Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Cities of Developing Countries: An Examination of Municipal Climate Action Plans
Le, Tu Dam Ngoc
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Adaptation planning is crucial for cities and their communities to plan for and take actions to tackle climate change, the current greatest risk to human-being and ecosystem. Cities across many regions have benefited from the scholarship development of vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience. Reflective studies to track these planning practices, however, are scarce at the city level in developing countries. Especially while climate change poses an acute impact on the coastal cities of developing countries, there are no broad-scale comparative studies of municipal adaptation plans in this context. This dissertation, formatted into three papers, aims to fill three important gaps of municipal climate adaptation planning. The first paper seeks to unpack the state-of-the-art of adaptation planning in 45 coastal cities in developing countries, particularly focusing on understanding the types of vulnerability and exploring the planned adaptation options. Using content analysis on the planning documents, the study found that vulnerability in this local context is not only the climate change impacts, but more importantly, the sensitive socio-economic status, the insufficient infrastructure system, and limited capacity. Adaptation options, correspondingly, aim to address current vulnerabilities rather than climate change impacts. The second paper strikes to explore the relationship between vulnerability and adaptation. Using ANOVA and multiple regression analysis, this paper found an inconsistency between vulnerability level and the extent of adaptation responses but a significant relationship between exposure level and the number of institutional measures. This study also found a matter of city size while the vulnerability level is not statistically different between large and small cities, the capacity for adaptation is notably different with large cities tend to propose a significantly high number of adaptation initiatives. The third paper examines the influence of theoretical frameworks on the adaptation planning outcome. The finding shows a significant difference in planning outcome associated with the theoretical framework that guides the planning process. The vulnerability-based framework tackles the issues of climate change sufficiently with a relatively equal focus on structural, social, and institutional aspects. The hazard-based approach shares resources for both climate change and other matters and focuses prominently on structural measures. The urban resilience framework puts more efforts into other issues rather than climate change, with the most emphasis on social initiatives. Several important implications emerge from these findings. First, municipal climate change adaptation in developing countries cannot separate from socio-economic development and capacity building, and a coordination mechanism for inter-policy is necessary. Second, adaptation planning in cities needs to be more focused on vulnerabilities for better understanding their causes to take proper actions that account for potential climate change impacts and future needs. Third, institutional measures should be promoted to address rising exposure to coastal hazards and climate change. Fourth, planners should acknowledge the distinctive influence of theoretical frameworks on the formulation of adaptation options. The planning process, therefore, should apply a comprehensive vulnerability assessment to minimize the framing bias issue. Lastly, given the uncertainty and increasing impact of climate change, the large and small cities should receive equal attention and proportional resources to tackle this global issue.