Climate Change Preparedness of UK Urban Areas

Contact: Oliver Heidrich, Richard Dawson and Claire Walsh


Ambitious targets for adaptation and mitigation, whether set by local, national or global policy makers imply substantial challenges for urban areas and their infrastructure. As part of an European Science Foundation funded COST Action (TU0902: Integrated assessment of urban areas) we investigated the climate change strategies of 30 UK urban areas. To aid decision-makers we considered how well they were performing through the development of an Urban Climate Preparedness Score.


1.Compiled climate change documents and data from 30 UK urban areas (all those included in the EU’s Urban Audit database:
2.Received 307 and analysed in detail 52 documents in terms of scope, targets and climate change mitigation and adaptation measures
3.Developed and applied Urban Climate Change Preparedness Scores for each urban area

Overview of Findings

28 of the 30 urban areas have published documents outlining how they will tackle climate change adaptation and mitigation. Of the 52 documents, 49 address mitigation specifically and all urban areas plan energy saving and efficiency improvements. 36 cover adaptation and 79% of urban areas highlight flood protection and water management as key priorities.

Emission Reduction Targets

The majority (48/52) of documents refer to emissions reduction targets (Figure 1), although timescales are sometimes unclear e.g. Gravesham or Lincoln and in some instances inconsistent e.g. Glasgow or Exeter. Only 8 documents use the 1990 baseline suggested by the Kyoto protocol and the UK Climate Change Act.


Figure 1: International, National and Urban Areas Emission Reduction Targets


Preparedness Scores

Our Urban Climate Change Preparedness Score (Figure 2) evaluates progress along four key stages of the adaptation and mitigation process (ICLEI, 2008; UKCIP, 2009):

(i) Assessment (climate risks and emissions),

(ii) Planning (strategies and processes),

(iii) Action (plans and implemented projects), and

(iv) Monitor and review (procedures and  signatories agreements).

This is more informative than a single indicator score as it captures both quality and progress, recognising that adaptation and mitigation are processes.

Mitigation seems further advanced. The highest scoring urban areas are Leicester and London. Both have separate plans for adaptation and mitigation; provide regular updates of progress and detailed accounts of their carbon footprints.

Derry and Wrexham on the other hand, have only recently embarked upon tackling climate change, and the planning, implementation and review of these processes are not established yet.




ICLEI (2008) The Five Milestone Process. International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

UKCIP (2009) A local climate impacts profile: how to do an LCLIP. UK Climate Impacts Programme.