Orange News: The release of the world’s first comparison of every state’s physical climate risk has raised serious concerns. The study, conducted by XDI, a risk analytics company, highlights the risks of climate change on global economies, infrastructures, and livelihoods. It analyzes the variation in the risk of extreme weather events from state to state and estimates the likely costs of damage to infrastructure and property.
The report highlights three key takeaways. Firstly, over half of the top 50 most at-risk states and provinces in 2050 were in China, with the most significant impact being in the globally-connected provinces of the east and south, along the floodplains and deltas of the Yangtze and Pearl Rivers. Secondly, two of China’s largest sub-national economies – Jiangsu and Shandong – top the global ranking, in first and second place. Over half of the provinces in the global top 50 are in China. Thirdly, Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, has been estimated to be ‘the most economically vulnerable city in the world’ to sea level rise by 2050.
The study utilized global climate models, in combination with local weather and environmental data, as well as engineering archetypes to calculate the anticipated damage and failure of built environment features due to hazards over a period of time. The report was based on the IPCC’s Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5, which assumes high future emissions and a significant increase in coal use, making it the worst-case scenario.
Understanding the worst-case outcome is essential for effective risk management. When you know the worst-case scenario, you can develop contingency plans and risk mitigation strategies to prevent or minimize potential losses. This report articulates three types of extreme weather that will impact the Greater Bay Area (GBA): extreme flooding, extreme heat, and sea-level rise.
Extreme flooding in Guangdong, which ranks fourth in the analysis, caused an estimated economic loss of 7.5 billion yuan in direct economic losses. In 2022, the Finance Ministry issued 7.5 billion yuan treasury bonds in Hong Kong to cover the cost. The region is also facing an increase in heatwaves, which is causing a loss of productivity. In 2019, a potential of 302 billion working hours were lost globally due to temperature increases. COVID-19 resulted in around 580 billion lost working hours globally in 2020. Therefore, temperature increases are already resulting in the equivalent of more than half of COVID-19-induced lost working hours. Of heat-related deaths in the latter year, 62,000 were in China. According to the Hong Kong Observatory, July 2022 saw scorching weather throughout the month that broke 11 records, with the average monthly temperature of 30.3 degrees Celsius, becoming the highest in the city’s history.
Moreover, the risk of storms and waterlogging is expected to increase under the medium emission scenario, and the sea level in the South China Sea is projected to rise by 34-79cm by around 2100, which is 20% to 30% higher than the global average.
The report focuses on the characteristics of China’s climate risk governance system, where a preliminary system has been established, and climate governance capacity is improving. The report identifies three areas of concern. Firstly, existing governance systems are inadequate to meet the needs of climate risk management. For instance, the concept of climate risk management has not been fully integrated into the national governance system. The integration between disaster risk management and climate adaptation policy needs to be improved. Secondly, the engineering and technical capabilities of climate adaptation and disaster management have not adapted to the complexity of climate risks. For example, some coastline lacks seawall protection, and of the 14,500 km of seawalls built, only 42.5 per cent meet tidal protection standards. This suggests that there is still much work to be done to strengthen China’s infrastructure and build climate resilience.
Furthermore, government funding for climate adaptation is limited, and a diversified funding mechanism has not yet been established. Compared with developed countries, insurance tools are insufficiently developed in China. While catastrophe insurance payouts generally account for 30-40 per cent of disaster losses in other countries, the proportion is less than 1 per cent in China. This highlights the need for increased investment in climate resilience measures, as well as the development of new funding mechanisms and insurance tools.
However, there are positive signs that China is taking climate risk seriously. In the 14th Five-Year Plan, the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party demonstrated a clear commitment to addressing this issue. The plan includes integrating climate risk governance into national development strategies, building a complete climate risk governance system by bridging the disaster management system and the climate adaptation system, and integrating the concepts and strategies to deal with climate risk into existing laws, plans, and policies.
To achieve these goals, the plan calls for building a polycentric climate risk governance system, with the government establishing an institutional mechanism for cross-sectoral cooperation and cross-regional coordination, and engaging all key stakeholders in climate risk governance. It also calls for building climate-resilient smart cities, with smart meteorology to improve climate risk prediction and early warning, climate-resilient urban design to enhance resistance to meteorological disasters and to improve post-disaster recovery, and green, low-carbon, smart buildings to achieve the goals of carbon peaking and carbon neutrality.
Hong Kong can be a key driver in this effort by channeling capital to support the building of climate-resilient smart cities, adopting a new development mindset that includes blue-green infrastructure and increased open space in new development, and collaborating with GBA cities to identify how to race to resilience collectively. For example, Hong Kong can share its coastal defense knowledge with other GBA cities and work with them to develop more comprehensive climate resilience strategies.
Citizens can also support the Hong Kong government’s efforts by investing in climate resilience measures and participating in community-based initiatives that promote climate action. By working together, we can build a more resilient future for our communities and our planet.
In conclusion, the XDI report highlights the urgent need for action on climate resilience in China, particularly in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. The report’s findings underscore the need for improved infrastructure and funding mechanisms to build climate resilience, as well as the importance of integrated governance systems and stakeholder engagement. While there is much work to be done, the 14th Five-Year Plan and other initiatives offer hope for a more sustainable and resilient future. By working together, we can ensure that our communities are better prepared to face the challenges of a changing climate.”
Originally published on Orange News on 15 Mar 2023. Written by Lawrence Iu.