New York: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has warned that rising sea levels could put coastal cities from Kolkata to Miami at "serious" risk in the years to come and asked member states to take timely action against mounting threats posed by climate change.
In his message on the occasion of `World Habitat Day`, Ban said rising sea levels are an "urgent concern" given that 60 million people today live within one metre of sea level.
This number will jump to 130 million by end of the century.
"Major coastal cities, such as Cairo, New York, Karachi, Calcutta, Belem, New Orleans, Shanghai, Tokyo, Lagos, Miami and Amsterdam, could face serious threats from storm
surges" and are at risk of being inundated by rising waters.
"The nexus between urbanisation and climate change is real and potentially deadly," he said.
Experts predict that by 2050, global population would have increased by 50 per cent from what it was in 1999.
By that time, global greenhouse gas emissions must decrease by 50 per cent compared to levels at the turn of the millennium, Ban said, terming it as the `50-50-50` challenge.
Further, climate-related events could force up to 200 million people worldwide to flee their homes by 2050.
Ban noted that the same cities which face threats from storm surges are also home to innovative measures helpful in combating climate change.
"More and more municipalities are harnessing wind, solar and geothermal energy, contributing to green growth and improving environmental protection," he said, urging further international support for local and municipal efforts.
UN General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said cities in the developing world were bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change.
"It is clear that developing countries are hit the hardest," Al-Nasser said.
"This impacts their overall development, including their ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals."
Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, pointed out that the world`s leaders were on the frontline in the fight against climate-induced disasters.
"Cities today are bursting at the seams and they are both an opportunity for economies of scale which will reduce the impact of climate change, and a challenge because of the rapid pace of urbanisation," said Wahlstrom.