U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told delegates at a climate meeting at U.N. headquarters that as many as 60 million people live just 3 feet above sea level, putting them at substantial risk from rising waters brought on by climate change.
"Rising sea levels are a major impact of climate change and an urgent concern," he said in a statement.
With more cities looking toward green energy solutions like wind, solar and geothermal energy, he added, cities are also at the forefront of the search for a solution to climate risks.
U.N. General Assembly President Nassir Abulazia al-Nasser noted that coastal communities in developing countries face some of the greatest risks. But Margareta Wahlstrom, U.N. special envoy for disaster risk reduction, said city leaders are strategically positioned to tackle the threat head-on.
"Cities today are bursting at the seams and they are both an opportunity for economies of scale which will reduce the impact of climate change, and a challenge because of the rapid pace of urbanization," she said in a statement.