$44 Billion a Year Needed to Protect PRC Infrastructure from Extreme Weather

Oct 25, 2013

More than one million people living in the coastal areas of the People's Republic of China could be displaced, with a landmass four times the size of Hong Kong, China submerged by 2050, if the country does not take action to prepare for rising sea levels and more intense cyclones, a new report from the Asian Development Bank warns.

The report estimates that climate proofing of all infrastructure in the People's Republic of China (PRC), including roads and drainage, would cost up to $44 billion per year between 2010 and 2050.

"Protecting the PRC’s coastal areas by building dikes and upgrading port facilities makes economic sense. The costs of preparing for, and protecting against, climate-related events are much lower than the damage that would be caused without adaptation efforts," said Jörn Brömmelhörster, Principal Economist in ADB’s East Asia Department and one of the main authors of Economics of Climate Change in East Asia.

Severe weather related to climate change will intensify, with once-in-20-years flooding predicted to occur as frequently as every four years by 2050. When combined with rising sea levels, this is expected to submerge 4,000 kilometers of PRC’s coastline, forcing many people to move and wreaking havoc on infrastructure and agriculture. The report notes that the international port cities of Shanghai and Tianjin and the economic powerhouse provinces of Guangdong and Jiangsu are highly vulnerable.

The costs of adaptation depend on the extent of the change in the climate. Under the most severe scenario, coastal adaptation costs in the PRC are projected to reach an average of $3.4 billion every year – comprising $2.8 billion for building sea dikes and $379 million for port upgrades - just a fraction of the country’s gross domestic product.

In the agriculture sector, the report says total crop production may decline 10% under the driest scenario, and increase 1.6% in the wettest climate scenario.

The PRC, which generates 24% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, needs to shift toward a model of economic growth focused on low-carbon emissions and higher energy efficiency. The report projects that the PRC could reduce emissions by up to 43% by 2030 if mitigation measures are implemented without delay.

The Economics of Climate Change in East Asia report was written by experts from more than 10 leading universities and think tanks in Asia, North America, and Europe, drawing on the best available databanks and models on climate change.

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