Assessment of the climate preparedness of 30 urban areas in the UK


Cities are increasingly aware of the need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to changes in weather patterns leading to the production of urban climate change plans. The few existing systematic studies of these plans have focused on either adaptation or mitigation issues, and are typically based on surveys completed by city officials rather than analysis of documented evidence. To gain insight into the status of adaptation and mitigation action across the UK, climate change documents from 30 urban areas (representing ~28 % of the UK’s population) were analysed. An Urban Climate Change Preparedness Score, which could be applied to other urban areas outside the UK, has been devised for comparative analysis. This analysis characterizes progress against (i) Assessment, (ii) Planning, (iii) Action, and (iv) Monitoring, for both adaptation and mitigation. The Preparedness Score allows a quantitative comparison of climate change strategies across the urban areas analysed. This methodology can be transferred to other countries and makes an international comparison of urban areas and their climate change adaptation and mitigation plans possible. We found that all areas acknowledge climate change being a threat and that adaptation and mitigation planning and action is required. However, two urban areas did not have official adaptation or mitigation plans. Typically, mitigation activities across all cities were more advanced than adaptation plans. Emissions reduction targets ranged from 10 %–80 % with differing baselines, timeframes and scopes, for defining and meeting these targets. Similar variability was observed across adaptation plans. Several reasons for these differences are considered, but particularly notable is that a combination of incentives and regulation seem to stimulate more comprehensive strategies and action in many urban areas.

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This analysis was made possible through a European Science Foundation funded COST Action network (TU0902): Integrated assessment technologies to support the sustainable development of urban areas. Richard Dawson is funded through an Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council Fellowship (EP/H003630/1). Diana Reckien is funded by a fellowship of the German Research Foundation (RE 2927/2-1). We are grateful to the many UK council officers who provided time and information to help acquire the documents and data used here. We also like to thank Matt Wade and Christine Jeans for their help in illustrating parts of the data. We would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful and constructive comments that have enhanced the understanding and quality of this paper.

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Correspondence to Oliver Heidrich.

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Heidrich, O., Dawson, R.J., Reckien, D. et al. Assessment of the climate preparedness of 30 urban areas in the UK. Climatic Change 120, 771–784 (2013).

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  • Climate Change Adaptation
  • City Council
  • Emission Reduction Target
  • Carbon Disclosure Project
  • Tackle Climate Change