THIS may be difficult to believe when you are stuck in a jam caused by a flash flood after a few hours of non-stop rain, but according to a new report by global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield: Kuala Lumpur is the least environmentally susceptible city in Asia Pacific.
As its Prepped Cities Index reveals, Kuala Lumpur is least affected by natural disasters among 16 other cities in the region. Sydney is ranked the second least environmentally susceptible city in Asia Pacific, followed by Seoul in third.
The Index shows how prepared and safe we are at the city, building and operational level in key locations across Asia Pacific. In cities with high susceptibility to natural disasters, buildings need to meet relevant codes and standards. Kuala Lumpur scores highly due to the youthful age of buildings and high level of institutional ownership. Crucially, adds the report, the Malaysian government has focussed on developing its own Green Building Index with the provision of green tax exemptions and investment incentives.
The Asia Pacific region is arguably the most affected by natural disasters caused by a range of climatic events, says the report. From floods, storms, droughts to extreme temperatures, these climatic occurrences have disrupted the lives of millions of people and caused billions of dollars in damage every year. But the impact of these climate-related disasters on Kuala Lumpur is low compared to other cities in the region.
According to the United Nations, around 689,000 were reported killed in climate-related disasters while a further 3.78 billion were left injured, homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance in Asia Pacific in the two-decade period between 1998 and 2017.
Malaysia has experienced its fair share of climate-related disasters over the same period – with floods its major scourge, followed by dry spells and heat waves. Some three million people have been affected, with over 280 deaths recorded nationwide, but the numbers recorded in Kuala Lumpur are relatively low compared to the other cities in the region.
Similarly, the average damage cost of natural disasters on Kuala Lumpur is comparatively small, says the Prepped Cities Index.
As it highlights, data from the United Nations shows that over the past 40 years, natural disasters have cost Asia-Pacific about US$1.3 trillion (RM5.3 trillion). The damages incurred have been particularly severe in the last two decades with 91% of all natural disasters caused by extreme weather, says another report: a recent joint study by Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) titled Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters – 1998-2017. According to the CRED-UNISDR report, from 1998 to 2017, the Asia-Pacific region was hit with US$763.3bil (RM3.18 trillion) of economic losses caused by climate-related disasters.
The Prepped Cities Index points out that this number has been rising in line with GDP growth across the region as more physical assets are exposed to climatic risks. While the bigger economies are forecast to be at greater risk, the report says that smaller, emerging economies could feel more dramatic effects with environmental disasters costing up to 4% of their annual GDP, compared to 2.5% in more established economies.
But in Malaysia’s case, while records show that occurrences of natural disaster have increased with the country’s rapid development over the last two decades, climate-related natural disasters cost Malaysia an average of only 0.13% of our GDP a year (nearly US$2bil or RM8bil in damage). Malaysia’s Energy, Science, Technology Environment and Climate Change Ministry has also just announced that it is working on a national climate change adaptation and mitigation plan.
However, susceptibility to natural disasters is only one component to consider, the Index notes. Size of population and population density can affect the scale and amount of damage. Cities such as Tokyo and Hong Kong, suffer from susceptibility and density but have plans in place. The geographical location of Kuala Lumpur and Seoul minimises their geophysical natural disasters risk, but there is more to be done to improve both cities’ urban design and disaster management plans.
Having robust disaster management plans in place can help offset some of the negative effects or larger and denser urban populations, states Cushman & Wakefield. Sydney, like many other Australian cities, scores well across this metric with low risk, low population density and effective management plans.
The Prepped Cities Index also ranks the 17 Asia Pacific cities on their preparedness for things like terrorism, cyber attack and macroeconomic events. The Index is designed to inform stakeholders – at the national, city and building level – of areas of strength and weakness in order to best prepare for the future. This includes cities’ ability to attract and retain talent, provide offices to attract foreign investment, and stability of rents and leases.
Singapore takes top spot as the most prepared city – the island republic takes No 1 in the overall Index for its government’s ability to provide multinational companies with a stable business operating environment, says Cushman & Wakefield. Melbourne and Shanghai come in second and third, while Jakarta and Mumbai score poorly, coming in last and 16th respectively.
Kuala Lumpur is the eighth prepared in the region, after Beijing at seventh.
The cities best prepared to address unexpected events typically hold property assets that are modern, institutionally owned, sustainable and less susceptible to pricing volatility.
Cities that rank lower in specific categories are advised to identify and pursue relevant policies that guide the activities and decision making of the leading cities in the index. Doing this will help prioritise the factors across a real estate portfolio that need most attention, Cushman & Wakefield notes.