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Urban Transformation

Sustainable Urban Transformation for Climate Change Adaptation

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

Project timeline
November 2012 – December 2019

Project leader
Christine Wamsler, Professor at LUCSUS

Project summary
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 »

Overall aim
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.

Research questions

  • 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.

Project-related publications (selected)

Wamsler, C. et al. (2020) 'Beyond Participation: When Citizen Engagement leads to Undesirable Outcomes for Nature-based Solutions and Climate Change Adaptation'. Climatic Change (Online).

Wamsler, C. et al. (2020) 'Environmental and Climate Policy Integration: Targeted Strategies for Overcoming Barriers to Nature-based solutions and Climate Change Adaptation'. International Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 247 (Online)

Göpfert, C., Wamsler, C., Lang, W. (2019), ' A framework for the joint institutionalization of climate change mitigation and adaptation in city administrations', Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 24(1):1–21 (Online).

Brink, B., Wamsler, C. (2019) 'Citizen engagement in climate adaptation surveyed: The role of values, worldviews, gender and place'', International Journal of Cleaner Production 209:1342-1353 (Online).

Wamsler, C, Raggers, S. (2018) 'Principles for Supporting City-Citizen Commoning for Climate Adaptation: From Adaptation Governance to Sustainable Transformation'. Environmental Science and Policy 85:81-89 (Online).

Brink, E., Wamsler, C. (2018) 'Collaborative Governance for Climate Change Adaptation: Mapping Citizen-Municipality interactions'. Environmental Policy and Governance 28:82-97 (Online).

Wamsler, C. (2017) 'Stakeholder Involvement in Strategic Adaptation Planning: Transdisciplinarity and Co-production at Stake?' Environmental Science and Policy 75:148-157 (Online).

Runhaar, H., Wilk, B., Persson Å., Uittenbroek, C., Wamsler C. (2017) 'Mainstreaming Climate Adaptation: Taking Stock about 'what works' from Empiripal Research Worldwide'. Regionall Environmental Change (Online).

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 (Online). 

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 (Online).

Wamsler, C. (2016) ‘From Risk Governance to City-Citizen Collaboration: Capitalizing on Individual Adaptation to Climate Change’. Environmental Policy and Governance 26:184–204 (Online).

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 (Online).

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 (Online).

Wamsler, C. (2015) ‘Mainstreaming Ecosystem-based Adaptation: Transformation Toward Sustainability in Urban Governance and Planning’. Ecology and Society 20(2):30 (Online).

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 (Online).

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 (Online). WINNER OF Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2016 – See more at:

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 (Online).

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 (Online). 

Wamsler, C., and Brink, E. (2014). ‘Interfacing Citizens’ and Institutions’ Practice and Responsibilities for Climate Change Adaptation’. Urban Climate 7:64–81. (Online

Wamsler, C. (2014) Cities, Disaster Risk, and Adaptation, Routledge Series on Critical Introduction to Urbanism and the City, London: Routledge. (Peer reviewed). Click here.

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.



Project-related news

  • Our new Swedish Project Website is now online. It features our latest tools and flyers for decision-makers and citizens. Click here.
  • New debate article in Daily News (Dagens Nyheter) about the Swedish Climate Adaptation Strategy (by Christine Wamsler and 7 other authors) leads to political debates. Click here for the article and related reactions.
  • Recent interviews featured in the local radion P4, Miljö & Utveckling, Aktuell Hållbarhet, and the LUCSUS news with Ebba Brink who has written her PhD thesis in the context of the Urban Transformation project. 
  • 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.
  • Recent popular article in Sustainability Forum about the project and the developed tool for mainstreaming climate change adaptation. Click here (for English version) and here (for Swedish version).
  • New publication: Routledge published a new book “Cities, Disaster Risk and Adaptation” by Christine Wamsler. Click here.
  • 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?

Research video

Project leader Professor Christine Wamsler explains how to mainstream nature-based solutions in urban planning and governance.


Dean's lecture of Prof. Dr. Christine Wamsler at the University of Melbourne on how climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction can be mainstreamed in urban planning and governance to increase urban resilience.

Swedish Project Website

Our new Swedish Project Website is now online. It features our latest tools and flyers for decision-makers and citizens. Click here.