Town Planning Review

Climate resilience and environmental justice: state of research and implementation in planning practice in Germany and beyond

Town Planning Review (2022), 93, (2), 111–137.

Abstract

Climate-change adaptation has become a well-established priority in urban and regional development in Germany since the adoption of the German Adaptation Strategy in 2008. Recently, the socioeconomic aspects and concepts of vulnerability and resilience have received growing attention with regard to climate-change adaptation. This article introduces the TPR special issue on climate resilience and environmental justice. In so doing, it discusses the relationship between climate change and socio-spatial inequalities, and their significance for climate-resilient urban and regional development. Based on this discussion and empirical findings from German practice, as well as the assessment of the policy context and participatory reflection, the article identifies several loose ends in research and practice that need to be connected by further converging concepts and indicators in climate-change and environmental-justice research and policies.

Published open access under a CC BY licence. https://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/

Climate resilience and environmental justice: state of research and implementation in planning practice in Germany and beyond

Abstract

Climate-change adaptation has become a well-established priority in urban and regional development in Germany since the adoption of the German Adaptation Strategy in 2008. Recently, the socioeconomic aspects and concepts of vulnerability and resilience have received growing attention with regard to climate-change adaptation. This article introduces the TPR special issue on climate resilience and environmental justice. In so doing, it discusses the relationship between climate change and socio-spatial inequalities, and their significance for climate-resilient urban and regional development. Based on this discussion and empirical findings from German practice, as well as the assessment of the policy context and participatory reflection, the article identifies several loose ends in research and practice that need to be connected by further converging concepts and indicators in climate-change and environmental-justice research and policies.

Published open access under a CC BY licence. https://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/

Introduction

The German Adaptation Strategy to Climate Change was adopted in 2008. Since then, climate-change adaptation has become a well-established priority in urban and regional development today. Most adaptation concepts still focus their underlying assessments on climatic stimuli. Recently, socio-economic aspects have received growing attention in manifold ways: The issue of sensitivity has received growing attention in climate-change impact assessments. Further, climate justice - which relates climate change to environmental and social-justice concepts - has been introduced in the scientific discourse and in targeted in policies. In addition, practitioners experience that the creation of a climate-resilient community requires both addressing climate change by physical measures (green spaces, green roofs etc.) and management measures that focus on the potentially affected people themselves (information campaigns for vulnerable groups). Finally, the limitation of budgetary resources requires a prioritisation of climate-change adaptation measures in those areas where climate-change vulnerability is strongest and where measures thus have the largest effect. This, of course, applies not only to the local level but also to regional, national and European levels.

From a research perspective this means that it is not sufficient only to assess and model the changing climate. There is also a need to analyse changing society. In order to take this seriously in climate-change impact assessments, researchers have to combine scenarios of climate change with scenarios of societal change, which further increases the already existing uncertainty in the evidence base for decision making. Decision makers thus need to develop flexible, resilient adaptation strategies. Moreover, political decisions based on uncertain knowledge need a broad mandate from all social groups in order to overcome given inequalities and achieve environmentally just development.

This artricle is guided by the following research questions:

  • How are the concepts of climate resilience, vulnerability and adaptation defined and connected?

  • How can these concepts be applied in a spatial perspective to make them applicable to (planning) practice?

  • To what extent do current impact assessments and adaptation strategies consider socio-economic and justice-related aspects?

  • Do policies at national, European and global levels already reflect these requirements?

  • What are future research and policy needs?

  • This article serves as a theoretical and conceptual framework for the various contributions from the Future of the Ruhr Urban Region (ZUKUR) project,1 which are part of this special issue. ZUKUR’s main aim was to bring together climate resilience and environmental justice. The ZUKUR project was funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) under the Future City flagship initiative (Leitinitiative ‘Zukunftsstadt’). This programme supported science-practice cooperation and aimed to enable stakeholders and decision makers at sub-state levels to address a number of issues, including dealing with the risks of climate change, strengthening climate resilience and designing socially and ecologically just and liveable cities (BMBF, 2016). This focus on climate resilience and environmental justice shaped the ZUKUR project from conceptualisation. The ZUKUR project tested real-world laboratories for climate adaptation in real-world contexts in order to establish a co-production of knowledge with non-scientific actors, including administrative bodies and residents. With regard to the actual study area this meant the Ruhr Regional Association (RVR), the city of Bottrop and the Dortmund-Marten city district.

    ZUKUR was subdivided into several research teams that covered specific thematic issues related to different spatial levels. The teams analysed the given and potential future spatial patterns of climate impacts and related socio-economic profiles, and mapped the complex multi-level governance structures in the Ruhr region by applying a three-level model (region, city, district). The levels represent the three real-world laboratories and justified the selection of the case studies as well as the three practice partners: the Ruhr Regional Association (RVR), the city of Bottrop and the Dortmund-Marten city district. Within these labs, integrated climate-resilience strategies were developed which brought economic, environmental and social concerns together. The articles in this special issue cover several research issues from the ZUKUR project research teams.

    This article sets the theoretical and conceptual framework for the various contributions and describes the state of climate resilience and environmental-justice research and its implementation in planning practice in Germany. The article concludes with an overview of research requirements that were considered in the work on the thematic issues within the ZUKUR project.

    Sieber et al. present empirical findings of real-world lab-based co-research in the context of urban climate change. The article investigates the challenges that were experienced based on a reflective comparison of the labs that were organised in two projects: ZUKUR and iSCAPE.

    Kirstein et al. outline their use of a parallel-modelling approach for analysing and mapping current and future flooding impacts on housing and mixed-used areas in the Ruhr region. The method presented can inform strategic planning for the Ruhr and serve as a first step for adequate regional planning strategies in the German context.

    Ohlmeyer et al. present results from an analysis of the provision and accessibility of urban green infrastructure, as well as the spatial exposure of welfare recipients to noise and air pollution and weather extremes in the city of Bottrop, Germany. Based on this analysis they introduce starting points for introducing environmental-justice analysis into town planning.

    Fuchs et al.’s article develops strategies for integrating climate resilience into housing policy using the real-world laboratory approach in the case studies of the city of Bottrop (local level) and the Ruhr (regional level). They show that increasing awareness is a key task to facilitate better integration of climate issues into housing policies. Thereafter they identify suitable mechanisms and instruments for such integration.

    Concepts of climate resilience and environmental justice: a literature review

    Climate resilience, vulnerability and adaptation

    The concept of resilience was first introduced in the field of psychology by John Block (1950) but is - as applied to urban and climatic contexts - grounded in the field of ecology through Holling’s work (1973; 1996). He differentiated between engineering resilience and ecological resilience: the former being a system’s ability to bounce back and the latter a system’s ability to bounce forward to a new system status. In addition, there is ongoing discussion regarding transformative resilience, which focuses on a system’s capacity to adapt or transform in the face of change to support sustainability (Pelling, 2011; Biggs et al., 2015).

    Thus urban resilience is the ‘measurable ability of any urban system, with its inhabitants, to maintain continuity through all shocks and stresses, while positively adapting and transforming toward sustainability’ (UN Habitat, 2018, 13). In this regard, climate resilience is a variation of the resilience concept which focuses on disruptions caused by hazardous events and the changes that are triggered by the climate (and increased by its change) - globally, regionally and locally (Manyena, 2006; IPCC, 2012).

    The lack of clarity around its meaning (Costa and Kropp, 2012; Lu and Stead, 2013) has made resilience a challenging concept. Despite increasing scholarship (Davoudi et al., 2012; Meerow et al., 2016), the definition of climate resilience remains unclear, in direct contrast to the terms ‘vulnerability’ and ‘adaptation’.

    According to the IPCC (2012, 70), vulnerability is related to ‘predisposition, susceptibilities, fragilities, weaknesses, deficiencies, or lack of capacities that favour adverse effects on the exposed elements’. As Tyler and Moench (2012) describe, this understanding of vulnerability - which includes hazard exposure as one of its components - is shared by most authors. Thus vulnerability is mainly understood in relation to a particular hazard (Klein et al., 2003), whereas the latent character of resilience exists within a system independent of that exposure (Tyler and Moench, 2012). The relation between resilience and vulnerability can be regarded from two perspectives. From a descriptive perspective, vulnerability can be seen as a lack of resilience (Tyler and Moench, 2012), whereas a normative perspective suggests that increasing resilience contributes to reducing vulnerability (Folke, 2006).

    Since the first climate-impact or vulnerability analysis was conceptualised, it has been claimed that not only the changes in climate, but also the sensitivity of society and its general socio-demographic changes, should be considered (IPCC, 1996; Füssel and Klein, 2006). This perspective on integrated concepts and approaches is not new and has been used in the field of environmental science since the 1970s. In a climate context, the term was in use in 1991 in relation to the development of integrated strategies for the future avoidance of greenhouse-gas emissions: ‘Integrated strategies … that include sectoral but also other policy-related aspects’ (IPCC, 1991, 251). The term ‘integrated’ has also been used in connection with the analysis of the consequences of climate change for more than two decades (e.g. Rotmans and Van Asselt, 1999; Toth and Hisznyik, 1998; Weyant et al., 1996; Nicholls et al. 2008; Kaspersen and Halsnæs, 2017; UBA, 2017). In addition to environmental sciences and, in particular, climate-impact research, the term is used in a similar form in the field of risk research, where ‘the necessity of integrated risk assessment and the development of innovative risk management strategies that build upon the insights of the natural, technical and social sciences’ are requested (Renn, 1998, 49).

    Van Asselt (2000) indicates aspects of integrated analyses in various disciplines and schools of thought, and suggests that they should include the following essential elements:

  • a review of relevant economic, socio-cultural, ecological and institutional dimensions in order to obtain a first rough overview of the objects and processes of the investigation to be taken into account (problem structuring);

  • the development and selection of indicators suitable for analysis, ideally undertaken in a participatory manner;

  • historical analysis of the indicators to be examined in order to identify the main drivers and cause-effect relationships;

  • trend analysis to estimate future developments;

  • a description of possible future;

  • identification of particularly prominent uncertainties and risks; and

  • assessment of options for action (Van Asselt, 2000, 57).

  • In general, adaptation can be understood as an actor-centric concept, while resilience is a more systems-based approach (Nelson et al., 2007). The relationship between adaptation and resilience can be shown by distinguishing standard adaptation approaches from resilience-based adaptation approaches. The first supports the social-ecological system in dealing effectively with perceived risks, whereas the latter helps to manage the system’s capacity to cope with future change (Nelson et al., 2007). Given this, one can argue that effective adaptation to climate change has to be embedded in a resilience framework: the less urban or regional planners can rely on historical climate data or future projections, the more they need an approach that enables them to deal with surprise (Milly et al., 2008; Wardekker et al., 2010; Greiving et al., 2018). For planners at the local level, this means that resilience has to be embedded in planning strategies in order to cope with the variability, dynamism and uncertainty of climate change and its impacts. Thus operationalising resilience and vulnerability can help to overcome the limitations of ‘predict-and-prevent’ approaches and simplify planning for adaptation (Tyler and Moench, 2012).

    Within the practice of disaster management and urban sustainability, resilience building needs flexibility, learning and change (Adger et al., 2005; Tschakert and Dietrich, 2010; Tyler and Moench, 2012; Sharifi and Yamagata, 2018). It further needs a participatory and inclusive approach, allowing vulnerable individuals and groups to play an active role in determining how best to avoid hazards and build capacity (Satterthwaite et al., 2007; Tyler and Moench, 2012; Sharifi and Yamagata, 2018).

    In contrast to the international context, the discussion about urban and climate resilience in Germany was first dominated by the physical aspects, i.e. the robustness component, of resilience: climate-resilient urban development was understood to be achieved by providing green and blue infrastructure, improving the city climates and planning for reducing the potential impacts of river floods and flash floods (Thieken et al., 2018). In some central documents the term ‘climate resilience’ was used almost synonymously with ‘climate-change adaptation’ (BBSR, 2017), or without further explaining the specific character of climate resilience compared to climate-change adaptation (Bender et al. 2017). German-speaking research on vulnerability and resilience was mainly oriented towards current events (river floods, flash floods, urban heat) and research questions focused on the implementation and provision of policy advice for politicians and planners (Christmann et al., 2012).

    Climate as an emerging issue in the environmental-justice discourse

    In its broadest understanding, environmental justice is ‘concerned with the fair distribution among social groups of environmental quality’ (Mitchell, 2011, 449). Environmental justice describes two facets: a social movement pursuing a ‘fair’ distribution of environmental benefits and burdens, and a social-science concept examining and bringing into practice theories of environment and justice (Schlosberg, 2007; Lehtinen, 2009).

    Starting from a social movement in the USA that fought against unfair decisions regarding the site selection of environmentally hazardous facilities near neighbourhoods of socially deprived population groups (Lehtinen, 2009; Schlosberg and Collins, 2014), environmental justice has evolved into a multifaceted concept that is fed by various ‘tributaries’ that make up environmental-justice discourse (Cole and Foster, 2001). In his comprehensive overview of the expanding sphere of environmental justice, Schlosberg (2013) notes that this expansion covers a broad range of issues (e.g. food, energy, climate), scales (from local to global), objectives (from justice to basic needs) and scientific interests (from description to analysis). In its evolution, environmental-justice discourse has been discussed in relation to other principles and concepts, such as sustainability (e.g. Agyeman and Evans, 2003; Agyeman, 2005), vulnerability (e.g. Agyeman, 2014), climate change (e.g. Schlosberg, 2013; Medeiros da Silveira et al., 2018) and resilience (e.g. Schaefer Caniglia et al., 2014; Sandoval et al., 2014). Climate justice has become a dominant thread in the environmental-justice movement, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (Agyeman et al., 2016).

    Conceptualising the spatial perspective of resilience, vulnerability and justice

    Resilience, vulnerability, and justice are often described as general phenomena without considering the specific constraints and interdependencies that shape the representation of these concepts in terms of space and time. However, the embeddedness of the environmental-justice movement in very spatial- and time-specific urban environments requires a spatial analysis of environmental justice and its changes over time. Since the beginning of the new millennium, environmental justice has also expanded not only into new issues but also to new places and spatial analyses from the local to the global (Sze and London, 2008). Regarding vulnerability and constructions of resilience, conceptions comprise social as well as non-social elements; as Christmann et al. (2012, 25) note, ‘spatiality is inherent to the definition’ of these concepts and allows scientists to analyse phenomena and measures from a spatial perspective.

    Concepts for analysing vulnerability from a spatial perspective were first developed by geographers in the 1970s (Hewitt and Burton, 1971). It was initially dominated by a focus on mapping hazards (‘hazards of place’) and risks. As Cutter (1996) noted, further methodological elaborations were only rarely attempted until the mid-1990s. Blaikie et al. (1994) noted the decisive role that vulnerability plays in disaster risk assessment and management, because reduction of the various elements of vulnerability is a key factor to reducing the risk of a disaster. Hewitt (1997) identified four broad sets of influences on risk (conditions or elements of risk) and especially subdivided the element of vulnerability into various basic forms, including exposure, existing weaknesses, lack of protection and lack of resilience.

    In contrast to geography, a spatial approach to hazards, vulnerability and risk has not been addressed by the discipline of spatial planning for many years, especially in Europe. Although there is a tradition of spatial-planning research for single hazards (coastal flooding, river flooding, earthquakes, nuclear power plants), an approach to hazards and vulnerability from a spatial perspective has only been undertaken from the late 1990s on. It is due to authors such as Burby (1998) and Godschalk et al. (1999) that the important role that spatial planning can play in the whole disaster-management cycle was highlighted (for the German-speaking sphere see Egli, 1996; Greiving, 2002; Fleischhauer, 2004; Birkmann, 2007). Jabareen (2013) emphasises the multifunctional and multidimensional character of resilience and the spatial dimensions of risk, uncertainty and vulnerability. Spatial planning plays a central role for building resilience, including the creation of physical security and environmental and socio-spatial policies.

    Appropriate methods and tools to address the spatial and temporal dimension of vulnerability and resilience are mapping and scenarios. Apart from mapping hazards and vulnerability, recent approaches have discussed the participative mapping of resilience as an opportunity to open up conversations for more inclusive resilience policy (Borie et al., 2019). Further, the long-established scenario approach is regarded as an appropriate tool to support learning for building resilience, as scenario building ‘is now recognized as a useful tool to examine climate risks and uncertainties and involve decision makers in the adaptation process’ (Tschakert and Dietrich, 2010, 14).

    This section has shown that international and German concepts that incorporate the terms of ‘hazard’, ‘risk’, ‘vulnerability’, ‘resilience’ and ‘environmental justice’ follow different paths. The conceptualisation of these terms is driven by historic movements, the emergence of recent research lines (scholarly and public research funding) and urban development funding. However, involving cross-sectoral and socio-economic, vulnerability- and resilience-related elements in analysing climate change and its impacts at a regional or local scale is still regarded as challenging - a reason why the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) started the Future City flagship initiative under which the ZUKUR project was funded.

    Empirical findings from German planning practice

    Climate-change impact assessments in German practice

    As a part of the Vulnerability Study Germany (Adelphi et al., 2015), 66 climate-vulnerability studies were examined to answer the question to what extent socio-economic factors of sensitivity are included in vulnerability analysis. Only about half of the studies covered all the components of a vulnerability analysis in their methodological approaches. The other half of the studies omitted individual sub-areas in their analysis, and often referred qualitatively to the embedding of socio-economic/sensitivity-related aspects in the assessment. The review of climate-vulnerability studies has also shown that socio-economic scenarios have so far played only a minor role in climate studies (Adelphi et al., 2015; Fleischhauer et al., 2017).

    At the level of cities and municipalities, particular emphasis is put on physical adaptation measures which tackle the negative effects of urban heat islands, urban flash floods and flood events (BBSR, 2015; Webb, 2017). This is because of the well-advanced methods of analysis that exist with regard to urban climate and the modelling of heavy rainfall and flow paths. The vulnerability of urban society and its interaction with climate change, however, still plays only a minor role. Nevertheless, this aspect is of great importance if one wants to assess in which parts of a city people are particularly impacted by a given climate event; for instance, flooding is more likely to occur in areas next to rivers. A look at urban adaptation concepts and analysis in Germany shows that only a small proportion of these concepts take into account socio-economic information and their impact on the design and selection of adaptation measures. Studies have, for instance, been carried out with regard to the cities of Dortmund-Hörde (Balke et al., 2017), Hagen (Greiving et al., 2016), Freiburg im Breisgau (Stadt Freiburg i. Br., 2019), Bonn and Ludwigsburg (Birkmann et al., 2020).

    Only recently has a stronger focus on the more vulnerability-related, as well as the learning- and participation-oriented, elements of climate resilience been fostered by politics (UBA, 2014; Hoffmann et al., 2017) and research funding (BMBF, 2016; Thieken et al., 2018). In this context, the ZUKUR project (as well as other projects in the same funding programme) aimed at a deeper inclusion of resilience components beyond robustness.

    Environmental justice in German practice

    In the German context, environmental justice is mainly described as a state of (urban) society which should be achieved by policy action. On the one hand, the subject of protection applies to people and the creation of equivalent living conditions (Art. 72, §2 German Constitution Law, in accordance with Art. 1, §2 Federal Regional Planning Act). The term combines classic goals of health-related environmental protection with the goal of socially just access to a healthy living environment (UBA, 2015, 47; Böhme and Köckler, 2018).

    Before environmental-justice assessments started to gain more attention, social-monitoring approaches dominated descriptions of social imbalances within cities. However, these social-monitoring approaches were - and still are - often isolated and only very weakly linked to climate-change vulnerability and environmental-justice issues. Social monitoring, sometimes also referred to as the assessment of socio-spatial disparities (eg. Christmann et al., 2012; DIfU, 2019) or structures (Cassiers and Kesteloot, 2012), is the systematic and regular analysis of spatially differentiated socio-structural developments in urban areas using suitable and comprehensible indicators that are related to these developments and to development in the city as a whole (Dohnke, 2012; Pohlan and Strote, 2017).

    The practical application of such socio-spatial analysis in German cities aims to give early warning of negative socio-spatial developments as well identifying areas that are intended to receive public (municipal or state) funding. In both cases, the need for information related to socio-spatial (or, more recently, environmental) justice derives from the municipal or state welfare responsibility for socially and economically disadvantaged regions, communities or neighbourhoods. Such policies are motivated by the fact that, in Europe, social cohesion is regarded as a key concept in policy and research, and ‘became a political issue not only because of the ineffectiveness of existing social policies, but also by the refusal to apply alternative, more redistributive, policies’ (Novy et al., 2012, 1876). These issues are addressed in Germany by, amongst other measures, the federal Neighbourhoods with Special Development Needs - Social City (Stadtteile mit besonderem Entwicklungsbedarf - Die Soziale Stadt) programme (Häußermann, 2006; Runkel and Kiepe, 2016).

    Based on the tradition of social monitoring and fed by international policies and research, the issue of environmental justice has received increasing attention in the past decade in urban areas, but the topic is still hardly established in local practices. Environmental-justice analyses exist for some German cities (e.g. Flacke et al., 2016; Senatsverwaltung für Umwelt, Verkehr und Klimaschutz Berlin, 2019), and some municipalities are already pursuing activities which - although they do not operate under the label ‘environmental justice’ - are nevertheless focused on enhancing environmental justice in urban areas (UBA, 2015, 14). Most of these studies analyse the impact of environmental pollution on different social groups, with the topics of air pollution and noise pollution being most prominent. As the issue of environmental justice is still quite new for urban policy makers in Germany it is no wonder that the issue of climate change and its impacts is only beginning to be incorporated into environmental-justice analyses (e.g. in Berlin). Researchers and local policy makers in Germany have only recently given more attention to climate-related indicators in environmental-justice assessments (e.g. Schaefer et al., 2020; see also Ohlmeyer et al., this issue).

    Empirical findings from the policy context

    National policies (Germany)

    With regard to adaptation policies, the key starting point of climate-adaptation policy in Germany was the launch of the German Adaptation Strategy in 2008 (German Federal Government, 2008), which noted the role of spatial planning and indicated the need for considering the social dimension of climate change: ‘Spatial planning, by developing models for adaptable and resilient spatial structures, can play a pioneering role in ensuring a robust and flexible response to the impacts of all societal change processes on spatial structure’ (German Federal Government, 2008, 40).

    In the same year, climate-change adaptation was first introduced in the German planning systems as a planning principle by an amendment to the Regional Planning Act (ROG). In 2011 and 2013, the German Federal Building Code (BauGB) was amended in order to integrate this spatial dimension of climate-change adaptation into building laws. Consequently, climate-change adaptation must be considered as a concern when regions set a regional plan or cities and towns set a local land-use plan. Environmental impact assessments serve as necessary evidence bases for adaptation actions because the significant effects of projects and plans on the local climate and vice versa must be described and analysed (see Art. 8 ROG in accordance with Art. 2, §4 BauGB).

    In parallel, the federal government (and in addition most of the 16 state governments) launched funding programmes to support adaptation to climate change (German Federal Government, 2011) and mainstreaming adaptation into urban development and urban renewal funds. Accordingly, climate-adaptation necessities must be considered whenever applying for these funds (BMI, 2019).

    In recent years, climate change has increasingly gained attention in urban and regional development in Germany, initially by mitigation actions, and later by adaptation activities (BMVBS and BBSR, 2009; BMVBS, 2011; BBSR, 2015; BMVI, 2017). In all German states, and in many regions, cities and municipalities, adaptation concepts for climate change have been developed and are about to be implemented by politicians and administrations (UBA, 2020).

    European policies

    These national activities are embedded in the European adaptation policy context (EC, 2013; 2014b; 2018a; 2018b). The EU adopted its first adaptation strategy in 2013 and recently launched a new one (EC, 2021). All in all, climate-change adaptation has become an important topic for almost all local communities within the European Union (Greiving and Fleischhauer, 2012; EEA, 2015; Reckien et al., 2018b).

    Both EU adaptation strategies point to mainstreaming climate-change adaptation into EU policies, but do not mention territorial development or territorial cohesion as relevant policy fields for fostering adaptation. Further, they do not consider the importance of general future changes of society and the economy for assessing the impacts of climate change. Opposite to the first strategy, the new one points at the importance of ‘just resilience’ and acknowledges pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities (EC, 2021, 9).

    Climate change and its challenges in Europe are discussed in the European Commission’s Seventh Cohesion Report in the chapter on sustainable growth, where the importance of socio-economic factors is mentioned. Particular attention is paid to the EU’s need to adapt to more frequent and disastrous natural hazards (EC, 2017), but there are no linkages to the section on social cohesion which considers issues such as environmental justice.

    As another policy document with a territorial focus, the new Territorial Agenda 2030 identifies climate change as one of the action fields and explicitly integrates it into the pilot actions of climate action in Alpine towns as well as climate-change adaptation and resilience through landscape transition (DGT, 2020b). The connections between climate change and just transition towards a fair climate-neutral economy are prominently addressed, but not specifically regarding environmental justice (DGT, 2020a).

    Moreover, very little attention has been given to adaptation to climate change in the Europe 2020 Strategy, which states, ‘We must also strengthen our economies’ resilience to climate risks, and our capacity for disaster prevention and response’, but it does not recognise the importance of socio-economic factors for adaptation (EC, 2010, 13), nor the connections to environmental justice. However, the related relatively recent evaluation report (EC, 2018b, 16) points to the linkage between adaptation and inequalities: ‘Adaptation provides economic and social stability, not adapting (or “maladaptation”) will deepen inequalities, weaken territorial cohesion and increase security risks and displacements’.

    A so-called evolving baseline trend (of both climate and society) has to be taken into account when assessing the effects of a plan or project on the environment (EEA, 2013). For example, a study of climate-change and territorial effects on regions and local economies in Europe shows that Mediterranean countries in particular show medium to high negative climate-change impacts but have less awareness of them and are less able to adapt than others (EC, 2014b). From these findings, one can derive the hypothesis that the higher the social and economic challenges in European countries, regions, city districts or social groups are, the lower climate impacts or the development of adaptation capacities are considered as policy priorities (Schmidt-Thomé and Greiving, 2013; Juhola and Kruse, 2015).

    The European Environment Agency undertook a pan-European assessment of the spatial distribution of the impacts of air pollution, noise and extreme temperatures on the health of Europeans (EEA, 2018). It came to the conclusion that the spatial patterns found closely reflected the socio-demographic differences within European society, as well as the small-scale patterns of urban fabric. These inequalities in exposure to environmental health hazards and their impacts are, as yet, only addressed to a limited extent within current policies and practices at European, national and local levels.

    In spite of the poor interlinkages between territorial development, climate-change vulnerability and environmental justice in official EU documents and policies, there are obvious factual linkages between climate-change vulnerability, environmental justice and the territorial development of cities and regions (BMVBS and BBSR, 2009; Schlosberg and Collins, 2014; Reckien et al., 2018a) that justify the promotion of climate-resilient and climate-just policies.

    Global policies

    At a global level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argued with its AR5, ‘Effective implementation of adaptation policies depends on cooperation at all scales and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link adaptation with other societal objectives’ (IPCC, 2014, 94). These other objectives can, for instance, be found in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, 2015). In particular, SDG 11 (‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’) brings climate adaptation, disaster-risk reduction and a wide range of development goals together, including ‘inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries’ (Target 11.3) and ‘Universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities’ (Target 11.7). In addition, SDG 13 (‘Climate Action’) addresses the issue of climate resilience with its Target 13.1 (‘Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries’). Consequently, adaptation processes require transdisciplinary approaches and broad stakeholder involvement (Walker et al., 2013; Knieling and Leal Filho, 2013; Greiving et al., 2015). Also, the New Urban Agenda (UN Habitat, 2017, 7) explicitly interlinks principles of environmental justice with resilience:

    Leave no one behind … by ensuring equal rights and opportunities, socioeconomic and cultural diversity, and integration in the urban space … providing equal access for all to physical and social infrastructure and basic services, as well as adequate and affordable housing … by building urban resilience, by reducing disaster risks and by mitigating and adapting to climate change.

    These polices clearly underline that socio-economic trends (such as demographic trends and land-use changes) on the one hand influence the impacts of climate change and vice versa, and on the other hand determine the future adaptive capacity of a society. While most of the regional and local adaptation concepts have initially focused on climatic stimuli - spatial extent and hot spots of urban heat stress, flash floods or flood events (Costa and Kropp, 2012; Greiving et al., 2015) - adaptation requirements are increasingly also being derived from existing socio-economic challenges: an important basis for improving the urban resilience of certain urban fabrics (Birkmann et al., 2015; Greiving et al., 2018, Reckien et al., 2018b).

    Having this approach in mind, it is important to focus more on the issues of social and ecological inequality and climate resilience and on their mutual interdependencies. These should form the basis for adaptation measures. In particular, a better alignment of social and environment policies and corresponding local actions can help to tackle issues of environmental justice.

    Participatory reflection of conceptual and empirical findings

    An internal World Café with representatives from all project partners in November 2017 served as a platform for deriving commonalities and differences between these two perspectives on the two theoretical concepts of climate resilience and environmental justice.

    The discussions that arose from the internal World Café clearly underlined that adaptation to climate change has been widely integrated into regional and local planning practice. However, local adaptation actions are seldom framed by climate resilience as an overarching conceptual framework. Nevertheless there was no disagreement with regard to the key elements of the resilience concept. The practitioners within the ZUKUR project were willing to adopt this concept for their future planning processes.

    With regard to the concept of environmental justice, the World Café results showed that environmental justice is widely acknowledged as a relevant planning principle. However, it also became obvious that there was no discourse on the various and partly competing understandings of justice - neither in public, nor in planning practice.

    On this basis, in December 2017 the project team organised a gaming simulation (Meier and Duke, 2007). The participants, 12 representatives from academia, four staff members from the Ruhr Regional Association (RVR), six staff members from the city of Bottrop and two from the city of Dortmund, played pre-defined roles as representatives of various concepts of justice. The main aim of this gaming simulation was to reach agreement on common understandings of three key concepts, namely:

  • social justice as a concept of fair and just relations between individuals and society, e.g. by the distribution of wealth and social privileges (see, for example Rawls, 1971);

  • utilitarian justice as a concept that prescribes actions that maximise happiness and well-being for all affected individuals (see, for example, Sen and Williams, 1982); and

  • libertarian justice as a concept of maximised autonomy and political freedom, emphasising free association, freedom of choice, individualism and voluntary association (see Long, 1996).

  • During the discussions, it became apparent that the utilitarian concept of justice is the most common understanding of (environmental) justice, not only amongst project participants, but also within the planning administrations of which they were representatives.

    Discussion and conclusion: towards a convergence of concepts and indicators for resilience-oriented urban development?

    Resilience is an important addition to sustainable urban development, and can even be viewed as a prerequisite for sustainable development. Resilience action at the municipal level aims at the ‘relational structure’, i.e. the interaction between actors, such as politics, administration and civil society, and things, meaning municipal infrastructure, building structure, open spaces, climate and resources that shape people’s vulnerabilities (Christmann et al., 2012). In most cases, cities and municipalities usually possess data that can be used support the preparation, implementation and support of programmes, funding or redevelopment areas or other integrated urban development plans (UBA, 2015, 86). Such a comprehensive database could be used as a decision basis, e.g. by setting up a ‘sustainability check’ (Ohlmeyer et al., this issue) that considers the implications of new projects not only for climate-change mitigation and adaptation, but also for issues of environmental justice. Monitoring and evaluating climate-change adaptation policies, however, is crucial at each scale (world, countries, regions, cities, neighbourhoods, the individual) in order to assess their effectiveness, as well as their potential side effects in other policy fields. These tasks should be mainstreamed into existing monitoring programmes such as those established by EIA and SEA directives (monitoring of unforeseen effects on the environment: EC, 2001; 2014a) and other framework directives (e.g. the Floods Directive: EC, 2007). Such an approach would also automatically affect the local practices that govern these monitoring actions (see e.g. Art. 10 SEA Directive: EC, 2001).

    Based on a desktop and participatory approach we come to the main conclusion that there are several loose ends in research and practice that need to be connected. This should be predominantly achieved by further converging concepts and indicators in research and policies concerning climate change and environmental justice. The consideration of consistent assessment methods (parallel-modelling approach) and implementing cross-sectoral and cross-stakeholder approaches (integration, mainstreaming, science-practice involvement) can support this aim. The following contributions to climate-resilient and environmentally just urban development guided the co-production of knowledge within the ZUKUR project.

    Improving the evidence base by parallel modelling

    In order to create a sound and solid decision basis, analysis of environmental and socio-economic interactions - such as climate-change impact analysis - should not be restricted to modelling climate and its change. Urban planners and policy makers should develop and discuss scenarios regarding how cities or towns could, or should, look in the future. It follows that not only the changing climate needs to be modelled, but also socio-economic changes, as well as changes to the built environment. Parallel modelling enables estimation of potential future impacts. This is an indispensable prerequisite for linking climate resilience and environmental justice, since a given inequality may change not only due to climate change, but also as a consequence of dynamics in the given area’s urban fabric or as a result of social milieus.

    Uncertainties about future climate change and the necessity to reflect transdisciplinarity in research methods call for the so-called parallel-modelling approach to be adopted. It is an approach which requires demographic and socio-economic changes to be projected in parallel with the changes in the climatic system in order to assess the future impact of climate change on future society. The parallel-modelling approach was introduced in IPCC AR5 (IPCC, 2014) with the parallel approach of representative concentration pathways, as succinctly described by Van Vuuren et al. (2011, 6):

    Socio-economic and emission scenarios are used in parallel to provide plausible descriptions of how the future may evolve with respect to a range of variables including socio-economic change, technological change, energy and land use, and emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants. They are used as input for climate model runs.

    Parallel modelling is not only relevant at a global level but also at regional and local levels if suitable adaptation strategies are to be derived (Van Ruijven et al., 2014; Rohat et al., 2018, Rohat et al., 2019). In this context, the assessment should be based on a combination of climatic scenarios derived from an ensemble of climatic models and socio-economic scenarios (UBA, 2017; Greiving et al., 2015; Hoymann and Goetzke, 2016; Greiving et al., 2018; see also Figure 1). The combined use of climatic and socio-economic scenarios can identify a bandwidth of potential future conditions of both the climatic and the socio-economic system that represent the uncertainty that is inherent in future-oriented studies.

    Parallel modelling as a basis for decision making under deep uncertainty

    This parallel-modelling approach is fully in line with the amendment of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (2014/52/EU), which states, ‘Climate change will continue to cause damage to the environment and compromise economic development. In this regard, it is appropriate to assess the impact of projects on climate (for example greenhouse gas emissions) and their vulnerability to climate change’ (EC, 2014a). Such an approach was implemented as a part of the ZUKUR project. The results enabled a spatially and temporally comparable analysis of the influence of the (changing) climate, the (changing) sensitivity of the built environment and the potential present and future impacts of climate change (see Kirstein et al., this issue, for more detailed information on the data base and models used).

    There are, of course, some potential hindrances and barriers when trying to model climatic and socio-economic changes. First of all, a sound database of the present and potential future status of the socio-economic system is needed. A land-use model could generate changes of land cover or, if the focus is on a single municipality, reasonable planning alternatives could be identified in a real-world laboratory in collaboration with a local planning authority. Demographic data are needed which lead - at least on the level of city districts - to problems of data availability and data privacy. Moreover, local demographic projections are deeply uncertain, which again justifies the proposed bandwidth of potential future conditions (Greiving et al., 2018).

    Integrating climate-change aspects into environmental-justice approaches

    In order to improve urban resilience, urban policy makers should seek to achieve development focused environmental justice; this must, by necessity, take into account the small-scale patterns of climate impacts. The unequal distribution of environmental burdens and benefits was shown in the analysis carried out as a part of the ZUKUR project for the city of Bottrop. The analysis, however, also made apparent that the integration of climate/extreme weather events broadened the picture of environmental justice and helped to better integrate formal and informal planning instruments to support climate-resilient development (Ohlmeyer et al., this issue).

    Mainstreaming resilience, climate-change adaptation and environmental justice in sectoral policies

    Data and information alone do not guarantee that issues or principles such as resilience and environmental justice are automatically introduced into urban policies. Sectoral planning policies such as economic promotion, health and housing often follow their own paths based on guidelines, normative threshold values and/or financial and funding prescriptions. In the ZUKUR project, an approach using various elements - such as awareness raising among housing actors regarding climate issues, the extension of an accessible database for decision making and the development of common guidelines across administrative levels and borders - was tested in order to mainstream the above-mentioned issues into housing policy (Fuchs et al., this issue).

    Involving practitioners and the public in designing and implementing resilience research

    A parallel-modelling approach and a sound and integrated monitoring programme can be a basis for strategic decisions: adaptation could either be based, following the so-called precautionary principle, on an extreme-change scenario or a moderate one. This requires normative judgements to be made by actors who are locally democratically legitimised. Addressing the deep uncertainty of the future status of both climate and society calls for flexible, resilient adaptation strategies (Walker et al., 2013). Moreover, political decisions based on uncertain knowledge need a broad mandate from all social groups (Greiving and Fleischhauer, 2012; Fleischhauer et al., 2012; Walker et al., 2014). This is particularly relevant for regional and local adaptation efforts that should be mainstreamed in regional and urban development (EEA, 2012; Kern and Bulkeley, 2009). The directly affected public should be involved in these efforts from the very beginning of the planning process until the implementation of the adaptation measures. Given this, it can be seen that the ZUKUR project tested laboratories for climate adaptation in real-world contexts in order to involve non-scientific actors - e.g. administrative bodies and residents - in the research process so that science can specifically inform planning practice (Sieber et al., this issue).

    This research was funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), grant number 01LR1721. The duration of the project was from July 2017 to September 2020.

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    Greiving, Stefan

    Fleischhauer, Mark