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City climate plans are improving but still neglect vulnerable people

Most local authorities are not considering the needs of vulnerable people sufficiently when planning for climate change, according to a study of more than 300 European cities.

City with environment symbols
The study examined the quality of urban adaptation plans which provide a framework for reducing the impact of climate change on communities and cities

The 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, requires regular assessments of climate change adaptation progress, and a global stocktake is currently taking place to measure implementation.

However, a recent study involving Nottingham Business School (NBS), part of Nottingham Trent University, has found that only 167 out of 327 European cities had full urban adaptation plans by the end of 2020 - with most found in the UK, followed by Poland, France, and Germany.

The research, led by University of Twente in the Netherlands, created indices to evaluate the quality of urban adaptation plans in relation to six well-established principles 1.) fact base of potential impacts and risks in the local area; 2.) adaptation goals; 3.) adaptation measures; 4.) details on the implementation of adaptation measures; 5.) monitoring & evaluation of adaptation measures; and 6.) societal participation in plan creation.

It also measured consistency, namely that impacts/risks, goals, measures, monitoring, and participation are aligned with each other. For example, if a city identifies that it is vulnerable to an increase in heatwaves, which put older people at particular risk, a good plan also designs and implements specific heat-related measures, focussing on the elderly, and puts mechanisms in place to assess whether the heat risk for the elderly has reduced after implementation.

Dr Peter Eckersley
Dr Peter Eckersley, Nottingham Business School

Findings showed that the general quality of plans, as well as their overall degree of consistency, improved between 2005 and 2020 – and recent plans were more likely to mention the potential impacts of climate change on vulnerable groups. However, plans got worse over time in terms of detailing measures that particularly address vulnerable people, and very few cities involve children, people on low-incomes, and the elderly in developing their policies, or propose monitoring and evaluating whether council initiatives reduce their exposure to climate threats.

In relation to impact/risks and goals, cities listed substantially more impacts/risks than they did goals, suggesting little alignment between the two.

On average cities most improved in terms of goal setting, suggesting detailed and different measures, and detailing out the implementation. The plans only slightly or barely improved with regard to detailing future monitoring processes.

Dr Peter Eckersley, Senior Research Fellow in Public Policy and Management at NBS, said: “We saw that between 2005 and 2020, adaptation plans got better in aligning goals with impacts and risks, but this is still not done comprehensively. In addition, plans focus more on vulnerable sectors and industries than on the needs of vulnerable groups of citizens.

“Vulnerable groups are rarely involved in participation processes and the vast majority of plans make no mention of monitoring and evaluation to address their specific needs. Cities have to start taking the specific needs of these people into account.”

The study has led to the creation of a free, online Climate Change Adaptation Scoring tool which calculates ‘ADAptation plan Quality Assessment’ (ADAQA) indices for individual cities, thereby allowing local climate practitioners to check whether their plans are covering the right topics and to benchmark against others.

In addition, the components of the indices can be used to benchmark and fast-track improvements in the next generation of plans. The authors recommend that governments and agencies provide more resources, such as the ADAQA indices, to support cities in tracking and assessing their progress.

The full paper, Quality of urban climate adaptation plans over time, has been published in the Nature journal Urban Sustainability.

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    About Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Business School (NBS) at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is a leader in experiential learning and personalisation of business, management and economics education and research, combining academic excellence with positive impact on people, business and society.  NBS has an unrivalled level of engagement with business, public and voluntary organisations. With more than 8,500 students, NBS is also one of UK’s largest business schools.

    NBS is Quadruple+ Accredited by EQUIS, AACSB, EFMD BA for International Business, which are globally recognised hallmarks of excellence and quality for business education. NBS is also accredited by Small Business Charter, providing support and development for SMEs. The school is also a PRME Champion and held up as an exemplar and beacon by the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME).

    About Nottingham Trent University

    Nottingham Trent University (NTU) received the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2021 for cultural heritage science research. It is the second time that NTU has been bestowed the honour of receiving a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its research, the first being in 2015 for leading-edge research on the safety and security of global citizens.

    The Research Excellence Framework (2021) classed 83% of NTU’s research activity as either world-leading or internationally excellent. 86% of NTU’s research impact was assessed to be either world-leading or internationally excellent.

    NTU was ranked second best university in the UK in the Uni Compare Top 100 rankings (2021/2022). It was awarded Outstanding Support for Students 2020 (Times Higher Education Awards), University of the Year 2019 (Guardian University Awards, UK Social Mobility Awards), Modern University of the Year 2018 (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide) and University of the Year 2017 (Times Higher Education Awards).

    NTU is the 5th largest UK institution by student numbers, with nearly 39,000 students and more than 4,400 staff located across five campuses. It has an international student population of 7,000 and an NTU community representing over 160 countries.

    Since 2000, NTU has invested £570 million in tools, technology, buildings and facilities.

    NTU is in the UK’s top 10 for number of applications and ranked first for accepted offers (2021 UCAS UG acceptance data) It is also among the UK’s top five recruiters of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and was the first UK university to sign the Social Mobility Pledge.

    75% of NTU students go on to graduate-level employment or graduate-entry education / training within fifteen months of graduating (Guardian University Guide 2021).

    NTU is ranked 2nd most sustainable university in the world in the 2022 UI Green Metric University World Rankings (out of more than 900 participating universities).

Published on 6 March 2023
  • Category: Press office; Research; Nottingham Business School