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Sustainable Cities: Governing Urban Adaptation Under Climate Change

Discover expert governance strategies for preparing urban areas to face the challenges posed by climate change.

1,756 enrolled on this course

Sustainable Cities: Governing Urban Adaptation Under Climate Change

1,756 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
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    $244.99 for one whole yearLearn more

Learn how cities can successfully adapt to environmental change

Ongoing rapid urbanisation in combination with climate change and environmental degradation is presenting humanity with considerable challenges. Half of the global population now lives in cities and urban environments are facing serious challenges in dealing with climate change related risks, including the risks posed by more extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and heat waves, as well as rising sea levels.

Urbanisation is a leading driver of environmental change and resource depletion – a trend that will only accelerate as cities grow ever bigger.

In this course, you will investigate how governance strategies and policies for making cities more sustainable and resilient in the face of increasing climate risks can be financed and implemented.

Explore how cities can adapt to climate change

You will analyse the physical, social, and spatial processes that are shaping current climate-related risks in urban environments.

Using real-world case studies, you will investigate and discuss the governance challenges posed by successful urban adaptation to climate change.

Discover how to achieve sustainable urban development

Focusing on the role of governance and urban planning, you will identify how targeted adaptation strategies and finance can help build urban resilience and adapt urban systems to complex risks, thereby moving urban spaces towards a more sustainable future.

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to apply targeted governance strategies to urban environments facing the challenges of a changing climate.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds More than half of the global population now lives in urban areas. The continual growth of cities around the world presents us with major challenges. In this course, you will explore the dynamics behind growing urban areas. How can flows of people, natural resources, goods and services be governed in a more inclusive and sustainable way? And how can cities manage risks posed by climate change, such as rising sea levels, urban heat waves, floods, which place increased stress on urban infrastructures. Based on practical examples, such as flood risk management in African cities, you will familiarise yourself with effective strategies to navigate the challenges of urban adaptation.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds Major cities, such as Tokyo, Jakarta, Dali are examples that we think of if urban areas are mentioned in the news media. Yet smaller and medium sized cities are also growing at fast rates and drive global urbanisation. Nevertheless, despite the complexity of adaptation in different urban environments, local communities are at the heart of adaptation. And people are the most powerful agents of change. This online course on governing urban adaptation was created by an experienced multidisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Groningen Campus Fryslan in cooperation with this Global Center on Adaptation. If you’re curious to discover more about tackling adaptation challenges in urban areas, join us for this course.


  • Week 1

    Climate risks and cities

    • Introduction to the course

      These introductory steps are about the course in general. Following an introduction to your course and educators, we introduce the overarching theme of urban adaptation governance.

    • Urbanization

      In order to understand the importance of climate change adaptation for cities, we first need to explore how cities develop through urbanization. We will address two questions: what is urbanization, and what drives urbanization?

    • Drivers of urbanization

      Now that we have discussed what urbanization is, in the next few steps, let us look at how urbanization happens over time to develop a broader historical perspective.

    • Urban adaptation

      The following steps concern the topic of urban adaptation based on our previous discussions of urbanization processes and their underlying drivers, including environmental degradation and climate change.

    • How can telecoupling contribute?

      Telecoupling describes connections between human settlements and the natural environment, often across distant spaces. If we think about urban adaptation, we need to be aware of these interconnected processes.

    • Wrapping up Week 1

      In this activity, we summarize Week 1 and look ahead to Week 2.

  • Week 2

    Cities as systems

    • Introduction to urban systems and typologies

      The first activity introduces you to the idea of urban systems and explains why different typologies of urban systems are useful planning and research tools.

    • Social, physical and spatial dimensions of urban systems

      This activity deepens your understanding of the different systemic dimensions and typologies and we will look closely at the social and physical dimensions of urban systems and explain why they are relevant for urban adaptation.

    • Urban planning

      In this activity you will learn about urban planning processes and how adaptation to climate change can be incorporated or ‘mainstreamed’ into urban planning processes and strategies.

    • Digital systems and smart cities

      This activity introduces key technologies that define the ’smart’ city and illustrates their use potential for urban adaptation. Examples include artificial intelligence and big data analytics.

    • Wrapping up Week 2

      Summarizing Week 2 and looking forward to Week 3.

  • Week 3

    Governing urban adaptation

    • Urban adaptation governance

      This activity discusses why it is relevant to govern urban adaptation. It extends the discussion on urban adaptation by considering additional global policy agendas as well as key options and actors in urban adaptation governance.

    • Adaptation governance in practice

      The second activity shows you how adaptation governance works in practice and highlights some of the relevant links between governance, social risks, and climatic risks based on concrete examples from Bolgatanga, Ghana.

    • Barriers to urban adaptation

      The third activity introduces you to the idea of adaptation ‘barriers’ and discusses governance options to overcome these structural adaptation constraints.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the human, ecological, and physical processes that are shaping climate related risks in urban environments.
  • Assess risks and barriers to successful urban adaptation based on concrete case studies.
  • Identify how urban climate governance and urban planning can help build resilience and advance urban adaptation.
  • Apply targeted governance strategies for climate adaptation in urban environments.

Who is the course for?

This course would benefit bachelor students or graduates with an interest in adaptive governance and sustainable urban development. It would also appeal to professionals with a public or private sector background and an interest in building skills in tackling climate change.

Who will you learn with?

Assistant Professor Governance & Innovation, University of Groningen

Research focus on climate adaptation, governance, technology, innovation


Lecturer and doctoral researcher
Governance & Innovation, Campus Fryslân, University of Groningen

Cyan Centre on Climate Change Adaptation (C4A) member


Who developed the course?

University of Groningen

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.

Global Center on Adaptation

The international organization GCA acts as a solutions broker to accelerate adaptation action, partnering with the public and private sector to learn and work together for a climate-resilient future.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$244.99 for one whole year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 18 Jun 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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