Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation through Urban Planning

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climate adaptation mitigation thru urban planning

Cities and urban areas are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Because of their population and infrastructure density, cities contribute significantly to global GHG emissions, but they are also uniquely positioned to address climate change impacts.

Urban planning and design can effectively tackle climate change by addressing climate adaptation and mitigation.

The Cities Today article, “Investment in new cities set to boom”, shows how reimagining urban design on new and existing developments can help cities build climate resilience by adopting new design principles applied in the plans to build the following future cities: ‘The Line’ In Saudi Arabia, ‘Telosa’ in the United States, and ‘Tengah’ in Singapore.

These new urban designs possess standard features such as multi-layer infrastructure, dynamic urban spaces, green infrastructure, modulation construction design, pedestrianization and 20 minutes neighbourhood, smart mobility, electrification, waste management and recycling, micro-cities, cities-in-a-city, connected assets and infrastructure, digital twins, and many more (Wray, 2021).

For example, Saudi’s ‘The Line,’ proposed by its Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, features a car-free pedestrian city. It also aims to cater to its resident’s needs within a five-minute walk.

The ‘Telosa’ in the US, with a possible location in several states, including Nevada, Texas, and Arizona, design the city for active transport, electric and autonomous vehicles, and an underground network for deliveries and waste management.

Singapore’s ‘Tengah,’ a high-rise public housing community, plans to offer its residents a centralised cooling system, solar energy, and electrification to lower their carbon footprint.

Another article, “How Urban Planners Are Reacting to Climate Change”, from Architectural Digest, shows how urban planners respond to climate change and transform cities from less car-centric to resident-centric. O’Neill (2020) says, “Policy at the national level has moved painfully slow in most countries, but urban areas have the authority to make meaningful changes in land use and zoning, transportation, green space, and energy policy.”

The article cites examples from cities worldwide and what they are doing to reduce their GHG emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.

  • Copenhagen, Denmark is harnessing wind energy to become the first carbon-neutral city by 2025.
  • The city of Boston transforms 47 miles of shoreline to increase access to open spaces and protect the city from major floods.
  • Bilboa, Span has opened the Duetso Canal, which allowed the river to flow through and reduced water levels by a full meter.
  • In Madison, New York, a retrofit of public green space has nearly doubled its size, adding a new garden and water feature. The expanded green space has significantly benefitted the building tenants, occupants, and the public, who are increasingly becoming aware of climate change impacts.

In Japan, they’re planning to build the Toyota Woven City, a future city at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Hydrogen fuel-cell, geothermal and solar energy will power the city. The BIG website describes: “Roads are split up for three purposes, with designated areas for faster motor vehicles; a recreational promenade dedicated to micromobility, such as bicycles, scooters and other modes of personal transport; and a linear park for pedestrians, flora, and fauna. Roads weave around three-by-three city blocks that are organized around a courtyard. The result is a safe, outdoor space accessible only to pedestrians, surrounded by buildings that are still easily serviceable.”

The idea is to take away space for cars and create space for people and nature.

The creation of Uber is another example of reinventing existing infrastructure – where the individual car can be used more efficiently. Transport sharing can reduce the need to build bigger roads and the demand for more cars that follow, resulting in more traffic congestions. Apps like Uber provides data about traffic movement. These traffic trends can be analyzed over time which can help policymakers “alleviate gridlock or assess how congestion pricing might work,” says Emily Strand, head of policy for Uber Movement (O’Neill, 2020).

Addressing climate change involves creative thinking and talking about how buildings and cities could evolve to become more resilient, sustainable and improve the lifestyle and well-being of residents.

Achieving these outcomes requires a coordinated effort across multiple fields – science and technology, engineering, government, and private sectors.

Designers need to be responsive to policymakers’ priorities and actively advocate for policies that will enable the changes we need – building climate-resilient cities, creating environments where we can thrive, and securing a future that can sustain us.

Source Citations:

Wray, S. (2021 November 22). Investment in new cities set to boom. Cities Today. Retrieved from

O’Neill, M. (2020, March 2). How Urban Planners are Reacting to Climate Change. Architectural Digest. Retrieved from

Ringelstein, D. (2019, July 12). The Fight Against Climate Change Starts in Cities. SOM. Retrieved from

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