Full project title
Increasing Societies´ Adaptive Capacities to Climate Change: Distributed Urban Risk Governance for Achieving Sustainable Transformation and Resilience of Cities
Main funding organisation
The Swedish Research Council Formas
November 2012 – December 2018
Christine Wamsler, Associate Professor at LUCSUS
Climatic extremes and variability pose a serious challenge to sustainable urban development, placing many cities at risk. City authorities are increasingly facing the challenge of finding ways to include adaptation strategies into their work although related knowledge and expertise are still scarce and fragmented. Current approaches are limited in scope and generally do not consider local adaptation capacities of individuals and households. Furthermore, the extent of the changing climatic conditions is reducing the capacity of urban institutions and associated governance systems to deal with climate change. In fact, climate change is undermining the effectiveness of institutional responses which were designed to be applied in the event of known ‘common’ and more ‘predictable’ hazards and associated impacts.
New approaches for urban climate change adaptation are urgently needed. Whilst substantial research exists on institutional capacities for adaptation, there is a near absence of research on adaptation capacities of citizens – individuals and households.
Against this background, this research project aims at generating knowledge on the role and potential of a (more) distributed risk governance system, where institutional and people’s local capacities and strategies for climate change adaptation can support and complement each other. The research focuses on Sweden, Germany and Denmark. It will be carried out in close cooperation with different municipalities and strongly involve citizens living in areas vulnerable to climate variability and change. In addition, adaptation strategies from other countries will be analysed in order to identify lessons that could be applicable to the Swedish context. Click here for related LUCSUS project »
To generate in-depth knowledge on the role and potential of a (more) distributed urban risk governance system, where institutions’ and people’s capacities and strategies for climate change adaptation can support and complement each other. On this basis, to develop planning approaches for increasing urban resilience and achieving sustainable urban transformation for climate change adaptation. This includes:
a. Strategies for people-oriented planning for climatic extremes and variability;
b. Strategies for institutional transformation for climatic extremes and variability.
- What are the general differences in current municipal strategies for climate change adaptation?
- How do these strategies and associated planning mechanisms at different levels interact in preventing and reducing potential climate change impacts?
- Do they actively involve different stakeholders and citizens at risk?
- Do they support or hinder people’s local adaptation capacities?
- What kind of adaptation capacities (and safety attitudes) do individuals and households have?
- Are they influenced by their life form or other factors (e.g. type of building, level of education, income, age, gender, health status, environmental lifestyle, cultural background, human capacities such as attention, awareness and mindfulness)?
- Are there urban-rural differences?
- What can and want citizens contribute to prevent and reduce potential climate change impacts?
- And how could citizens and their capacities be better supported and new capacities be incentivized?
Hazard types addressed
Floods, heat and cold waves, sea-level rise and windstorms, with integration of other climate change-linked events.
Wamsler, C., Pauleit, S. (2016) ‘Making Headway in Climate Policy Mainstreaming and Eosystem-Based Adaptation: Two Pioneering Countries, different Pathways, one Goal’. Climatic Change 137(1):71-87. Available at: http://link.springer.com/search?query=wamsler&search-within=Journal&face...
Wamsler, C., Niven, L, Beery, T., Bramryd, T., Ekelund, N., Jönsson, I., Osmani, A., Palo, T., Stålhammar, S. (2016) ‘Operationalizing Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: Harnessing Ecosystem Services to Buffer Communities against Climate Change’. Ecology and Society 21(1):31.
Available at: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol21/iss1/art31/
Wamsler, C. (2016) ‘From Risk Governance to City-Citizen Collaboration: Capitalizing on Individual Adaptation to Climate Change’. Environmental Policy and Governance 26:184–204. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eet.1707/abstract
Wamsler, C, Brink, E. (2016) ‘The Urban Domino Effect: A Conceptualization of Cities’ Interconnectedness of Risk’, International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment 7(2):80–113. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/IJDRBE-01-2015-0001
Brink, E., Aalders, T., Adam, D., Feller, R., Henselek, Y., Hoffmann, A., Ibe, K., Matthey-Doret, A., Meyer, M., Negrut, L., Rau, A-L., Riewerts, B., Törnros, S., von Schuckmann, L., Von Wehrden, H., Abson D.J., Wamsler, C. (2016) ‘Cascades of Green: A Review of Ecosystem-based Adaptation in Urban Areas’. Global Environmental Change (GEC) 36:111–123. Available at:
Wamsler, C. (2015) ‘Mainstreaming Ecosystem-based Adaptation: Transformation Toward Sustainability in Urban Governance and Planning’. Ecology and Society 20(2):30. Available at: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol20/iss2/art30/
Rivera, C., Tehler, H., Wamsler, C. (2015) ‘Fragmentation in Disaster Risk Management Systems: A Barrier for Integrated Planning’, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 14: 445–456. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212420915300819
Wamsler, C., and Brink, E. (2015). ‘The Role of Individual Adaptive Practice for Sustainable Adaptation. International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment (IJDRBE) 6(1) 6–29. See: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/toc/ijdrbe/6/1 WINNER OF Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2016 – See more at: http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/about/news/?id=6658
Wamsler, C., Lüderitz, C. and Brink, E. (2014). ‘Local Levers for Change: Mainstreaming Ecosystem-based Adaptation into Municipal Planning to Foster Sustainability Transitions’. Global Environmental Change (GEC) 29 (2014) 189-201.
Wamsler, C., and Brink, E. (2014). ‘Planning for Resilience to Climatic Extremes and Variability: A Review of Swedish Municipalities’ Adaptation Responses’. Sustainability 6(3):1359–1385. Available at: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/6/3/1359/htm
Wamsler, C., and Brink, E. (2014). ‘Interfacing Citizens’ and Institutions’ Practice and Responsibilities for Climate Change Adaptation’. Urban Climate 7:64–81. Available at:
Wamsler, C. (2014) Cities, Disaster Risk, and Adaptation, Routledge Series on Critical Introduction to Urbanism and the City, London: Routledge. (Peer reviewed).
Wamsler, C. (2013) ‘Anpassning i städer’ [Climate Change Adaptation in Cities], pp. 45–58, book chapter in: 15 Nedslag i Klimatforskningen: Dåtid, Nutid, Framtid [Climate Research: Past, Present, and Future], Hall, M. And Björck, I. (eds), Lund: CEC.
New tool for mainstreaming climate change adaptation: In the context of the project, a tool for integrating ecosystem-based adaptation into municipal governance and planning was developed together with Swedish and German cities. Leitfaden. Guide.
New publication: Routledge published a new book “Cities, Disaster Risk and Adaptation” by Christine Wamsler.
Workshop on urban resilience with municipal staff, politicians and private sector: In 2013, Christine Wamsler was invited as a speaker to participate in a workshop on urban resilience organized by Lund Municipality. The participants included municipal staff, politicians, the private sector and other researchers. During the workshop, Christine introduced the concepts of urban risk reduction, adaptation and resilience and discussed how they can be best operationalized at the local level.
New platform for exchange and discussion with Local City Authorities: In 2013 Christine Wamsler and Ebba Brink became part of a new research circle organised by Scania’s Association of Local Authorities (Kommunförbundet Skåne) on the theme of ‘Planning under increased uncertainty’. In this context, the above-described research project is regularly discussed with the different members; that is: eleven municipal planners and environmental officers from nine different Scanian municipalities, the regional director of the Region South Fire and Rescue Service,as well as two representatives from Scania’s Association of Local Authorities. The following questions are currently debated with the members of the research circle: (1) Where and how do you draw the line between individual and municipal responsibility for adaptation?; (2) Are there any problems in relation to this division of responsibilities?; (3) Do individuals’ adaptation measures pose a barrier to your municipal work on adaptation, or do they support and contribute to your work?; (4) How could related problems and challenges be solved?