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Adaptation to climate change in urban areas: Climate-greening London, Rotterdam, and Toronto

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This article aims to gain insight into the governance capacity of cities to adapt to climate change through urban green planning, which we will refer to as climate-greening. The use of green space is considered a no-regrets adaptation strategy, since it not only absorbs rainfall and moderates temperature, but simultaneously can contribute to the sustainable development of urban areas. However, green space competes with other socio-economic interests that also require space. Urban planning can mediate among competing demands for land use, and, as such, is potentially useful for the governance of adaptation. Through an in-depth case study of three frontrunners in adaptation planning (London, Rotterdam, and Toronto), the governance capacity for climate-greening urban areas is analysed and compared. The framework we have developed utilizes five sub-capacities: legal, managerial, political, resource, and learning. The overall conclusion from the case studies is that the legal and political subcapacities are the strongest. The resource and learning sub-capacities are relatively weak, but offer considerable growth potential. The managerial sub-capacity is constrained by compartmentalization and institutional fragmentation, two key barriers to governance capacity. These are effectively blocking the mainstreaming of adaptation in urban planning. The biggest opportunities to enhance governance capacity lie in the integration of adaptation considerations into urban-planning processes, the establishment of links between adaptation and mitigation policies, investment in training programmes for staff and stakeholders in adaptation planning, and providing infrastructure for learning processes.


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