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Integrating Adaptation and Mitigation in Local Climate Change Planning

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | 10:30 am
Elisabeth Hamin, Professor
Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, UMass Amherst

Given past emissions and current trends, there is increasing recognition that even if future emissions drop precipitously, some climate change is largely unavoidable. Municipalities have a responsibility to reduce residents’ exposure to climate risks through adaptive actions, but they also must enact policies that mitigate climate change.  Both of these (adaptation and mitigation) have spatial implications at the regional and local scale, and therefore need to be integrated so that both goals can be achieved.  A key challenge is that their spatial implications may be at variance, with mitigation wanting greater density and adaptation requiring open space that reduces density.  This research explores whether this conflict is in evidence in emerging practice for adaptation, by analysing the policies recommended in adaptation plans for eight urban centers.  The findings suggest that the cities are largely focusing adaptive action at this time on those policies that do not take up additional space, and thus are not in conflict with mitigation.  We use this analysis to suggest that space-neutral and space-absorbing categorization for adaptive action may be a useful framework for cities needing to choose appropriate adaptive actions.  We close by looking at the possibilities for finding urban land for adaptation once the space-neutral actions are largely accomplished.  Converting land from automobile use to green infrastructure would be an advantageous policy choice with great synergy between adaptation and mitigation, for the next phase of local urban climate planning.