Climate Adaptation of Coastal Delta Cities Around the World

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Throughout the centuries, deltas have given rise to the best cities in the world; these cities have thrived and are open to global trade of products and ideas.

Today, as these cities face the need to adapt to climate change, it has never been more crucial for delta cities and countries to come together, share knowledge, experiences, and expertise in addressing climate change impacts.

The report from the Global Centre on Adaptation, “Living with water: climate adaptation in the world’s deltas”, presents a series of case studies to answer the overarching question: What are the key bottlenecks and enablers to accelerate and scale water-related adaptation interventions in Delta regions based on best practice examples?

The report explores best practices in climate adaptation and resilience interventions in delta countries and targets two primary audiences.

First are the governments in delta countries: policymakers, central and federal governments, and local governments, including mayors and municipal councils.  It aims to boost climate adaptation in the political agenda by highlighting significant achievements and good practices where learning can be shared and open opportunities for collaboration.

The second group audience is the financiers, insurance companies, water experts, and practitioners. The report shows the financial risks and barriers for institutional and private investors and other economic stakeholders related to climate change adaptation in delta countries.

About Deltas

Deltas are complex systems. Their fertile flood plains are home to abundant biodiversity, and the rich soils make them attractive for agricultural production. But they are highly populated – 500 million people live in Delta and coastal regions today and are expected to grow by 50% by 2050.

Deltas are engines for economic growth. People living in deltas have higher GDP than those in other areas of the country. Examples are in the Gulf of Mexico, the Delta of rivers Rhine, Nile, Prana, and many deltas in East and Southeast Asia.

Impacts from Climate Change

Deltas are becoming increasingly vulnerable to climate change impacts. Ninety per cent of disasters will be water-related: floods, droughts, and sea-level rise by half a meter by 2050 and over a meter by 2100. Urban areas in deltas also share the same problems like rising poverty, income inequalities and rising informal settlements with land subsidence and environmental degradation compounding.

Addressing climate adaptation in the deltas is a complex task for the following reasons: most of them lack integrated climate adaptation plans, structural interventions are expensive. At the same time, water management depends on what happens in the upstream river basin. Political will and administrative commitment at all levels are critical to make climate adaptation a high priority. Coordination among stakeholders in transboundary delta regions also plays a vital role.

The good news is that the promising adaptation intervention is emerging supported by technical innovations, but the pace of implementation needs to be accelerated.

Case studies of Delta cities

Living with water (2021) presents ‘lighthouse case studies’ of seven delta cities in the world. The report uses the term ‘lighthouse’ to shed light and explore promising practices in climate adaptation and resilience interventions in delta countries.  

These case studies consist of:

  • (1) Paraná Delta, Argentina: creating synergies between climate mitigation and adaptation through improved delta management,
  • (2) Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100: combining water resources management and disaster risk management,
  • (3) The Mira river basin, Columbia: engaging communities through food security,
  • (4) Demak, Indonesia: a partnership between local communities and government for nature-based solutions,
  • (5) Beira, Mozambique: a programmatic and collaborative approach to urban resilience,
  • (6) The Wadden Sea region, the Nether[1]lands: long-term political and budgetary commitment supported by a systems approach,
  • (7) The Mekong Delta: living with water, rather than trying to control it.

The authors have strategically selected these case studies to represent a balanced spread of the world’s deltas across a range of geographies and income levels and addressing a variety of pressures—floods, drought, subsidence, salinization, water security—through diverse solutions that have the potential to be scaled and replicated in other contexts.

Each case study looks at a particular delta: its characteristics; the critical water-related threats posed by climate change; an intervention that has been made to address it.

And because all case studies represent a wide range of geographies, income levels, governance systems, and climate conditions, key findings and recommendations will apply to countries with similar characteristics.

However, climate change adaptation and mitigation advocates should examine the case studies carefully before adopting them.

To read the entire report, click the link below:

Source Citation:

Living with water: climate adaptation in the world’s deltas. (2021 January). Global Centre on Adaptation. Retrieved from

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