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Urban adaptation index: assessing cities readiness to deal with climate change


Worldwide cities are at the forefront of tackling climate change; however, it is not clear to what extent they are prepared for the challenge, particularly in the context of lower income countries, where the need for action is urgent. In this context, many of cities struggle to develop evidence-based approaches to assess their current and future capacity to deal with climate impacts and inform the design of policies to respond in the short/long term. Based both on extensive field research carried out in Brazilian cities and on urban adaptation literature, we develop and test the Urban Adaptation Index (UAI) that cities can use to assess their current adaptive capacity in a realistic/achievable way. The index includes 26 indicators and focuses on a set of public policies to support interventions connected to adaptation: housing, urban mobility, sustainable agriculture, environmental management, and climate impact response. To make the UAI more usable/accessible, we use empirical data that is publicly available, and develop an approach that can be implemented with resources already available in many Brazilian cities. We illustrate the UAI usability by applying the index to the 645 municipalities of the state of São Paulo. Results show that more than half of the municipalities present low UAI ratings; however, municipalities located in metropolitan regions, where the majority of the population live, tend to have higher ratings. Practitioners agreed on the value of the UAI as a tool to monitor the current situation and changes regarding local potential capacity to adapt to climate change.

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This study is part of the CiAdapta project funded by Brazil’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development – CNPq (Proc. 446032/2015-8). The authors Gabriela Di Giulio, Michele Dalla Fontana and Fabiano de Araújo Moreira acknowledge the funding by FAPESP (Proc. 2018/21362-1; Proc. 2018/21249-0) within the Project Glocull (Proc. Fapesp 2017/50423-6). The authors would like to thank all the practitioners that voluntarily took part in the research and contributed to the results, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.

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This study is part of the CiAdapta project funded by Brazil’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development – CNPq (Proc. 446032/2015–8). The authors Gabriela Di Giulio, Michele Dalla Fontana and Fabiano de Araújo Moreira also acknowledge the funding by FAPESP (Proc. 2018/21362–1; Proc. 2018/21249–0) within the Project Glocull (Proc. Fapesp 2017/50423–6).

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Conceptualization and design: Eduardo Alves Neder, Gabriela Marques Di Giulio, Roger Rodrigues Torres, David Montenegro Lapola; methodology: Eduardo Alves Neder, Gabriela Marques Di Giulio, Roger Rodrigues Torres, David Montenegro Lapola, Maria P. Vasconcellos; formal analysis and investigation: Eduardo Alves Neder, Gabriela Marques Di Giulio, Roger Rodrigues Torres; writing—original draft preparation: Eduardo Alves Neder, Gabriela Marques Di Giulio, Roger Rodrigues Torres, David Montenegro Lapola, Fabiano de Araújo Moreira, Michele Dalla Fontana, Maria Carmen Lemos; writing—review and editing: Eduardo Alves Neder, Gabriela Marques Di Giulio, Roger Rodrigues Torres, David Montenegro Lapola, Fabiano de Araújo Moreira, Michele Dalla Fontana, Maria P. Vasconcellos, Ana Maria Barbieri Bedran-Martins, Arlindo Philipi Jr., Maria Carmen Lemos; funding acquisition: Gabriela Marques Di Giulio. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gabriela Marques Di Giulio.

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Neder, E.A., de Araújo Moreira, F., Dalla Fontana, M. et al. Urban adaptation index: assessing cities readiness to deal with climate change. Climatic Change 166, 16 (2021).

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  • Climate change adaptation
  • Public policies
  • Sustainability
  • Index
  • Adaptive capacity