Future challenges

The wickedness continues

Spatial adaptation raises various questions regarding its mainstreaming in policy agendas, the problem of green gentrification and identifying behavioural adaptation. In the future, it therefore requires scientific attention in which an integrated approach is essential.

Mainstreaming spatial adaptation

Researchers at the Water, Climate and Future Deltas hub observe that climate adaptation is increasingly acknowledged as an issue of concern in policy agendas of cities in deltas worldwide. Heleen Mees, assistant professor of local (urban) governance, suggests, “The integration with other transitions, such as the energy and mobility transition, can further mainstream climate adaptation in urban planning”. Still, the implementation of spatial adaptation is at an early stage. Moreover, we already see new challenges emerging from recent developments in spatial and urban delta planning.

Wide angle shot of a green tree surrounded by residential houses. The sun is shining through the green. Shot from directly below the tree
Tree surrounded by residential houses. Credits: iStock.com/TommL

Green gentrification

Green infrastructure (e.g. parks, green roofs), as a central feature of spatial adaption in cities, does not only serve climate resilience but also enhances the quality of life in a neighbourhood.  As a potential consequence, housing prices increase in green neighbourhoods, which may lead to undesirable socio-economic structural changes within a city (‘green gentrification’).

Improving the sustainability of a city must go hand in hand with behavioural change

Behavioural adaptation

Besides adapting to a changing climate in the physical and governance domain, “Improving the sustainability of a city must go hand in hand with behavioural change”, says Heleen Mees. This aspect of climate adaptation is not yet fully acknowledged and research on identifying behavioural adaptation (e.g. by drinking more water on hot days) and developing action perspectives has just started. Furthermore, there are open questions on the proactive behaviour, e.g. which physical measures need to be implemented by stakeholders on private ground, and reactive behaviour, e.g. how do stakeholders react to extreme weather events, how effective are the adopted measures and how do they deal with health risks.