Attendees at San Francisco’s CityAge conference were in agreement: climate change will mean new winners and losers in FDI. Held since 2012 in various cities in North America, as well as Asia and Europe, CityAge brings together experts in the future of cities around the world. The San Francisco meeting, held in early April, covered topics such as urban infrastructure investment, transportation and climate change preparedness.

“Cities that tend to think about climate change are more forward looking and better managed, and that applies to everything from taxation to public transportation,” said CityAge co-­founder Marc Andrew. Better managed cities are likely to be accommodating to investors, he added.


Meanwhile, cities that do not take changes into account might see FDI levels drop because their infrastructure will be insufficient or inoperable, warned William Collins, director of the Climate Readiness Institute, an organisation focusing on climate change resilience. 

“Municipalities, especially coastal ones, will experience dramatic change because of rising sea levels,” said Mr Collins. “If their infrastructure is not up to par, they might face a flooding of coastal highways and airports, decreasing their accessibility for business.” He added that such cities could experience storm surges and drastic temperature changes, which will affect liveability, and hence whether businesses and people will decide to move there.

While New York, Chicago and Seattle, as well as parts of Florida and California, ramp up their preparations for potential climate-­related changes, there are still a number of cities that have not yet recognised their need to do so. “There are municipalities that have legally mandated that you have use a rate of sea level rise that is completely unrealistic,” said Mr Collins. “That means that they are building infrastructure according to the wrong estimate of sea level rise, which is imprudent, to put it politely.”

Asked which parts of the US need to do a better job in terms of climate preparedness, Mr Collins pointed to mid-­Atlantic states such as Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, as well as those on the Gulf of Mexico. “Climate change will completely alter the world in which these cities function,” said Mr Collins. “They need a wake-up call.”