Asia is home to more than 4.4 billion people, making it the most populous continent on the planet. Rapid population growth has occurred since the 1950s, increasing from 1.4 billion to the current number, with China and India being the main contributors to this growth, representing together a population of 2.6 billion people. This growth is expected to be sustained over the next 35 years at an unprecedented scale and speed, significantly impacting the rate of urbanization, a major feature of the continent's transformation today.

This rapid urbanization brings with it environmental challenges, including poor solid waste management, inadequate water supplies, absence of adequate sanitation, and traffic congestion, all contributing to the global environmental degradation of urban areas. Asia currently accounts for 12 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities (World Health Organization, 2016), and this situation is constraining the economic potential of the region’s cities (World Bank, 2016).

Dependence on fossil fuels in Asian cities makes them major greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions producers due to their urban concentration. Many megalopolises and intermediate-sized cities in the region are situated on coastal areas or close to waterways, making them significantly exposed and vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. Local governments have the power to steer urban development in a low-carbon and resilient direction to combat the challenges that climate change poses for Asian cities today.

Climate issues in urban areas are becoming more prominent in the worldwide post-2015 development agenda. Local governments in Asia are progressively including climate issues in their development policies due to increased awareness of these difficulties. Although there are numerous initiatives supporting the climate and resilience strategy for Asian cities, some institutional and financial barriers still make project preparation difficult, including the lack of a strategic planning framework, a technical or financial skills gap, and a lack of finance instruments. Therefore, downstream support for the actions taken and accomplishments previously realized is required.

Recognizing that project preparation was the main obstacle to supporting local governments and other urban actors on paths toward climate-responsive development, the French Development Agency (AFD) announced a plan to support "100 cities/100 projects for climate," implemented with important multilateral and bilateral partners, including the European Commission (Africa, Latin America). This plan aligns with the "Cities and Regions" Pillar of the Global Climate Action defined in December 2015.

The Cities and Climate in Asia (CICLASIA) intervention is the regional part of this broader initiative, implemented in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through the Cities Development Initiative in Asia (CDIA) Trust Fund, established by ADB in 2007 with the objectives to: (i) assist medium-sized Asian cities in preparing sustainable and bankable quality infrastructure projects to bridge the gap between their development plans and the implementation of priority projects; (ii) link infrastructure projects with funding sources; and (iii) strengthen individual and organizational capacities of stakeholders for developing sustainable and bankable projects and ensuring financing to support the preparatory phase of urban projects. Funding support for the CDIA Trust Fund is provided by the governments of Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Shanghai Municipal Government.

Under the CICLASIA intervention, the contribution from AFD to the CDIA Trust Fund is part of the AFD/ADB global partnership agreement. An EU-Asia Investment Facility (EU-AIF) contribution of EUR 5.2 million is combined with a grant of EUR 1 million by AFD to finance CICLASIA.