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  • Writer's pictureErika Conchis

Policy Brief: Equitable urban climate adaptation

Equitable urban climate adaptation: the importance of structural considerations

Policy brief authors: Lorraine Dongo, Héctor Herrera, Amy Davison, Gina Ziervogel, Kalia Ruth Barkai, Funmi Adeniyi, Darlington Sibanda and Lisakhanya Mathiso




Introduction from the brief


'Structural factors that significantly influence vulnerability to climate change create considerable challenges for climate change adaptation in informal and low-income formal settlements in sub-Saharan African cities, a context with pressing inequality issues.

Climate shocks and stresses have a disproportionate impact on marginalised groups. The World Bank (n.d). highlights this, noting, “Female-headed households, children, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples and ethnic minorities, landless tenants, migrant workers, displaced persons, sexual and gender minorities, older people, and other socially marginalized groups” are particularly at risk from climate change. Neither individual choices, nor knowledge, nor desire to take adaptation action are the root cause of this.

“The root causes of [marginalised groups’] vulnerability lie in a combination of their geographical locations; their financial, socio-economic, cultural, and gender status; and their access to resources, services, decision making power, and justice.”

(World Bank, n.d.)

These structural factors are therefore responsible, to a large extent, for the varying levels of adaptive capacity of different groups within society.

Practitioners and academics have first-hand experience with the difficulties of attempting to address climate change adaptation in highly vulnerable urban informal and low-income formal communities. In interacting with these communities, it quickly becomes clear that many of the adaptation challenges that they face go far beyond the scope or mandate of climate adaptation practitioners to address.


Based on experience and discussions held during a workshop in Cape Town in September 2022, this brief considers processes and approaches required to address structural factors in equitable urban climate adaptation and outlines five key policy recommendations.'


Read the full policy brief, including the 5 key policy recommendations:


Dongo et al, Equitable Urban Climate Adaptation
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