Fostering Transformative Climate Adaptation and Mitigation in the African City: Opportunities and Constraints of Urban Planning

2015, In Stephan Pauleit et al (eds.), Urban Vulnerability and Climate Change in Africa: A Multidisciplinary Approach (London: Springer).


Mainstreaming climate resilient strategy into the systems of urban design, construction and management has to take seriously both climate adaptation and mitigation in shifting the practices of urban planning if the interests of the urban poor are to be advanced. Because of the way that urban poverty has been conceived, the adaptation agenda tends to focus on small-scale household interventions rather than strategic spatial planning, development controls and enforcement. These city scale planning actions are more closely tied to the climate mitigation agenda, something that has had little traction in African cities where planning is weak and often considered part of the urban problem. Few professions have such a poor reputation or are so badly understood as town planning, and this is nowhere more so than in the fragile African context where illegitimate colonial legacies, weak local government and low levels of professional capacity make embedding the climate agenda into the planning regime especially difficult. However, pro-poor planning and planners cannot be bypassed if a sustainable city, rather than a set of projects, is to be promoted. In an effort to make clear the barriers and opportunities to a transformative climate agenda, this chapter sets out the importance of rethinking poverty in less individualised ways, thus enabling the reform of urban planning practices that are typically found in African cites and through which institutional change might be realised.

Susan Parnell