A role for strategies in urban climate change adaptation planning: Lessons from London

Abstract

Global cities are taking a leadership role in climate change adaptation. Increasing numbers of cities are creating climate adaptation plans and strategies, and a wide range of international organizations are developing tools and programs to promote and support further planning, despite the fact that the few studies to date that have evaluated adaptation planning have found it to be ineffective: focused more on broad visions than specific actions. To understand why cities continue to engage in adaptation planning, what benefits planners anticipate, and whether these benefits can be achieved through vision-oriented strategies as well as action-based plans, this study reports on a qualitative case study of the creation and adoption of the 2011 London, United Kingdom, Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. Results from interviews with participants and stakeholders indicate the London Strategy was consciously developed as a vision-setting strategy and was successful in: raising awareness of cross-sectoral risks, coordinating pre-existing adaptation efforts, validating stakeholder engagement, providing political authorization for use of resources and personnel, and creating continuity of purpose across changing political administrations. To accurately capture these benefits in other urban adaptation planning efforts will require a new evaluation approach. Based on the London case, this paper proposes future adaptation strategies be evaluated according to how well they build the adaptive capacity of city institutions to enable ongoing adaptation.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a David and Lucille Packard Foundation Stanford Graduate Fellowship, a McGee Research Grant, and the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) at Stanford University. Thank you to all the London and UK participants who shared their time and expertise. Martin Fischer, Pamela Matson, Margaret Caldwell, and Mark Algee-Hewitt provided advice and mentoring throughout this project. Comments from Cassandra Brooks, Amanda Cravens, Dan Reineman, Nicola Ulibarri, and two anonymous reviewers improved this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Anne R. Siders.

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Editor: Marc J. Metzger.

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Siders, A.R. A role for strategies in urban climate change adaptation planning: Lessons from London. Reg Environ Change 17, 1801–1810 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-017-1153-1

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Evaluation
  • Governance
  • London, UK
  • Urban planning