by Amy Pieterse and Willemien van Niekerk

The planet has been warming and it is likely that the planet will be more than 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial levels by 2050, with certain regions experiencing warming that is greater than the global average (IPCC 2018). Southern Africa is one of these regions. Because of this increase in temperature, there has been and will continue to be an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, intense rainfall, droughts, wildfires, and storm surges. Global as well as local efforts are underway to reduce and completely eliminate greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions to mitigate climate change, but incremental and transformational adaptation is required to manage the impact of climate change on health, livelihoods, food, water, and economic growth (IPCC 2018). The Green Book has captured climate change projections and projected climate impacts in the Risk Profile Tool for all municipalities in South Africa so that local, provincial and national government can better understand the effect of climate change on cities and towns.

Because of this increase in temperature, there has been and will continue to be an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, intense rainfall, droughts, wildfires, and storm surges.

The most recent IPCC special report states that “adaptation options that reduce the vulnerability of human and natural systems have many synergies with sustainable development, if well managed, such as ensuring food and water security, reducing disaster risks, improving health conditions, maintaining ecosystem services and reducing poverty and inequality”.

It continues by highlighting the importance of increasing investment in physical and social infrastructure as key enablers to enhance resilience and adaptive capacity (IPCC 2018:21).

Climate change impacts are most intensely experienced on the local level, so this is where adaptation is needed most. Local government planning offers opportunities to integrate or mainstream climate change into local planning strategies, plans and processes, with spatial planning providing a strategic entry point for this integration. Spatial planning is indeed concerned with forward planning, possible future scenarios and collaborative visioning; whilst acknowledging a context of increased uncertainty in cities and towns, due to amongst others demographic changes, changes in technology and the economy, and of course climate-related changes (see Harrison et al. 2016). The synergies between spatial planning and climate change adaptation are that both support long-term sustainability and both anticipate change and appropriately respond to change by intervening in space (see Pieterse et al. 2018). Spatial planning and climate change meet in adaptation planning.

Adaptation planning is an important tool/intervention to respond to climate change and to create resilient cities and towns that are able to support livelihoods despite the impacts of climate change and extreme events. Through adaptation planning, urban infrastructure can be climate-proofed, vulnerability can be reduced and opportunities for sustainable development can be exploited. Adaptation planning is a process that assumes climate change as an important factor while also addressing developmental concerns, thereby contributing to the transformational adaptation of urban spaces.

For more information on climate change adaptation, how it relates to spatial planning and how it can contribute to building resilient cities and towns, see the paper by Amy Pieterse, Willemien van Niekerk and Jacques du Toit that was presented at the 2018 Planning Africa Conference in Cape Town, as well as the research report on the development of a typology for climate change adaptation actions for the Green Book.


Harrison, P., Appelbaum, A., Charlton, S., Rubin, M. & Todes, A. 2016. Strategic Planning in a Turbulent and Uncertain Context. Group Strategy, Policy Coordination and Relations, City of Johannesburg. Johannesburg: University of Witwatersrand, pp.1–61.

IPCC. 2018. Summary for Policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J. B. R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M. I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, T. Waterfield (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

Pieterse, A., van Niekerk, W. & du Toit, J. 2018 (forthcoming). ‘Creating resilient settlements through climate change adaptation planning’, Conference Proceedings: Planning Africa Conference 2018, South African Planning Institute. 15 – 17 October 2018, Cape Town.

Suggested citation:
Pieterse, A. & Van Niekerk, W. 2019.
Adaptation Planning – Why it matters. Green Book.