Sustainability Science

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 185–206

Adaptive urban governance: new challenges for the second generation of urban adaptation strategies to climate change

  • Jörn Birkmann
  • Matthias Garschagen
  • Frauke Kraas
  • Nguyen Quang
Special Feature: Original Article Vulnerability, risk, and adaptation in a changing climate

DOI: 10.1007/s11625-010-0111-3

Cite this article as:
Birkmann, J., Garschagen, M., Kraas, F. et al. Sustain Sci (2010) 5: 185. doi:10.1007/s11625-010-0111-3

Abstract

The task of adapting cities to the impacts of climate change is of great importance—urban areas are hotspots of high risk given their concentrations of population and infrastructure; their key roles for larger economic, political and social processes; and their inherent instabilities and vulnerabilities. Yet, the discourse on urban climate change adaptation has only recently gained momentum in the political and scientific arena. This paper reviews the recent climate change adaptation strategies of nine selected cities and analyzes them in terms of overall vision and goals, baseline information used, direct and indirect impacts, proposed structural and non-structural measures, and involvement of formal and informal actors. Against this background, adaptation strategies and challenges in two Vietnamese cities are analyzed in detail, namely Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho. The paper thereby combines a review of formalized city-scale adaptation strategies with an empirical analysis of actual adaptation measures and constraints at household level. By means of this interlinked and comparative analysis approach, the paper explores the achievements, as well as the shortcomings, in current adaptation approaches, and generates core issues and key questions for future initiatives in the four sub-categories of: (1) knowledge, perspectives, uncertainties and key threats; (2) characteristics of concrete adaptation measures and processes; (3) interactions and conflicts between different strategies and measures; (4) limits of adaptation and tipping points. In conclusion, the paper calls for new forms of adaptive urban governance that go beyond the conventional notions of urban (adaptation) planning. The proposed concept underlines the need for a paradigm shift to move from the dominant focus on the adjustment of physical structures towards the improvement of planning tools and governance processes and structures themselves. It addresses in particular the necessity to link different temporal and spatial scales in adaptation strategies, to acknowledge and to mediate between different types of knowledge (expert and local knowledge), and to achieve improved integration of different types of measures, tools and norm systems (in particular between formal and informal approaches).

Keywords

AdaptationClimate changeUrban planningGovernanceVietnam

Copyright information

© Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, United Nations University, and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jörn Birkmann
    • 1
  • Matthias Garschagen
    • 1
  • Frauke Kraas
    • 2
  • Nguyen Quang
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)United Nations UniversityBonnGermany
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  3. 3.UN-HABITATHanoiVietnam