Project overview

Can we measure the effectiveness of urban climate adaptation policies?
When it comes to cities, climate adaptation policy and planning is relatively new. It is, however, an increasingly important component of the international climate policy agenda. Thus, it turns critical to evaluate if and how local authorities are acting to adapt and whether local adaptation plans are on track to effectively reduce future climatic risks. The CLIC project presents a global urban adaptation tracking study on 136 coastal cities around the world. It will identify and document adaptation policies, evaluate their credibility in social, political, economic and scientific terms, and assess if and how these initiatives will effectively address future coastal risks.

After the Paris agreement that put stronger emphasis on the development of policies to adapt to climate change and on the definition of financing mechanisms, there is a patent need to track whether actual efforts towards adaptation are being sufficient. Measuring the progress made on adaptation requires a long-term effort in which, as actions towards adaptation are being implemented, we develop and improve methods and metrics to assess their effectiveness while the uncertainty regarding climate models reduces. The project CLIC contributes to this long-term challenge by advancing the science of climate change adaptation and providing evidence about the progress being made in particular, by cities.

Why cities? Cities are important and decisive actors in the international climate policy context. Hundreds of cities have started preparing for climate change impacts and are members of active networks such as C40 and the Compact of Mayors. Cities are also the places where higher investments will need to be made, because of their higher vulnerabilities and current environmental conditions. Because of this, documenting and measuring the progress made by cities is a critical and required element in the global adaptation stocktake and to assess global advances towards adaptation and resilience.

In the context of this long-term challenge, the main goal of CLIC is to respond to the question of whether and how we can measure the effectiveness of current or planned public investments (meaning those resulting from interventions, plans and policies developed by the public administration) in urban climate resilience. This will be achieved first, by identifying and characterising specific adaptation actions and second, by assessing them against their future risks. This approach will be tested in a large-n set of cities (136) that cover different geographic realities and diverse socio-economic contexts to obtain both city-specific results and world-wide general trends.

The research project, to be carried out over a period of two years, has an endowment from AXA Research Fund and the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, and according to the lead researcher Marta Olazabal “will provide qualified information regarding the results of investments made to date, to help orient adaptation policies suited to the different risk profiles of each location”. The BC3 researcher underscores the importance of availing of information that will enable the evaluation of the efforts undertaken, since “thanks to continuous scientific advances, we have better climate models at our disposal that allow for the greater effectiveness of adaptation policies. It is fundamental for these policies to evolve and be subject to revision every once in a while”.

The Project will make it possible to contrast the data existing on specific risks related to climate (through the database developed by BC3 on climate risks in coastal cities) and data to be gathered on public climate adaptation policies and investment in those cities of over 1 million inhabitants. The project will facilitate making the connection between the regulatory efforts of local governments and these scientific risk models and, therefore, can offer a framework of reference based on a greater understanding of the opportunities for reducing risk (when and how) and the effectiveness of urban interventions in increasing the adaptability of cities to climate change.

The specific cutting-edge aims of the project involve:

  • The creation of a database (DB) to track urban climate change adaptation initiatives taking a set of 136 cities for which risk damage functions focused on tail events (high-impact, low-probability events) have been already developed.
  • The development and testing of risk-based metrics to measure the effectiveness of identified planned or implemented measures to reduce vulnerability or increase resilience to climate change.
  • The validation of the results in an in-depth case study where stakeholders will be engaged in a process where specific city-region results (including tracking documents and risks metrics) will be revised and usability of the outputs will be contrasted.

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