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Global

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands -- The city of Alexandria, Egypt's second largest, spills down either side of a thin ridge running some 100 kilometers along the Mediterranean coast, hard up against the sea on one side and marsh and reclaimed fields on the other.

It is an ancient port city, never designed for the car, and traffic congestion has long been the city's bane.

So a few years ago, gridlocked and desperate, the city paved over some of its beaches and ran a six-lane highway for 25 kilometers along the Mediterranean shore.

The corniche was hailed as a solution when it opened in 2006. But that salvation has exposed the city to a second problem: It changed the slope of the sea bottom, worsening erosion and storm surges.

As sea levels rise and storm surges increase in response to a changing climate, Alexandria is finding that a solution to one problem has inadvertently opened the city to others. Nor is Alexandria alone.

Around the world, low-lying cities are facing unexpected challenges that threaten to chew through scarce or non-existent cash and leave residents and property increasingly vulnerable.

Read more: Climate Adaptation: Adding to a Tide of Worry

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Environmental Destruction

The UN fears that the last 20 years of development will be stalled by destruction of the environment and climate change. Photo: EPA

Climate change and destruction of the environment are the biggest threats to improving wealth and happiness around the world, according to a major United Nations report.

The annual Human Development report from the UN found that on the whole most of the world has become wealthier, healthier and better educated over the last 20 years.

But this rapid development is in danger of reversing because of the rise of global temperatures, that could cause an increase in natural disasters, especially in the poor world where countries are ill-equipped to cope.

Highlighting the failure of last year's UN climate summit in Copenhagen, the report called for renewed efforts to make sure that talks in Cancun, Mexico next month can tackle global warming and protect the environment.

Read more: Climate change is main barrier to development - United Nations

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Investments in renewable energy will be able to help lift a large chunk of Asia Pacific’s population out of energy poverty, said energy experts on Wednesday.

One fifth of Apac’s population – some 800 million – still lack reliable access to energy.

“While everyone is talking about large-scale renewable energy projects, we should not forget that some people don’t have basic access to electricity,” said Jiwan Acharya, Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) climate change specialist.

He was speaking at the Clean Energy Expo Asia, held in Singapore this week, which brings policymakers and energy experts together to discuss key issues in the areas of sustainable energy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Read more: Energy poverty in Asia-Pacific must be tackled

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