Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1801–1810 | Cite as

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

Original Article


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.


Adaptation Climate change Evaluation Governance London, UK Urban planning 



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.


  1. Adger WN, Vincent K (2005) Uncertainty in adaptive capacity. Comptes Rendus Geosci 337:399–410. doi: 10.1016/j.crte.2004.11.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Affleck A, Gibbon J (2016) Workington: a case study in coordination and communication. Proc Inst Civ Eng - Munic Eng 169:109–117. doi: 10.1680/muen.15.00004 Google Scholar
  3. Allen CR, Holling CS (2010) Novelty, adaptive capacity, and resilience. Ecol Soc 15:24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson A (2005) The community builder’s approach to theory of change: A practical guide to theory and development. The Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Armitage D, Plummer R (eds) (2010) Adaptive capacity and environmental governance. Springer, Berlin HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  6. Armitage D, Berkes F, Doubleday N (eds) (2007) Adaptive co-management: collaboration, learning, and multi-level governance. UBC Press, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  7. Aylett A (2014) Progress and challenges in the urban governance of climate change: results of a global survey. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Baker I, Peterson A, Brown G, McAlpine C (2012) Local government response to the impacts of climate change: an evaluation of local climate adaptation plans. Landsc Urban Plan 107:127–136. doi: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2012.05.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barclay C, Ares E (2006) The Greater London Authority Bill parts 7 and 8 – Planning and environmental functions, Bill 11 of 2006–7. LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Barkham R, Brown K, Parpa C, Breen C, Carver S, Hooton C (2014) Resilient Cities: A Grosvenor Research ReportGoogle Scholar
  11. Barrett v Ministry of Defence (1995) 1 WLR 1217Google Scholar
  12. Batten J, Edwards C (2015) Sustainable Cities Index 2015. ArcadisGoogle Scholar
  13. Baum HS (1996) Why the rational paradigm persists: Tales from the field. J Plan Educ Res 15:127–135. doi: 10.1177/0739456X9601500205 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Berke PR (2014) Rising to the challenge: Planning for adaptation in the age of climate change. In: Glavovic BC, Smith GP (eds) Adapting to Climate Change: Lessons from Natural Hazards Planning. Environmental Hazards, Springer Science & Business, pp 170–190Google Scholar
  15. Berke P, Backhurst M, Day M, Ericksen N, Laurien L, Crawford J, Dixon J (2006) What makes plan implementation successful? An evaluation of local plans and implementation practices in New Zealand. Environ Plan B Plan Des 33:581–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Biesbroek GR, Swart RJ, Carter TR, Cowan C, Henrichs T, Mela H, Morecroft M, Rey D (2010) Europe adapts to climate change: comparing national adaptation strategies. Glob Environ Chang 20:440–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Birkmann J, Garschagen M, Kraas F, Quang N (2010) Adaptive urban governance: new challenges for the second generation of urban adaptation strategies to climate change. Sustain Sci 5:185–206. doi: 10.1007/s11625-010-0111-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bulkeley H, Schroeder H (2008) Governing climate change post-2012: The role of global cities - LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Burkett M (2013) Duty and breach in an era of uncertainty: local government liability for failure to adapt to climate change. Georg Mason Law Rev 6:775–802Google Scholar
  20. C40 (2016) History of the C40. Cities Climate Leadership Group. Accessed 29 Jan 2016
  21. Christie P (2005) Observed and perceived environmental impacts of marine protected areas on two Southeast Asia sites. Ocean Coast Manag 48:252–270. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2005.04.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cohen B (2011) Global Ranking of Top 10 Resilient Cities. In: Triple Pundit. Accessed 25 Dec 2015
  23. Creswell JW (2012) Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five approaches, 3rd edn. SAGE Publications, Inc., Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  24. Davoudi S, Crawford J, Mehmood A (eds) (2009) Planning for climate change: strategies for mitigation and adaptation for spatial planners. Earthscan, SterlingGoogle Scholar
  25. Davoudi S, Mehmood A, Brooks L (2011) The London Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: Gap analysis. NewcastleGoogle Scholar
  26. Dessai S, Lu X, Risbey J (2005) On the role of climate scenarios for adaptation planning. Glob Environ Chang 15:87–97. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2004.12.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dodman D, Carmin J (2011) Urban adaptation planning: The use and limits of climate science. International Institute for Environment and DevelopmentGoogle Scholar
  28. Emerson K, Nabatchi T (2015) Evaluating the productivity of collaborative governance regimes: a performance matrix. Public Perform Manag Rev 38:717–747. doi: 10.1080/15309576.2015.1031016 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Faludi A (1989) Conformance vs. performance: implications for evaluation. Impact Assess 7:135–151. doi: 10.1080/07349165.1989.9726017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Faludi A (2000) The performance of spatial planning. Plan Pract Res 15:299–318. doi: 10.1080/713691907 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Flyvbjerg B (2006) Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qual Inq 12:219–245. doi: 10.1177/1077800405284363 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Folke C, Hahn T, Olsson P, Norberg J (2005) Adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. Annu Rev Environ Resour 30:441–473. doi: 10.1146/ CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gallucci M (2013) 6 of the World’s Most Extensive Climate Adaptation Plans. In: Insid. Clim. News. Accessed 25 Dec 2015
  34. Glaser BG (1992) Basics of grounded theory analysis: Emergence vs. forcing. Sociology PressGoogle Scholar
  35. Glaser BG, Strauss AL (1967) The discovery of grounded theory: strategies for qualitative research. Aldine Publising Company, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  36. Greater London Authority Act 2007,
  37. Grothmann T, Grecksch K, Winges M, Siebenhüner B (2013) Assessing institutional capacities to adapt to climate change: integrating psychological dimensions in the adaptive capacity wheel. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 13:3369–3384. doi: 10.5194/nhess-13-3369-2013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gupta J, Termeer C, Klostermann J, Meijerink S, van den Brink M, Jong P, Nooteboom S, Bergsma E (2010) The adaptive capacity wheel: a method to assess the inherent characteristics of institutions to enable the adaptive capacity of society. Environ Sci Pol 13:459–471. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2010.05.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Haasnoot M, Kwakkel JH, Walker WE, ter Maat J (2013) Dynamic adaptive policy pathways: a method for crafting robust decisions for a deeply uncertain world. Glob Environ Chang 23:485–498. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.12.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Innes JE, Booher DE (2003) The impact of collaborative planning on governance capacity. BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  41. IPCC (2014) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part a: global and sectoral aspects. In: Barros VR, Field CB, Dokken DJ, Mastrandrea MD, Mach KJ, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ED, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, White LL (eds) Contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, p 1132Google Scholar
  42. Jabareen Y (2014) An assessment framework for cities coping with climate change: the case of new York City and its PlaNYC 2030. Sustainability 6:5898–5919. doi: 10.3390/su6095898 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Johnson B (2013) It’s snowing, and it really feels like the start of a mini ice age. Telegraph. Accessed 1 Jan 2016
  44. Johnson B (2015) I can’t stand this December heat, but it has nothing to do with global warming. Telegraph. Accessed 1 Jan 2016
  45. Kessler R (2011) Stormwater strategies: cities prepare aging infrastructure for climate change. Environ Health Perspect 119:A514–A519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Klein J (2015) Potential liability of goverments for failure to prepare for climate change. Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. Columbia Law School, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. Laurian L, Day M, Berke P et al (2004) Evaluating plan implementation: a conformance-based methodology. J Am Plan Assoc 70:471–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. LCCP (2016a) About London Climate Change Partnership. London Climate Change Partnership. Accessed 29 Jan 2016
  49. LCCP (2016b) Adaptation Economy. London Climate Change Partnership. Accessed 20 May 2016
  50. LCCP (n.d.) Understanding the Ripple Effect – Anytown. London Climate Change Partnership. Accessed 20 May 2016
  51. Leach WD, Sabatier PA (2005) Are trust and social capital the keys to success? Watershed partnerships in California and Washington. In: Sabatier PA, Focht W, Lubell M, Trachtenberg Z, Vedlitz A, Matlock M (eds) Swimming upstream: collaborative approaches to watershet management. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 233–258Google Scholar
  52. LRAP (2010) Adapting to climate change: Guidance notes for NI188. Local and Regional Partnership BoardGoogle Scholar
  53. Marshall NA, Park S, Howden SM, Dowd AB, Jakku ES (2013) Climate change awareness is associated with enhanced adaptive capacity. Agric Syst 117:30–34. doi: 10.1016/j.agsy.2013.01.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mastop H, Faludi A (1997) Evaluation of strategic plans: the performance principle. Environ Plan B Plan Des 24:815–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Millard-Ball A (2012) The limits to planning: Causal impacts of city climate action plans. J Plan Educ Res 5–19. doi:  10.1177/0739456X12449742
  56. Milly PCD, Betancourt J, Falkenmark M, Hirsch RM, Kundzewicz ZW, Lettenmaier DP, Stouffer RJ (2008) Stationarity is dead: whither water management? Science 319(80):573–574. doi: 10.1126/science.1151915 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Nickson A, Woolston H, Daniels J, Dedring I, Reid K, Ranger K, Clancy L, Street R, Reeder T (2011) Managing risks and increasing resilience: the Mayor’s climate change adaptation strategy. Greater London Authority, LondonGoogle Scholar
  58. Overseas Tankship (1961) (UK) Ltd v Morts Dock and Engineering Co Ltd (Wagon Mound Case 1), 100 ALR2d 928 (1961) UKPC 2Google Scholar
  59. Pimlott B, Rao N (2002) Governing London. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  60. Preston BL, Westaway RM, Yuen EJ (2011) Climate adaptation planning in practice: an evaluation of adaptation plans from three developed nations. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 16:407–438. doi: 10.1007/s11027-010-9270-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Quay R (2010) Anticipatory governance. J Am Plan Assoc 76:496–511. doi: 10.1080/01944363.2010.508428 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Ranger N, Reeder T, Lowe J (2013) Addressing “deep” uncertainty over long-term climate in major infrastructure projects: four innovations of the Thames Estuary 2100 project. Eur J Decis Process 1:233–262. doi: 10.1007/s40070-013-0014-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rosenzweig C, Solecki W, Hammer S, Mehrotra S (2010) Cities lead the way in climate-change action. Nature 467:909–911CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ruhl JB (2011) General design principles for resilience and adaptive capacity in legal systems: applications to climate change adaptation law. North Carol Law Rev 89:1373–1401Google Scholar
  65. Skinner J, Moroney S, Ursu M (2015) London Infrastructure Plan 2050: A Consultation. LondonGoogle Scholar
  66. Smit B, Burton I, Klein RJT, Wandel J (2000) An anatomy of adaptation to climate change and variability. Clim Chang 45:223–251. doi: 10.1023/A:1005661622966 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Swart R, Biesbroek R, Binnerup S, Carter TR, Cowan C, Henrichs T, Loquen S, Mela H, Morecroft M, Reese M, Rey D (2009) Europe adapts to climate change: Comparing National Adaptation Strategies. Partnership for European Environmental ResearchGoogle Scholar
  68. Talen E (1997) Success, failure, and conformance: an alternative approach to planning evaluation. Environ Plan B Plan Des 24:587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tang S, Dessai S (2012) Usable science? The UK climate projections 2009 and decision support for adaptation planning.Google Scholar
  70. Tang Z, Brody SD, Quinn CE, Chang L, Wei T (2010) Moving from agenda to action: evaluating local climate change action plans. J Environ Plan Manag 53:41–62. doi: 10.1080/09640560903399772 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Thomas CW, Koontz TM (2011) Research designs for evaluating the impact of community-based management on natural resource conservation. J Nat Resour Policy Res 3:97–111. doi: 10.1080/19390459.2011.557877 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. UK Transport Committee (2010) The impact of flooding on bridges and other transport infrastructure in Cumbria: oral and written evidence (HC 473). UK Transport Committee, LondonGoogle Scholar
  73. UKCIP (2013) The UKCIP Adaptation Wizard v 4.0. United Kingdom Climate Impacts Programme, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  74. USAID (2015) Urban climate change adaptation and resilience – A training manual. United States Agency for International Development, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  75. Valdés HM, Rego A, Scott J, Aguayo JV, Bittner P (2012) How to make cities more resilient: a handbook for local government leaders. UNISDR, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  76. World Bank (2011) Guide to climate change adaptation in cities. The World Bank, Washington, D.C.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and ResourcesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations