Planning for Climate Change: A Strategic, Values-based Approach for Urban Planners

2011 Canadian Institute of Planners Award for Excellence in Planning – Planning Publications (Honorable Mention)

Planning for Climate Change: A strategic values-based approach for urban planners was developed for city planners and other professionals to better understand, assess and take action on climate change at the local level. While climate change is a global issue, the guide is specifically intended for urban communities in low and middle-income countries where the challenges are unique and the stakes of planning for climate change are particularly high.

EcoPlan worked with Compass Resource Management ( to develop the original version of this guide in 2011 for UN-Habitat. The draft version went through an extensive peer review process involving multiple universities and academic institutions (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Twente, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, University of British Columbia, and University of Auckland) non-governmental organizations, foundations and international agencies (UN- Habitat, UN Environment Programme, World Bank, International Institute for Sustainable Development, and Rockefeller Foundation/ Mercy Corps), professional associations (Canadian Institute of Planners and Commonwealth Association of Planners) and the private sector (ARCADIS). Following a series of global, regional and national training events, an Expert Group Meeting in the Republic of Korea in November 2012 and a ten-day intensive training session with practitioners in the Philippines in April 2013, the guide was substantively reworked and reviewed in a second peer-review process. The final guide was published in February 2014.

Designed with the flexibility to be used both as a general resource and as a step-by-step planning guide, Planning for Climate Change was published as a two volume series. The first volume provides a summary overview of climate change and its impacts on cities, along with a modular planning process to help guide-users develop a stand-alone climate change adaption plan or to support other city planning initiatives. The second volume includes 42 integrated tools that support each step of the planning process.

To help those facing the challenge of developing and implementing climate change adaptation initiatives, Planning for Climate Change is organized around four key planning themes:

  • Strategic: All planning – physical, spatial, land use, environmental, and economic – is more effective if it is strategic. Whatever the type of planning, all of it is ultimately about making the best decision possible with the resources available.
  • Values-based: Good planning incorporates local community values, or objectives, in addition to the objectives that may be present in existing city plans and strategies. Such an approach helps to ensure that the city’s particular social and economic challenges – like poverty, population health, water, and sanitation – frame the planning process, and that local objectives are used in the planning process.
  • Participatory: Engaging a variety of stakeholders beyond city staff and leaders in the climate change planning process helps to ensure more coordinated and appropriate actions are chosen and implemented. Participatory planning helps to ensure that the implementation actions that come out of the planning process have the support of key city partners and stakeholders, are responsive to local community interests and values, and help to achieve a broader range of local development objectives.
  • Integrated: The realization of Climate Change Action Plan policies, programmes and projects is often more effective and achievable if they are implemented or “mainstreamed” through existing city plans, strategies, and processes.

With these planning themes as the foundation, Planning for Climate Change is designed to:

  1. Provide city planners with practical tools for addressing climate change through different urban planning processes;
  2. Help city planners to better plan for current and future climate change impacts at the local level;
  3. Support the “mainstreaming” of climate change actions into physical, spatial, sectoral and comprehensive development plans (e.g. city development strategy, city or town plan, economic development strategy);
  4. Promote an inclusive, participatory planning process that integrates city planning activities with local community participation and more structured, transparent, and defensible decision-making; and
  5. Support ongoing capacity building for urban planners and professionals from related fields.