Climate Change and the City – Building Capacity for Urban Adaptation

Researchers from CURE have recently published an article in Progress in Planning titled; ‘Climate Change and the City – Building Capacity for Urban Adaptation’. The article draws on the outcomes of a collaborative research project, EcoCities, undertaken at the University of Manchester’s School of Environment and Development. The project was funded by Manchester based property company Bruntwood and the Oglesby Charitable Trust. EcoCities drew upon inter-disciplinary research on climate science, environmental planning and urban design working within a socio-technical framework to investigate climate change hazards, vulnerabilities and adaptation responses in the conurbation of Greater Manchester.

The starting point for the EcoCities project and the Progress in Planning article that emerged from it is the significant shifts in climate variables projected for the 21st century coupled with the observed impacts of recent extreme weather events. These ongoing changes ensure that adaptation to climate change is set to remain a pressing issue for urban areas over the coming decades. The article seeks to contribute to the widening debate about how the transformation of cities to respond to the changing climate is being understood, managed and achieved. The article focuses particularly on spatial planning, and building the capacity of this key mechanism for responding to the adaptation imperative in urban areas.

Emerging transferable learning with potential relevance for adaptation planning in other cities and urban areas is drawn out to inform this rapidly emerging international agenda. These relate to building adaptive capacity and repositioning adaptation as a core element of progressive visions of urban futures. Five themes are discussed in the article that could support a move in this direction. These are localising adaptation; connecting adaptation to safeguarding future prosperity; understanding that adaptation is needed to protect the most vulnerable in society from climate risks; building the climate resilience of critical infrastructure; and strengthening the science-policy interface in the context of adaptation and resilience. Approaches to build adaptive capacity challenge traditional approaches to environmental and spatial planning, and the role of researchers in this process, raising questions over whether appropriate governance structures are in place to develop effective responses. The cross-cutting nature of the adaptation agenda exposes the silo based approaches that drive many agencies and organisations. The development of a collaborative, sociotechnical agenda is vital if we are to meet the climate change adaptation challenge in cities.

The article can be downloaded freely via open access by clicking here.

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