Urban Climate Adaptation Planning

urban climate adaptation planning

Research on urban climate adaptation planning focuses on methods and issues of urban climate adaptation planning. The article provides examples of methods and issues. It also discusses the impacts of urban climate adaptation. The research findings can help planners make decisions about how to move ahead with their plans. The next step is to implement the results.

Research on urban climate adaptation planning

As cities increasingly face climate change and other threats, they are developing plans to mitigate and adapt to the impacts. Such adaptations may include reshaping the built environment and land use patterns, introducing energy efficient transportation, and improving flood mitigation structures. Adaptation activities often overlap with mitigation activities. While adaptation plans focus on reducing vulnerabilities, mitigation efforts focus on improving resilience.

However, while many adaptation planning studies have been done from a theoretical perspective, the empirical work has been rather sparse. There are only a few systematic assessments of adaptation planning in urban environments. There are also limited studies on funding and institutional support. In particular, a meta-analysis of 54 sources reveals that adaptation planning often fails to address social vulnerability and equity, despite their key role in climate change adaptation planning.


Urban climate adaptation planning is becoming an important issue for cities around the world. It is likely to reshape urban services, infrastructure, and decision-making processes. Yet, it is important to ensure that this change is just and equitable. There are criteria to measure justice in adaptation, including assessing the needs of the most vulnerable populations.

In a global survey, MIT and ICLEI have collected insights about patterns and practices of urban climate adaptation planning. The results of this survey summarize progress made by ICLEI member cities, challenges encountered, and resources needed to prepare for climate change impacts. The survey asked 40 questions, divided into six sections.


Methods for urban climate adaptation planning focus on the mitigation of urban heat islands (UHI) and other negative impacts from climate change. They include strategies such as adding cool pavements and cool roofs (blue or white), increasing vegetation, and reducing waste heat. A number of recent studies have assessed the effectiveness of different strategies under varying climate-change scenarios.

Some cities use separate strategic adaptation plans, while others integrate adaptation into their general plans. For example, New York City has a Climate Action Panel which includes public and private sector experts to consider the impacts of climate change on critical infrastructure. Other cities have multi-departmental groups that focus on different aspects of their climate action plans.


The impacts of urban climate adaptation planning may be shaped by the institutional networks that affect the city. These networks, in addition to the political economy of poverty and the technical capacities of city leaders, may inhibit the achievement of climate change goals. For example, cities with poorly maintained or nonexistent flood protection barriers may experience little benefit from a flood-reduction plan. In addition, cities may have limited financial and tax resources.

The process of urban climate adaptation planning is not an easy task. It involves taking into account current development dynamics, existing practices, and existing priorities. This can be overwhelming, but there are tools that can help make the process easier.

Future research

Improving the social and economic conditions of marginalized urban populations is critical to urban climate adaptation. However, addressing the underlying causes of inequalities is not easy. Adaptation plans often reproduce existing socioeconomic inequalities and can exclude the most vulnerable urban populations. To do this, researchers need to identify and understand specific mechanisms underlying inequalities in urban climate adaptation planning.

Inequalities in urban climate adaptation planning can be the result of past decisions and resource allocations. For instance, enhancing flood protection barriers in poor communities will not produce the same benefits as improving flood protection barriers in wealthier neighborhoods. Similarly, interventions that target urban poor communities may not be as effective as those that target poor, informal settlements. In addition, these strategies may exacerbate the vulnerability of vulnerable communities.