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'Climate Adaptation Needs to be Better Mainstreamed into Urban Governance and Planning' says Christine Wamsler

Hus i en stad.

– The most efficient way to address increasing climate impacts in cities is to mainstream climate adaptation into planning policies and tools. Successful mainstreaming means that climate adaptation will be considered by ‘default’, because it is built into the system, says Christine Wamsler, Professor at LUCSUS, and author of a recent article on the topic.

But how can we achieve this in practice? This is the question Professor Wamsler has been working on in recent years.

– The development of the framework goes back to the early 2000s, and it has continued to evolve since then, says Christine Wamsler.

Her theoretical and operational mainstreaming framework has been developed and tested in close cooperation with different stakeholders that include municipalities, non-governmental organisations, planners and academics. 

Today, the framework has been used worldwide in research, teaching and practice. It systematically presents levels and areas for the integration of climate adaptation. The aim is to address risk in a holistic way and to design and implement local and institutional interventions to be mutually supportive.

– Systematically linking measures at the local and the institutional level is crucial for the sustainable mainstreaming of climate change. Municipalities tend to approach climate adaptation by investing in a few flagship projects, rather than making it an integral part of their work – but climate adaptation is an ongoing process and requires changes at all levels, says Wamsler.

– A common misconception is that climate adaptation is a one-off operation within an organisation. But the truth is that it is an ongoing process in which you constantly have to learn from the changes that are made, she notes.

In her recent article, Professor Christine Wamsler and other researchers, take stock of what is working (or not) in climate adaptation on a global scale. The mainstreaming framework was used to assess current gaps, both worldwide and across different contexts. The results show that a systematic approach to mainstreaming is still lacking. 

– We show that policy worldwide is insufficiently adapted to climate change. This translates into a lack of actual outcomes; in other words, concrete measures that can effectively limit climate impacts in practice.

– An important finding was that the lack of implementation relates to both practicethere are no observed outcomes, and researchpoor study design is failing to capture outcomes, says Wamsler. 

The paper calls for more, higher-level support for adaptation mainstreaming. Effective internal cooperation is a long-standing ‘Holy Grail’ in public administration research, but the scale of the worldwide climate challenge requires new approaches. 

– Our study shows that international and national bodies need to pay more attention to organisational incentives and culture within government, and reward integrated approaches and the systematic mainstreaming of climate adaptation across sectors. Finally, greater active involvement from civil society and the private sector could help to keep climate adaptation on the policy agenda, and raise the political stakes, says Professor Wamsler.

Read: ‘Mainstreaming climate adaptation: taking stock of “what works” from empirical research worldwide’

Urban Governance & Transformation

This research falls under LUCSUS' research theme Urban Governance & Transformation.

About the Researcher

Christine Wamsler

Christine Wamsler is a Professor at LUCSUS. She is an expert in sustainable city development with focus on integral climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction/ management, climate policy mainstreaming, urban resilience and transformation

Christine Wamsler's personal page.