Part 4

Bending the trend

Hotspot landscapes: clusters of risks and challenges

In combination, the risks and challenges that have been mapped in the previous storylines, define four global hotspot landscapes. These landscapes and their interdependencies provide a frame for building a more resilient world, on various scales.

Drylands and water-stressed areas: water stress and crop yield gaps are increasing

This map shows the world's hotspot landscape of drylands and other water-stressed areas. Future water challenges in these areas are related to the global dryland population growth from circa 2.8 billion today to 4 billion by 2050. There is a strong relationship with the world's hotspot landscape of cities since a large part of the population may migrate from rural areas to cities.

Source: PBL

The global dryland population is projected to increase from circa 2.8 billion today to 4 billion by 2050. In drylands, increased water stress and crop yield gaps may contribute to increases in migration and the risk of local conflict. This is especially the case for Sub-Saharan Africa, where a 40% increase in the rural population is projected as well as a tripling of the urban dryland population.

Transforming economic development

Transformation towards a sustainable world calls for improving human well-being while alleviating environmental degradation and risks.

Projected change in GDP, 2010-2050

in billions

Source: PBL

The opportunities to do this differ per region. Regions for which economic development and per-capita incomes are projected to be high may have the best opportunities.

Projected investments per year, 2016-2050: opportunities and challenges

This illustration shows the expectation that, towards 2050, following the Paris Climate Agreement, USD 0.1 trillion will become available annually for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. In addition to these funds, ongoing investments in urban and rural areas can be utilised. The illustration shows opportunities for urban areas and challenges for rural areas. Projected annual global investments for urban development and infrastructure are USD 2.7 - 3.7 trillion. Projected annual investments in adaptation of agriculture in developing countries are only USD 0.12 trillion per year.

Source: PBL

Following the Paris Climate Agreement, it may be expected that, towards 2050, around an annual USD 0.1 trillion will become available to support both mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries.

Cities are focal points of investments. Steady economic development towards 2050 will result in ongoing investments in vital sectors, such as urban development, infrastructure and agriculture. This offer opportunities to effectively improve human well-being and reduce environmental risks for 70% of the global population.

It will be a major challenge, however, to create equitable opportunities for people in formal and informal urban settlements and those in rural areas. Projected investments in the agricultural sector in developing countries are far lower than those in urban development and infrastructure.

We have to work in the same direction

This illustration shows that a large number of organizations have to build effective multi-actor coalitions in order to work effectively in the right direction.

Source: PBL

Over time, water has proven to be a source of collaboration rather than conflict. Embedded in the various socio-ecological landscapes, water may form a basis for bridging interests, overcoming lock-ins and building a shared future.

Source: PBL

Integrating water- and climate-related challenges and global commitments in development strategies requires a transformation of how strategies are built and implemented. Scale- and place-based approaches and building coalitions will be key for working effectively in the right direction.

The geography of challenges

Grouping water- and climate-related risks and challenges into four global landscapes provides a framework for a climate-resilient and sustainable development.

These hotspot landscapes illustrate that a transnational understanding of the challenges and pathways to solutions will be needed to bridge the various scales and build a safer and climate-resilient world, reducing the major risks for dryland areas, cities, transboundary river basins, coastal areas and deltas.

Challenges in drylands and water-stressed areas

This map again shows the world's hotspot landscape of drylands and other water-stressed areas, but this time the challenges are presented as well. We have to improve water and land management, reduce crop yield gaps, improve local livelihood prospects, and reduce the risk of local conflict.

Source: PBL


  • Improving water and land management
  • Reducing crop yield gaps
  • Improving local livelihood prospects
  • Reducing the risk of local conflict

Creating a shared vision

Global coherent adaptation pathways are still lacking. Creating them is an essential, first step towards sustainable and climate-resilient development.

Although, worldwide, there are many water and adaptation projects, there is no shared view on what could be achieved in climate-proofing any future developments. For many years, the World Economic Forum has already warned about structural adaptation failure being one of the 10 major global risks. Creating shared future adaptation pathways, therefore, seems of evident importance.

A moderate to high ambition level is needed to bend the trend

This illustration shows that the global water and climate risks will continue to increase under a business-as-usual scenario. A moderate to high ambition level is needed to bend the trend.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, water and climate risks will continue to increase. A low ambition level may not lead to bending this trend to a sustainable future.

Mainstreaming water- and climate-related challenges in all development strategies, decisions and projects will be needed to really bend the trend.