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Climate Change: The IDN perspective

The global average surface temperature of the Earth has increased by approximately 0.7°C over the last 100 years (1906 – 2005): man-made emissions of greenhouse gases particularly carbon dioxide are very likely the principal cause (IPCC, 2014). Global temperature rises of up to 4°C are projected for the next 100 years with knock-on effects on extreme events such as storms, sea level rise, droughts and increased levels of precipitation The impacts on ecosystems and societies could be devastating.

Climate change is a global problem; there is a need to share knowledge, technologies and expertise between different countries and regions. It also poses a professional challenge to all planners which prompted changes to the RTPI Vision for Planning. The RTPI launched its seven commitments on "Planning to Live with Climate Change" at the Planning Convention in June 2009.

Uganda Mudslide Recovery

Clearing devastation after mudslide in Bududa, Uganda: photo by IDN member Wepukhulu Jeremiah

The IDN has a key to play in disseminating knowledge about planning approaches to climate change, promoting and sharing good practice and policy, and influencing decision makers.

An international perspective on planning and climate change

All countries – regardless of their level of development – need a spatially coherent approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This should be set within a broader context of sustainable development as important links exist between planning for climate change and wider sustainability concerns such as biodiversity protection, water conservation and minimisation of resource consumption (e.g. using green roofs for urban cooling and runoff reduction whilst also enhancing biodiversity). As the IPCC (2007) states: "Sustainable development can reduce vulnerability to climate change, and climate change could impede nations' abilities to achieve sustainable development pathways."

Those countries with the highest total historical carbon emissions, such as the UK, could be argued to have a particular moral imperative to act on climate change mitigation and to lead the way.

With regard to climate change adaptation, the need and type of response will vary by country and region; however, it is important to recognise that many of the world's poorest people living in countries in the global south are projected to be particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as floods and drought. They will need support to adapt, and given the 'polluter pays principle', there is arguably again a moral imperative on the largest polluting countries to assist.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In 2015, world leaders from over all 193 UN countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a new set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals replacing the former Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were introduced in 2000. These 17 SDGs aim to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.


In 2015, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (known as COP21) consented to the Paris Agreement, a new international agreement on tackling greenhouse gas emissions from 2020. The key commitment was to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, with an attempt to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Further pledges included the review of each countries contributions to emissions reductions every five years and the provision of 'climate finance' to provide developing countries with funds for climate change adaptation and renewable energy.

What else is the RTPI doing on climate change?

You can follow our activities elsewhere on the RTPI website e.g. the main Climate Change page which has links to guidance, advice and examples of best practice; and the research page which links to projects, publications and events. We would always be glad of links to sources of advice that you have found useful, or case studies that demonstrate good practice, either your own, or from the work of others. To add an item, please email our Policy & Practice staff.

Further information and international web links

References and examples of good practice in responding to the challenge of climate change mitigation and adaptation are outlined below.

C40 Cities  A group of the world's largest cities committed to tackling climate change. The website contains news and updates on current C40 programmes, information about each of the cities involved, and links to useful documents.

Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)  An initiative designed to support developing countries in tackling the challenges posed by climate change, launched in March 2010 by the UK government.

Climate Investment Funds (CIFs) Launched at the G8 Summit in Hokkaido in 2008 and supported by DFID and DECC, this $6bn set of funds and programmes is aimed at driving global action to tackle the harmful effects of climate change in the world's developing countries. The money is helping to promote clean technology, tackle unsustainable deforestation, and help developing countries to become more resilient to the impacts of climate chang

Competitive Cities and Climate Change  A 2009 report from the OECD that illustrates how local involvement through "climate-conscious" urban planning and management can help achieve national climate goals and minimise trade-offs between environmental and economic priorities; includes best practices principally from OECD member countries and certain non-member countries.

International Panel on Climate Change  Includes access to the latest IPCC assessment report.

'Cities we Have vs Cities we Need' Press release from 52nd ISOCARP Congress, Durban, September 2016; includes an emphasis on integrated, smart cities in times of uncertainty, fragility and insecurity

The future climate for development  Forum for the Future, funded by DFID, undertook a year-long project looking at the possible responses to climate change in low-income countries out to 2030; the report explores not only the direct environmental impacts of climate change, but also the social, political, psychological and economic shifts that it may cause.

Resilient Cities Progress and challenges in urban climate adaptation planning: results of a global survey.

How can urban development contribute to disaster risk reduction? This paper examines the risks of natural hazards and disasters that challenge the development efforts of the urban or city development process.

Climate change and the urban poor: risk and resilience in 15 of the world's most vulnerable cities  This report outlines lessons learnt regarding the principal effects of climate change on 15 cities in low-income countries, and what makes them vulnerable to these effects.

World Urban Campaign - The City We Need  This reports sets out the principles that need adopted to achieve sustainable urban development. This includes the evaluating how we plan, build, and manage our cities.