Introducing IMAGINE adaptation

William Lewis
Marta Olazabal
February 20, 2023
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The project ‘IMAGINE adaptation’ addresses the urgent need to evaluate adaptation in urban areas and understand progress across governance levels.

Urban areas are already experiencing the impacts of climate change in the form of extreme temperatures, sea-level rise, storm surges, or droughts. By 2050, 68% of the global population will live in towns and cities, an increase of over 2.5 million. There is growing international awareness of the need for urban adaptation, for example, over 10,300 local governments have already committed to adapt to climate change through the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM).

However, adaptation is not progressing as expected. Only 18% of the global cities included in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) database have developed adaptation plans. Although larger cities seem to be hotspots for action, more than half of larger coastal cities worldwide do not have plans in place. When there are plans, evidence of implementation and understanding of how the proposed adaptation actions reduce specific risks is lacking. Likewise there is a general lack of means to evaluate urban adaptation, combined with unclear goals and metrics to measure adaptation outcomes. 

The project ‘IMAGINE adaptation’ addresses the urgent need to evaluate adaptation in urban areas and understand progress across governance levels. It argues that the current focus on policy progress can be a useful first step, but it is not indicative of effective adaptation. A broader understanding of success is required, one that goes beyond technical definitions and considers equity, justice, and maladaptive issues. 

To enable evaluation and learning from diverse understandings of adaptation, ‘IMAGINE adaptation’ will gather expert and local views to reformulate the concept of adaptation success. The project will then explore the trends and needs regarding monitoring and evaluation and how these may enable or hinder adaptation. The findings will be used to inform the development of a comparative case study research across 12 urban areas worldwide. 

Through its innovative approach ‘IMAGINE adaptation’ will pioneer new ways to enable urban adaptation through the processes of evaluation and learning, and contribute to global discussions on how the evaluation of local progress can inform global goals for adaptation.

Donosti Waves – Image Credit: Asier Aranzadi
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