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School of Environment, Education and Development

Building capacity for urban climate change adaptation

Research into the effects of urbanisation on local climate has enhanced knowledge and awareness of urban climate change adaptation. It has resulted in free-to-use and scalable decision support tools. Research outputs are being used by municipal authorities in the UK and overseas to establish new climate change adaptation strategies and policies.

City planners from across Europe have been supported during the development of strategies to help urban areas adapt to climate change.

Flooded road with car roof sticking out. The number 11 is overlaid as white text
11 European municipalities and regions now have climate change adaptation strategies in place.

Climate change is often discussed in general terms but decision makers require more locally relevant detail to plan and adapt accordingly. A series of collaborative projects led by our researchers have helped urban planners to understand, assess and respond to the potential effects of climate change.

Three  tools are now available:

  • The GRaBS project risk and vulnerability assessment tool helps municipal planning authorities to develop strategic climate change adaptation responses.
  • The EcoCities Spatial Portal is an interactive platform that provides information to improve understanding of climate change vulnerability in Greater Manchester, helping to build the evidence to support adaptation plans and strategies.
  • The Surface Temperature and Runoff (STAR) tool assists users to analyse the potential of green infrastructure to reduce flood risk and heat stress.  

Key benefits of these research outputs and tools:

  • They provide key evidence to municipal authorities in the UK and overseas, in their ongoing assessment of how climate change may affect their cities and urban areas.
  • In North West England, the tools have been used by the Mersey Forest organisation to build the case for green infrastructure investment.
  • The research contributed to Manchester City Council’s core strategy and its green infrastructure framework, and supported the climate change strategy and associated implementation plan of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities.
  • In Europe, the GRaBS project tools have been used by the project’s 11 partner municipalities and regions, to progress climate change adaptation responses and raise awareness of related issues.
  • The GRaBS project tool was adopted by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), giving it the potential to support urban adaptation planning in cities across the world.
A traffic cone in the rain. The number 24 is overlaid in white text.
24 GRaBS training workshops were held with local authorities (Oct 2012 - Feb 2013).

Our research involved a series of collaborative projects that investigated the ways in which urbanisation modifies local climates. The researchers modelled how urbanisation increases the capacity of towns and cities for heat storage, whilst also accelerating surface water runoff. This framework was then applied in the context of rapid global climate change looking at its potential urban impacts and implications for planning and development.

The research involved the following principal projects:

  • Adaptation Strategies for Climate Change in the Urban Environment (ASCCUE): providing the first integrated assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation in UK urban areas.
  • Green and Blue Space Adaptation for Urban Areas and Eco Towns (GraBS): developing knowledge and decision support tools to enhance capacity for adaptation planning amongst a group of 11 local and regional stakeholders from across Europe.
  • EcoCities: focusing on building Greater Manchester’s capacity to adapt to the changing climate and developed strong ties to decision makers across the conurbation.  

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