective Mitigation and Adaptation

H. Ranasinghe, H. Gammanpila


Between 1950 and 2030, the share of the world‟s population that lives in cities is predicted to
grow from 30% to 60%. This urbanization has consequences for the likelihood of climate
change and for the social costs that climate change will impose on the world‟s quality of life.
Cities are the engine of capitalist growth. Over time, people move from rural to urban areas
as they seek a higher standard of living. In cities, people earn higher incomes and thus have
the financial resources to purchase more consumption products ranging from private
transportation to larger homes. Urbanization increases the demand for residential and
commercial electricity consumption. Low and middle-income nations now have threequarters
of the world‟s urban population. They also have most of the urban population at
greatest risk from the increased intensity and/or frequency of storms, flooding, landslides and
heat waves that climate change is bringing or will bring.

The need for action by Governments on climate-change adaptation is also urgent – and
probably more urgent than that suggested by the IPCC‟s Fourth Assessment. This paper
details the high adaptive and mitigative capacities which are infused into urban planning in
planned cities using a case study from Toronto, Canada based on Toronto Green Standards.
The main thrust areas highlighted in this paper are the development of innovative methods for
reducing storm water flows thus reducing flood hazards, the use of advanced energy efficient
technologies including renewable energies, development of innovative green spaces such as
green roofs and designs that will reduce the urban heat island effect. The services provided by
the provincial/municipal governments aided by the private sector in ensuring the protection of
the urban populations and ecosystems from the adverse consequences of climate change are
phenomenal in bringing on success; early warning for hazardous climatic events, rapid
emergency response from the police, health service and fire services, all buildings
conforming to building regulations and to health and safety regulations and served by piped
water, sewers, all-weather roads, electricity and drains 24 hours a day. The cost of such
infrastructure and services represents a small proportion of income for most citizens whether
paid direct as service charges or within taxes. For the most part, most citizens engage very
little in the management of these because it is assumed that government systems will ensure
provision. However there are channels for complaints if needed – for instance local
politicians or lawyers, ombudsmen, consumer groups and watchdogs. Thus, the vast majority
of urban dwellers are protected from extreme weather without them having to engage in the
institutions that ensure such protection. In addition to these there are other measures such as
carbon pricing/taxes, incentives for green lifestyles etc. adopted to motivate people to reduce
global warming emissions.

Keywords: Urban planning, Urban growth, Climate change mitigation, Climate change adaptation, Green standards

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Proceedings of International Forestry and Environment Symposium, Sri Lanka. Published by Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura