Book review: Urban Planning for Climate Change

reviewed by Eka Wulan Safriani and Yani Yani

4 Aug 2023, 10:12 a.m.

Urban Planning for Climate Change book cover

Barbara Norman, Urban Planning for Climate Change, Abingdon: Routledge, 2022; 196 pp.: ISBN: 9780367485993, £27.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780367486013, £96.00 (hbk)


The involvement of urban planning has great potential to overcome the problem of climate change (Cobbinah, 2021). Resilient city planning for climate change is essential to implement climate action on a city, regional and global scale. In addition to designing climate change mitigation-based cities, it is also important to consider the opinions and attitudes of the community towards environmental issues, particularly climate change (Potter, 2020). A sustainable approach to the problem of climate change is applied by synergising all activities in the form of future climate action. Urban planning in the context of climate change is a form of spatial contribution in providing a deeper understanding of sustainability challenges and opportunities for urban communities. The main purpose of Barbara Norman writing Urban Planning for Climate Change is to provide a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in effective urban planning for climate change and to take a holistic approach to climate risks and long-term sustainable development. By adopting a more global viewpoint and looking at broader issues, this book also keeps referring to her earlier book (Norman, 2018).

The book consists of seven chapters, starting with an introductory chapter which provides an overview of the entire contents of the volume. In the introductory chapters, the author discusses urban planning for climate change, focusing on climate risks and adaptation with a special chapter on climate-induced resettlement. Much progress has been made at the global and international levels in recognising that climate change action is closely related to urban sustainability and climate-resilient development.

Chapter 2 discusses urban planning for climate change in present and future challenges in the world. This chapter discusses conceptual and practical urban planning for climate change concerning international experience in both developed and developing countries. Barbara Norman finds complex climate change issues that lead the reader to understand the problems of several countries, e.g. Canada through a sustainable development strategy supported by a Federal Sustainable Development Act, and Australia with flooding events resulting in continuing damage to life and biodiversity without changes occurring to land-use planning. National urban planning organisations have an important role in policy-making related to skills-building professional practice for urban planning for climate change.

In Chapter 3, the author describes urban planning for four main climate risks – coastal inundation, wildfire, extreme heat and floods – to understand more deeply the possible characteristics of a climate-resilient town. Barbara Norman focuses on adaptation planning – preparing for the impacts of climate change. The discussion in this chapter aims to invite the public to work together in actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to create zero-carbon cities and a resilient urban future. The concept of urbanisation, when coupled with good environmental governance, has the potential to reduce the impacts of climate change and disasters (Miller et al., 2020). Choosing the right approach is critical for society to develop a more sustainable future, along with increasing public knowledge of the impacts and benefits of incorporating buffer and contingency plans into urban and development planning processes as one of the processes to protect vulnerable populations in the future.

Chapter 4 presents the challenges of climate-induced resettlement as an option for the future. The problems faced by urban systems are increasing and complex, not only with climate change but also with other problems in the form of disasters, migration and pandemics. The author believes that resettlement problems caused by climate change require a dynamic and adaptive planning system to respond quickly to disaster events. The problems that arise provide insight into building sustainable climate-sensitive cities in the future so that future lessons can be drawn in responding to climate-induced resettlement.

The discussion in Chapter 5 outlines the problems faced by several cities in the world. For a US city, Solecki and Rosenzweig (2022) conducted a review of the actions implemented in daily activities through the involvement of various stakeholders and conducting data management to evaluate the amount of progress of activities regarding climate change. This plan can also be developed widely, not only implemented in the USA. In addition, the innovations can transform fossil fuel-based transportation to renewable energy, encouraging people to actively walk and use public transport and build green open spaces. But in reality, the world is facing unstoppable urbanisation, with areas that should be green spaces being turned into residential areas. In many areas in Indonesia, coastal areas in the lowlands are permitted for development. Therefore, the government has a stake in deciding the land distribution policy. If the movement is running, it can provide many benefits, including creating cities that are healthy, safe and able to adapt to climate change. Contributions between the government, community, private sector and academics also need to be carried out synergistically, which is very important for urban governance planning.

Chapter 6 describes developed and developing countries facing problems regarding climate change and extreme weather, which causes various natural disasters such as floods, storms, droughts and heatwaves. During 2021, the USA was hit by 21 extreme weather disasters and billions of dollars were spent on repairing the damage. This has encouraged a shift in investment towards infrastructure renewal that supports climate change mitigation. The future of life is in harmony with the environment and humans, so efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to zero to protect the climate. This programme is carried out for mitigation and adaptation measures from uncontrollable weather. Along with planning, transparency and public accountability are also needed to monitor changes and the progress of proposed programmes.

The strengthening of holistic planning is explained in Chapter 7, which discusses implementation from the global to the local level. Sustainable development plans are supported at the global level by the United Nations and at the national level by regional or city policies. An approach from the cultural aspect is also needed, because every place has different cultural characteristics. For example, Jakarta has a flooding problem but the city is characterised by very high urbanisation and it is very difficult to relocate 10 million people. In addition, a collaboration between parties (United Nations at the international level, regional or city policy makers at the national level and the community) and the development of smart digital portals such as ‘Urban Lands’ are needed to analyse cities and provide information to the public. It is also necessary to devise short- and long-term plans related to climate change and urbanisation, and research is needed to monitor the changes that occur.

Another uniqueness of this book can be found in the layout of each chapter, with an introduction, chapter contents, implications, key messages and conclusions. The material is presented comprehensively and coherently so that readers can understand the urban planning discussions to deal with climate change that are happening around the world. However, the role of each individual in good urban planning is not discussed clearly in this book. The zero-carbon efforts discussed in the book should be able to be campaigned on more clearly as a contribution from every element of society.

Overall, this book is a good reading recommendation for various types of people, especially those aware of and concerned about the ongoing climate change. The book can also be used as reference material for researchers and those who design cities so that they can enrich and innovate ideas to address the problem of climate change. Designing good cities by considering natural conditions can save the Earth, so that catastrophic phenomena due to climate change can be minimised.



The authors would like to express their gratitude to Lembaga Pengelolaan Dana Pendidikan (LPDP/ Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology in Indonesia for supporting the publication.



Cobbinah PB (2021) Urban resilience in climate change hotspot. Land Use Policy 100: 104948. Crossref | Google Scholar

Miller MA, Douglass M, Rigg J (2020) Governing resilient cities for planetary flourishing in the Asia-Pacific. Urban Studies 57(7): 1359–1371. Crossref | ISI | Google Scholar

Norman B (2018) Sustainable Pathways for Our Cities and Regions: Planning Within Planetary Boundaries. Abingdon: Routledge. Crossref | Google Scholar

Potter E (2020) Contesting imaginaries in the Australian city: Urban planning, public storytelling and the implications for climate change. Urban Studies 57(7): 1536–1552. Crossref | ISI | Google Scholar

Solecki W, Rosenzweig C (eds.) (2022) Climate change and U.S. cities—urban systems, sectors, and prospects for action. Island Press. Google Scholar


Related articles

If you enjoyed this review, the following articles published in Urban Studies might also be of interest:


Governing resilient cities for planetary flourishing in the Asia-Pacific by Michelle Ann Miller, Mike Douglass and Jonathan Rigg

Miller et al make the case for conjoining the future viability of urban societies with ecological well-being and planetary flourishing.


Contesting imaginaries in the Australian city: Urban planning, public storytelling and the implications for climate change by Emily Potter

Potter focuses on the impact of neoliberal imaginaries on indigenous Australians, whose original dispossession connects through to current Indigenous urban experiences of exclusion which are set to intensify in the face of increasing climate change.

Read more book reviews on the Urban Studies blog.



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