Land Use Planning Tools for Local Adaptation to Climate Change

This document describes planning tools being used across Canada to help communities prepare for climate change, increase adaptive capacity and build resilience. It is directed to individuals and groups interested in climate change adaptation at the local level, including planners and other local government staff, elected officials, community organizations, local residents and business leaders.

Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment assesses the science of climate change and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. It documents climate change related impacts and responses for various sectors and regions, with the goal of better informing public and private decision-making at all levels.

A team of more than 300 experts, guided by a 60-member National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee produced the full report – the largest and most diverse team to produce a U.S. climate assessment. Stakeholders involved in the development of the assessment included decision-makers from the public and private sectors, resource and environmental managers, researchers, representatives from businesses and non-governmental organizations, and the general public. More than 70 workshops and listening sessions were held, and thousands of public and expert comments on the draft report provided additional input to the process.

The assessment draws from a large body of scientific peer-reviewed research, technical input reports, and other publicly available sources; all sources meet the standards of the Information Quality Act. The report was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, the 13 Federal agencies of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the Federal Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability.

Planning Climate Resilient Cities: Early Lessons from Early Adapters

Climate change is expected to place increasing stress on the built and natural environments of cities as well as create new challenges for the provision of urban services and management systems. Minimizing the impacts of climate change requires that cities develop and implement adaptation plans. Despite the imperative, only a small number of cities have initiated the adaptation planning process. Drawing on theories of diffusion and capacity, and empirical assessments of initiatives in Durban, South Africa and Quito, Ecuador, this paper examines two questions:

  • What is driving cities to initiate climate adaptation planning?
  • What is enabling the efforts of early adapters to take root?

Planning for Climate Change

In order to protect local citizens from public health and safety risks and to protect public and private investments, communities should begin to plan for the impacts of climate change that our state is experiencing now and will continue to experience in the future.

Climate change will affect communities and local government functions in a variety of ways. Likely impacts include an increased risk for extreme events such as drought, storms, flooding, and forest fires; more heat-related stress; the spread of existing or new vector-borne disease into a community; and increased erosion and inundation of low-lying areas along coastlines. When assessing what the future climate holds, local governments may find that many of the projected climate change impacts are in fact more extreme versions of what communities are already experiencing today as a result of present-day climate variability and extreme events. Being proactive and strategic in planning for climate change impacts can create opportunities for modifying present-day policies and practices that can increase vulnerability to climate change.

Water Supply in a Changing Climate

Maryland citizens are blessed with an abundant supply of water. However, many water systems are already stressed during droughts, and infrastructure damage and water contamination occurs during floods. Future population growth will combine with increasingly variable weather patterns to place more communities at risk of property damage, regulatory liabilities and uncertain access to drinking water. Maryland’s Eastern Shore is particularly susceptible to salt water intrusion as water demand increases and sea levels rise. Aquifers in central and western Maryland are being stressed due to population growth; short-term storage capacities and contamination from road salt are two issues of significant concern.

Banking on Green

This report focuses on the economic impacts caused by polluted urban runoff, also known as “stormwater,” a significantly growing source of water pollution in the United States. It’s not intended to be an academic or technical document, but instead to be an “easy to read” compendium of current experiences, analysis and knowledge. Our goal is to provide something useful for municipal and utility officials, local, state and national elected representatives, and the general public. As stormwater professionals and researchers gather more information about the performance of green infrastructure, and refine the techniques that fall in this category of stormwater management, it’s important to translate their findings into useful information for policy makers and others. Information about the economics of green infrastructure and about stormwater more broadly is critical to our ongoing conversations about the shape of our communities and the infrastructure they depend upon.

The impacts of stormwater pollution and the need to provide stormwater prevention, management, and treatment all create costs for communities and their residents. These costs can often be offset or reduced by making different choices about how we build communities and infrastructure. By incorporating “green infrastructure” practices in efforts to control stormwater runoff, communities and property developers can reduce energy costs, diminish the impacts of flooding, improve public health, and reduce overall infrastructure costs. In addition, these practices, which rely on natural processes like evaporation, infiltration, and plant transpiration, can effectively and affordably complement traditional “grey” infrastructure, giving stormwater managers the ability to create integrated solutions to better serve their communities. Shifting to this new paradigm also creates more sustainable communities that are better able to meet future challenges, especially in the face of a changing climate.

Starting Climate Adaptation Where Community Concerns Exist in Elkford, British Columbia


United States
50° 1' 28.434" N, 114° 55' 24.708" W

Grizzly bears, moose, mountain goats, deer, elk—all call Elkford, British Columbia home. Wild at Heart is the community slogan and the area is known as the wilderness capitol of British Columbia. As a Rocky Mountain town, the local economy is dependent on the surrounding natural resources—coal mining, logging and increasingly, tourism. How does a community that values it wilderness, wildlife, and depends on the natural resources adapt to climate change? By finding solutions that are in sync with community values.

Cleveland Climate Action Plan: Building Thriving and Healthy Neighborhoods

Taking action around climate change—reducing greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time planning for adaptation and resilience—integrates many of the sustainability initiatives we are working on in municipal government and as a community. The Cleveland Climate Action Plan is designed to build off of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Action and Resources Guide and the annual sustainability summits.

The Cleveland Climate Action Plan (CAP) contains an overarching GHG reduction goal of 80% reduction below baseline emissions by 2050, with interim goals of 16% reduction by 2020 and 40% reduction by 2030. Goals will be achieved through the implementation of the 33 actions outlined in the plan. These actions are split into 6 focus areas all with the aim of reducing Cleveland’s climate impact and preparing the City for the changing climate of the future. Goals are designed to be bold yet achievable.

Goals will be achieved through implementation of the 33 actions outlined in the plan, split into 6 focus areas:

  • Energy Efficiency and Green Building;
  • Advanced and Renewable Energy;
  • Sustainable Mobility;
  • Waste Reduction and Resource Conservation;
  • Land Use and Clean Water; and
  • Community Engagement and Public Health.

Understanding Urban Vulnerability, Adaptation and Resilience in the Context of Climate Change

This paper introduces a special issue of Local Environment that has arisen through collaboration between academic researchers and the Urban Planning and Design Branch of UN-Habitat, focused on how we can understand and respond to the challenges of urban vulnerability, adaptation and resilience in the context of climate change. The paper establishes the existing state of the art in the field, and considers critical challenges that are emerging in the research-based literature. In this context, it introduces UN-Habitat's Cities and Climate Change Initiative and reflects on the lessons learnt and challenges ahead, drawing on insights from across the papers in the special issue. In conclusion, it identifies the role of international/transnational co-operation, the relation between adaptation and mitigation, issues of multi-level governance and the ways in which change in urban socio-technical systems might be achieved as critical issues across the science/policy interface where increased dialogue and the co-production of knowledge needs to focus in order to advance this agenda.