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Climate change adaptation in urban and regional development


Climate change and its impacts are an important field of action in spatial development. Since the impact of climate change is primarily felt where we are but can be very different locally and regionally, the local and regional levels are crucial to climate change adaptation. National and international strategies and action plans for adapting to climate change have been developed, extensive knowledge bases and guidelines have been produced, monitoring and evaluation systems have been set up, and pilot projects have been implemented.

However, climate change adaptation has not yet become a standard issue in the everyday work of city and regional administrations. 

Work on climate change began at the ARL around 10 years ago, whereby we have mainly addressed its impact on spatial planning. Now the ARL is focusing on the subject again: the new Working Group will reflect on the state of the implementation of climate change adaptation at the local and regional level. 

The Working Group is headed by Dr. Marco Pütz (WSL Birmensdorf). The following members have been appointed: Prof.Dr. Jörn Birkmann (IREUS Institut für Raumordnung und Entwicklungsplanung, Stuttgart); Dr. Fabian Dosch (BBSR); Prof. Dr. Hartmut Fünfgeld (University of Freiburg); Dr. Christina Grebe (Zweckverband Raum Kassel); Prof. Dr. Stefan Greiving (Department of Spatial Planning, TU Dortmund University); Dr.-Ing. Sandra Pennekamp (Büro Infrastruktur & Umwelt, Darmstadt); Dr.-Ing. Stefanie Rößler (Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development); Thorsten Stock (Regionalverband Ruhr); Prof. Dr. Wiebke Störmann (Schmalkalden University); Susan Thiel (GreenAdapt Gesellschaft für Klimaanpassung mbH); and Andreas Vetter (German Environment Agency).

The Working Group will address fundamental questions of climate change adaptation including:

  • How are cities and regions adapting to climate change, and to what extent are their adaptation goals specific, measurable, appropriate, and relevant?
  • How can existing and planned adaptation activities in cities and regions be classified, and what synergies and conflicts does climate change adaptation have with other issues of urban and regional development? 

Mobility, accessibility, and social participation

The ability to take part in activities outside the home (participation) is vitally important for the social, economic, and cultural viability of societies, as shown most recently during the Covid lockdowns. Online activities related to work, school, shopping, leisure, family, and other facets of life can at best only partly substitute for in-person interaction. Social participation therefore depends on mobility and on temporal and physical accessibility. Conversely, restrictions on accessibility and mobility can result in social exclusion, which can also lead to a reduced quality of life. The study of such relationships has evolved over the past two decades or so into a broad field of study in transport and spatial research, which is closely linked to the principles of fair and equal access to activities. In planning practice, safeguarding the spatial aspects of social participation has long been the aim of various guiding principles and instruments (safeguarding the provision of public services, equivalent living conditions, the central place principle, ABC planning (the Netherlands), and accessibility planning (UK)). The Working Group will examine how mobility and accessibility are related to the diverse aspects of social participation from multiple perspectives. It will eschew a unidirectional causal model in favour of a focus on interrelationships, and will consider spatial, temporal, and social aspects of mobility and accessibility. 

Main focal points of the Working Group:

  • Surveying existing approaches and considering older and related ideas
  • Identifying the value added by analyses of mobility and social participation in spatial science
  • Analysing changes in and the interdependencies between individual accessibility and personal barriers in the context of fairness
  • Analysing the connections between objective and subjective accessibility in the context of social participation
  • Mobility and participation in times of Covid: 
    • (forced) changes in behaviour and their impacts on issues related to the mobility transition
    • Health risks of forced mobility (especially in public transport) for people in occupations where they must commute to be present in person
    • Possible aggravation of social inequalities in mobility 
    • Inequalities in the usability of digital options (working from home, homeschooling, vaccination app)

The Working Group’s position paper entitled ‘Mobilität, Erreichbarkeit und soziale Teilhabe – für eine gerechtere Raum- und Verkehrsentwicklung’ (in German) will be published soon.

A draft is available now in PDF format. (in German).

Recent events

  • C. Hille and C. Rozynek: ‘Financial poverty, mobility and social participation.’ Paper given at the 62nd German Geography Conference in Frankfurt on 21 September 2023.
  • J. Scheiner: ‘Between the accessibility explosion and mobility poverty: thoughts on mobility, accessibility and participation.’ Keynote presentation at the 12th German Conference on Mobility Management in Düsseldorf on 20-21 November 2023.
  • ARL Congress in Leipzig, June 2023.


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