Barriers and opportunities for urban adaptation planning: analytical framework and evidence from cities in Latin America and Germany

  • Paul LehmannEmail author
  • Miriam Brenck
  • Oliver Gebhardt
  • Sven Schaller
  • Elisabeth Süßbauer
Original Article


This paper analyzes barriers and opportunities for effective adaptation planning in cities. In particular, we focus on the preparation and adoption of adaptation strategies and action plans by urban planners. For this purpose, we develop a two-tier framework of variables influencing decision-making. The framework emphasizes interaction between different commonly discussed categories of barriers (or opportunities) and their sources. We argue that whether or not urban planners take action to foster adaptation to climate change depends on three first-tier variables: information, resources, and incentives. In addition, we point out that each of these variables may itself be a function of a set of underlying second-tier variables, including actor-specific characteristics of the decision-maker, the institutional environment, and the natural and socio-economic environment. Within this framework, we specify barriers and opportunities for effective adaptation planning as hampering or promoting characteristics of these first- and second-tier variables. We apply and test the framework within the context of four case studies carried out in Lima (Peru), Santiago (Chile), Berlin and Sangerhausen (both Germany). We present anecdotal evidence, which we have gained from expert interviews in the cities. Our results indicate that the relevant categories of barriers are mainly the same across developing and developed countries. What differs is their severity. Moreover, we confirm the importance of the institutional context, including barriers and opportunities associated mainstreaming adaptation, multi-level governance and participation. Finally, our analysis reveals barriers that are specific for local or urban adaptation action, such as the strong dependency on the national regulatory framework.


Adaptation Barriers Climate change Framework Germany Latin America Urban planning 



We are grateful for helpful and constructive comments provided by three anonymous referees. Our paper has also benefited from discussions at seminars held at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig (Germany) and the Chameleon Workshop on Barriers to Adaptation to Climate Change organized in Berlin (Germany) in September 2012. Research for this paper has been carried out in the context of (1) the project “Sustainable Water and Wastewater Management in Urban Growth Centres Coping with Climate Change – Concepts for Lima Metropolitana (Perú) – (LiWa)” funded by programme “Research for the Sustainable Development of the Megacities of Tomorrow” of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (Paul Lehmann), (2) the project “Entscheidungsunterstützung bei der urbanen Klimaanpassung – Ökonomische Bewertung und Priorisierung von Anpassungsmaßnahmen am Beispiel der Stadt Sangerhausen, Landkreis Mansfeld-Südharz” funded by the Saxony-Anhalt State Ministry for Agriculture and the Environment (Miriam Brenck and Oliver Gebhardt), (3) the project “Climate Adaptation Santiago (CAS)” funded by the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) (Sven Schaller), and (4) the Helmholtz Interdisciplinary Graduate School for Environmental Research (HIGRADE) funded by the Helmholtz Impulse and Networking Fund (Elisabeth Süßbauer).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Lehmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Miriam Brenck
    • 1
  • Oliver Gebhardt
    • 1
  • Sven Schaller
    • 2
  • Elisabeth Süßbauer
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research–UFZLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.DBFZ Deutsches BiomasserforschungszentrumLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Department of Urban and Environmental SociologyHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research–UFZLeipzigGermany

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