phase 1

Policies & Plans


In the Policies and Plans phase of the infrastructure lifecycle, governments have opportunities to influence the integration of climate resilience into infrastructure planning and to set a positive enabling environment in which climate-resilient infrastructure is developed and implemented. Areas of leverage include long-term planning; economic, environmental and construction policies and regulations; and improvements in the coordination and capacity of government functions. Actions in later stages of the infrastructure lifecycle build upon the foundation set in this phase, making it one of the most critical phases for enhancing the resilience value that infrastructure can deliver.

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Lead Practitioners


Government actors lead the formation of policies and plans that impact the development and implementation of climate-resilient infrastructure. Depending on the type of infrastructure and location, this may occur at a national, sub-national or municipal level. Government regulators, typically acting at a national level, also develop economic, financial, environmental and safety regulations that govern most infrastructure sectors. The content of this phase is also relevant to other practitioners including investors, designers, and civil society who support government in developing policies and plans.

Key Inputs from Other Phases

Phase 1Policies and Plans

Phase 2Prioritisation

Prioritization and decision-making processes inform government structures, coordination mechanisms and planning processes. Data needs for decision-making processes inform the types of data collected and disseminated. While the prioritization of specific infrastructure projects may influence other decisions and actions related policy, regulation, and planning.

Phase 3Feasibility and Preparation

Needs and barriers identified in the feasibility and preparation phase may inform the development of policies and regulations.

Phase 4Funding and Financing

The financial environment, including the availability of finance for infrastructure development, influences budget allocation. Decisions regarding the role of the private sector in financing infrastructure impact policies, regulations, and coordination mechanisms. The financial sector can play a role in data collection and dissemination.

Phase 5Design

Learnings from the design and engineering community on safety and resilience of existing built infrastructure can influence the technical regulations for design and construction of new  infrastructure and enhancements. Planners, designers, and engineers can influence and enhance the quality of early-phase planning strategies and ensure they are risk-informed. While the engineering community can play a role in ensuring that data collection methods and monitoring techniques are designed into infrastructure  which can then be disseminated  to understand the performance or infrastructure.

Phase 6Procurement

Learnings from past procurement efforts can and should  inform procurement policies and regulations set by government.

Phase 7Construction

The construction industry can promote the integration of sustainable and resilience-building construction materials and methods in technical regulations.

Phase 8Operations and Maintenance

Needs and resilience shortcomings identified in the Operation & Maintenance phase should inform policies, plans and regulation including the development of technical regulations for resilience and sustainability retrofits as well as economic regulations and policies regarding the operation of infrastructure. Dissemination of data collected in the operations phase of infrastructure can be of great public benefit and influence broader resilience policies and plans as the need and performance of infrastructure are understood.

Phase 9End of Life

Innovation around the topics of site regeneration and circular economy in the end-of-life phase should influence the development of policies, plans and regulations that promote and facilitate these activities.

The Basics and the Shift

The Impacts of Climate Change on the Policies and Plans Phase

Government, collectively working at different scales, is responsible for setting the majority of the enabling environment in which infrastructure is planned and implemented, and therefore, plays an outsized role in setting the quality and effectiveness of infrastructure. In the first phase of the infrastructure lifecycle, government officials at national, sub-national, or local levels determine long-term development and infrastructure strategies; establish and enforce policies that set minimum performance standards for infrastructure; regulate the private sector’s role in infrastructure; set funding and budgeting priorities and allocations for infrastructure development and maintenance; and prepare for and respond to large-scale disasters that impact the built environment, among other things. The following table explains how climate change has complicated these responsibilities and the ways in which government practitioners and their tools are adapting to set the stage for the development of more climate-resilient infrastructure.

Traditional Responsibilities and Decisions

Effects of Climate Change

New Tools and Approaches

Government is responsible for setting long-term national, urban and rural development plans and policies that guide infrastructure development. This work typically takes place at a national level and/or sub-national level when it comes to large-scale, regional infrastructure networks and systems. Municipal governments play critical roles in decisions related to where development may take place as well as the implementation and resulting quality of infrastructure that most people regularly engage with.

Climate change introduces large-scale and dynamic uncertainties into the long-term planning of infrastructure. Population changes and migration, often related to the effects of climate change, affect where infrastructure is needed and its capacity requirements. Changes to the character, location, severity, and frequency of anticipated natural hazards affect infrastructure performance requirements and where development should be permitted. Shifting user and lifestyle preferences and new technologies, many spurred by the climate crisis, influence the type of infrastructure that is most effective. Furthermore, there is heightened recognition of the importance of integrated and inclusive planning processes to achieve broader sustainability, resilience and equity goals.

Climate resilient infrastructure requires new planning strategies and tools including:

  • Climate risk assessments
  • National adaptation plans
  • Urban resilience strategies
  • Climate hazard mapping
  • Scenario analysis and planning
  • Interdependencies analyses
  • Decentralization and diversification of infrastructure
  • Transit-oriented development
  • Distributed energy planning

It also requires new coordination mechanisms that support the development of those tools:

  • Resilience agencies and officers within government to coordinate across siloed sectoral departments
  • Changes to budgetary allocation and review procedures
  • Stakeholder engagement and community participation mechanisms

Cross-jurisdictional coordination to reduce fragmented approaches to risk reduction

Governments, whether at national, sub-national, or municipal levels, set policies to regulate private sector actors involved in infrastructure. These include restrictions on where infrastructure can be built how it is built, how it is operated and managed, and financial structures and revenues. These also include incentives (financial or otherwise) to influence private sector behavior for specific objectives.

The increased frequency of climate disasters has heightened the importance of the role of government in protecting private citizens and the economy through public policy.

Climate change also creates complex systemic ripple effects that can lead to unpredictable outcomes. Traditional approaches to public policy in some cases may lead to unintended disincentives or negative outcomes that must be re-evaluated in the context of climate change.

While not a result of climate change, recent trends have also led to greater participation of the private sector in the financing, operation and management of public infrastructure and services, making the role of government in influencing the private sector’s efforts towards climate resilience more crucial.

National and local governments are being creative in their development of policies to mandate or incentivize resilience in infrastructure. Examples include:

  • Resilience retrofit subsidy or retrofit programs
  • Stormwater fees
  • Buyout and acquisition programs
  • Distributed energy policies
  • Policies to discourage car use and/or diversify public transit

As part of their regulatory role, governments establish minimum performance requirements for infrastructure through technical codes and standards development. Traditionally, codes have focused on minimum requirements related to basic performance under normal operating conditions and safety under hazard conditions (wind, snow, earthquakes, etc). Requirements are typically set at a national level and enforced through permitting and inspection at a local level.

With climate change, large-scale natural hazard events such as hurricanes and floods have transitioned in many places from being low-probability-high-consequence events (akin to earthquakes) to high-probability-high-consequence events. Historically less-relevant hazards such as wildfires and bouts of extreme heat are also becoming more widely recognized as pertinent to infrastructure planning and design. The role of reliable infrastructure performance in supporting broader community resilience is also becoming more widely recognized as a result of the climate crisis.

With the increasing frequency and severity of climate events, there is heightened recognition of the importance of codes in setting not only safety requirements but also going beyond safety to consider resilience-based design approaches to ensure reliable service or limit recovery time in the face of expected hazards.

Codes and standards are also being updated to incorporate new climate hazards and multi-hazard assessment and design approaches. Because climate hazards are dynamic, code review processes including updates to hazard criteria must increase in frequency and pace.

Government traditionally assumes the role of emergency management in terms of preparing, responding and leading the recovery process following a major disaster. Oftentimes it is the government that provides the majority of funds necessary for recovery.

The increased frequency and severity of climate disasters and the damage they cause to the built environment have strained the capacity and budgets of many governments. The variety and complexity of disasters, and their secondary impacts, are also increasing with climate change, globalization and urbanization.

Governments are beginning to shift their focus towards pre-disaster risk mitigation as a more cost-effective strategy than response after a disaster. They are also planning in advance for inevitable disasters and leveraging the opportunity to ‘build back better’. Some are putting funds aside for disaster recovery and also rethinking requirements for post-disaster payouts to incentivize pre-disaster risk reduction. Others are transferring risk through insurance products.

Governments have not traditionally generated, collected, used or disseminated data for infrastructure planning or management purposes as the technologies to do so effectively did not exist.

In parallel with the onset of the climate crisis, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or digital revolution, has begun to transform the ways in which governments use data for decision-making, including for the planning and management of infrastructure.

Governments now take a leading role in the collection, management, use and dissemination of data including the following:

  • Open data platforms
  • Collection of data on risk as well as social and demographic data, oftentimes through partnership with academia
  • Cost-benefit data analysis for decision-making
  • Disclosure and reporting of climate-related data (risk, carbon emissions, etc) as part of partnerships or networks

Integrated Guidance for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure

Based on the review of over 150 existing publications and tools on climate-resilient infrastructure, the following key actions have been identified to support practitioners in integrating climate resilience into infrastructure development in the Policies and Plans phase of the infrastructure lifecycle. These actions are summarized in the table below and grouped by theme. Each action is further elaborated on in this section and references and links to key publication and tools are shared.

View all Themes and Actions

Key resources

The following resources have been identified as the key resources for practitioners working in the Policies and Plans phase of the infrastructure lifecycle.

Guidance OECD

Climate-resilient infrastructure: Getting the policies right

Vallejo & Mullan’s OECD Environmental Working Paper outlines a framework for national policy- and decision-makers. The framework provides guidance aimed at ensuring new and existing infrastructure is resilient to the changing climate.

Guidance UNDP

Paving the Way for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure, San Salvador: United Nations Development Programme

Based on the outcome of the Conference on Strategies for Adapting Public and Private Infrastructure to Climate Change (El Salvador, 2010), this guidance document provides policy- and decision-makers in developing countries with insights into the benefits of making infrastructure resilient to climate change. It guides relevant government actors on the design and implementation of actions to address climate change, reduce risks and reduce poverty.

Guidance World Bank

The Adaptation Principles: A Guide for Designing Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience

The Adaptation Principles, produced for the World Bank, offer guidance on effective climate change adaptation, through effective adaptation strategies at the national level. Using tools and actions to guide the design, implementation and monitoring of strategies, the guide offers insight into needs identification and prioritization.

Guidance World Bank

Lifelines: The Resilient Infrastructure Opportunity

Building on practical examples and relevant literature, Lifelines provides a framework for assessing and strengthening the resilience of infrastructure to natural shocks. The report offers policy- and decision-makers, as well as other relevant stakeholders, five recommendations and actionable tasks to improve resilience.

Summary of Integrated Guidance

Theme 1: Shared Systemic Vision

The development of a shared systemic vision for climate resilience and adaptation is foundational to setting a positive enabling environment for climate-resilient infrastructure. A shared systemic vision provides a roadmap and a clear set of priorities for practitioners throughout the infrastructure lifecycle to orient planning and decision-making towards so that individual actions complement one another, and individual assets function in a harmonised way. Fundamental to setting the vision is ensuring that there is an understanding across stakeholders and decision-makers of the value of highly resilient infrastructure to improve not only the continuity of service delivery but also the broader resilience of society. This requires the collective recognition of infrastructure as an interdependent, complex, adaptive system with the potential value to enhance the supply chains it depends upon, the value chains it creates, and the wider society and economy it enables. It also requires an understanding of the societal and economic opportunity cost of low-resilience infrastructure as well as the long-term negative environmental damage that poorly conceived infrastructure can cause which can exacerbate climate change and its impacts [1].

A 50-year, shared systemic vision for comprehensive infrastructure planning and development, including the development of a national adaptation strategy or infrastructure plan, should include ambitious, long-term objectives that a government can reasonably achieve, either individually, or in partnership with other actions [2]). While this vision is typically developed at a national level, a similar process can also be undertaken at a sub-national or municipal level or by individual communities or private entities, although reconciliation with larger-scale planning processes is necessary. The shared systemic vision should be wider in scope than infrastructure, relating to broad economic, social and environmental targets [3]. A priority of all shared visions, regardless of geographic or political context, should be the equitable distribution of the positive and negative impacts of infrastructure development [4].

Stage 1 of Enabling Better Infrastructure [3] provides guidance on developing a vision:

  • Align to international frameworks such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the Sendai Framework (see Action 1.1.1)
  • Customize the vision to the context including level of economic development, history, geography, risk profile, and politics
  • Recognize that the vision may need to evolve over time, for example as priorities might shift from meeting basic needs to environmental sustainability or disaster risk reduction

A.2 Stage 2 of the Strategic Infrastructure report by the World Economic Forum[5] includes additional guidance on the development of a shared, systemic vision, including the formulation of outcome-based medium-term (10-year goals). This report includes a Strategic Infrastructure Planner Tool (pg.14) that can be used to support the development of the collective vision. Other more community-scale approaches for developing shared resilience objectives include the following: PREP (Community Resilience Planning Handbook) [6] and the NIST Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure [7].

A key benefit of establishing a long-term vision and aligning infrastructure plans to it is that the development of an infrastructure project pipeline and decisions regarding prioritisation of capital investments (see Prioritisation phase) can be made transparently and consistently, reducing the influence of short-term political considerations and pressures as well as the impact of political transitions[2]. Furthermore, new investment plans, whether resulting from post-disaster recovery or economic stimulus packages, can be guided by and contribute to meeting pre-identified long-term goals.

The following actions describe in more detail several key aspects of devloping a shared system vision.

1.1.1 Align shared vision with international priorities.

Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions. Therefore, any shared vision for climate resilience developed at the national level should align with international priorities. This process is important in ensuring that a level of consistency, accountability and transparency is developed across jurisdictions, as the global community moves toward addressing common challenges, through common solutions. In addition to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), of whose targets almost three quarters have been linked, directly or indirectly, to infrastructure [8], two main agreements guide international cooperation around climate resilience and adaptation. These are the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the 2015 Paris Agreement:

  • The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction provides high-level goals and guiding principles for disaster risk reduction within and between countries. Priority 2 of the framework advocates for the strengthening of disaster risk governance at all levels, to enable better prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, and rehabilitation.
  • The United Nations intrinsically linked climate change resilience to efforts to achieve sustainable development and climate change adaptation in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Agreement adopts a holistic approach to resilience, linking it to socioeconomic and ecological systems (Article 7), communities, livelihoods and ecosystems (Article 8) and technological development and transfer (Article 10), and highlighting the imperative of exchange of information, experiences and best practices as the cornerstone to successful resilience building [9].

Future-Oriented PlanningFuture-Oriented PlanningIntegrating the long-term ambitions, targets, and goals outlined in international agreements, such as those described above, ensures that a shared vision establishes a clear, systemic, and holistic roadmap into the future. By transcending political cycles and moving beyond short-term planning through a shared vision, more specific plans at all levels, such as discussed in Action 1.3.1, can be developed with more immediate term activities that align with the broader shared vision. In addition to ensuring that short-to-medium-term plans, policies, and regulations align with multi-decadal priorities within the national context, aligning these with international ambitions also ensures that they address transboundary issues and help to minimise the negative impacts of climate change in other nations.

1.1.2 Develop insight into the climate vulnerabilities and interdependencies of existing infrastructure assets and systems that can lead to societal disruption.

As extreme weather events become more common, and precipitation and temperature patterns change, assets and systems previously in an equilibrium with their natural environment can become exposed to new risks and climate impacts. Systems ThinkingSystems ThinkingAssessing existing and future climate vulnerabilities at both the infrastructure asset and system-level is key to understanding the risk of discrete failures at the asset level and consequential cascading failures at the wider network or system-level. As localised and cumulative failures impact directly and indirectly on communities, e.g., through the loss of property or the loss of access to non-vital services, understanding the potential and severity of societal disruption is important. Service Continuity and ReliabilityService Continuity and ReliabilityBy identifying potentially disruptive weaknesses within existing assets and systems, adaptive measures can be introduced retrospectively. For example, these measures could seek to;

  • increase an individual asset’s capacity to withstand without damage or service interruption a specific climatic shock through physical or operational adjustments; or
  • add additional layers of redundancy to a system allowing it to weather a variety of more severe shocks and stresses.

To identify these vulnerabilities, a number of techniques, tools and approaches can be applied, including quantitative and qualitative vulnerability assessments and exposure mapping. Once identified, insights must be effectively communicated to all relevant stakeholders (ISI, 2018). This includes government actors responsible for integrating the assessments into plans, policies, and regulations, as well as asset owners and operators and the communities who rely on the services provided by infrastructure networks and systems.

As outlined in ISO 14090:2019 [10], a vulnerability assessment should consider [10]:

  • the exposure of an asset or system, its activities, products, and services to climate hazards
  • the sensitivity of the above to climate hazards
  • the climate impacts
  • the asset or systems adaptive capacity (i.e. the properties of a system that enable it to modify itself in order to maintain or achieve a desired state in the face of perceived or actual stress[11].

ISO 14091:2021 provides further guidance on compiling and implementing vulnerability assessments including scope and methodology, data acquisition and management, and cross-sectoral interdependency analysis[12].

Systems ThinkingSystems ThinkingInterdependency considerations help to account for impacts that may affect the supply chain or service provisions upon which the asset or system relies to efficiently function. These assessments are best conducted at the community or city level, particularly in high-density population centres which are frequently located in areas most exposed to climate threats. The intricate web of systems that cooperate with one another in cities also make these centres more vulnerable to cascading failures in the event of exposure to climate hazards, These factors create the potential for more severe societal disruption.

Inclusive EngagementInclusive EngagementTo identify and understand interdependencies, cities have begun to engage with various infrastructure sectors to develop comprehensive interdependencies maps, which highlight particularly vulnerable links within supply chains, connections within systems and pivotal assets whose failure have the potential to cause a system-breakdown. Helpful examples of these are available in Appendix B of the C40 Infrastructure Interdependencies + Climate Risks Report [13]. <Evidence-Based Decision MakingEvidence-Based Decision MakingDecision-support tools, such as those outlined in Action 1.1.4, can be applied at the community or city-scale to visualise and map specific areas exposed to potential risks that arise due to climate change, such as sea-level rise. Furthermore, assessment tools, outlined in the Prioritisation phase can be applied to assess the cost of potential interventions and compared against the cost of inaction. Combined with the qualitative assessments carried out by stakeholder groups, they can yield a comprehensive picture of the vulnerabilities inherent within complex systems, a first step towards taking systemic action to minimise societal disruption [13].

Developing these insights and integrating them into a shared systemic vision has a number of benefits, including providing the aspirational basis against which all future decisions and developments can be measured. Learning and IterationLearning and Iteration Additionally, identifying pertinent vulnerabilities in collaboration with relevant stakeholders can help to identify their root causes and inform future prioritization processes. This approach aligns with the initial two guiding principles of the “systemic, collaborative, transparent, structured and flexible framework for infrastructure need assessment and decision-making” published by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)[1]

1.1.3 Measure societal risk tolerance and willingness-to-pay for climate-resilient infrastructure.

While resilience-based approaches must go beyond classic risk management techniques, a key consideration when developing a shared long- and medium-term objectives for climate resilience is the level of tolerance in the society for climate-related risks, including the potential for death, infrastructure damage and the disruption of critical services. Understanding risk tolerance helps to identify a balance of performance and economy at an early stage. Based on the insights gained from the risk assessment described in Action 1.1.2, acceptable risk levels for identified hazards must be defined and extrapolated across different infrastructure sectors and coordinated across geographic areas and jurisdictions. Action 2.2 (pg. 156) in Lifelines [14] provides the following definitions related to risk tolerance:

  • Acceptable risks – situations that cannot be prevented at reasonable cost or whose consequences can be managed. Accepting these risks requires the development of emergency or contingency plans to address their consequences.
  • Intolerable risks – those that can be addressed at reasonable cost or whose impacts would be intolerable in terms of human or economic costs.
  • Minimum expected level of service – the performance objectives of infrastructure necessary to strike the right balance based on established risk tolerances. This information can then inform the development of policies and plans as well as infrastructure design and performance standards.

Local context and the cost and feasibility of implementing necessary measures must be considered when setting appropriate risk levels. This topic is further elaborated on in Lifelines pg. 155-160 [14]. It is important to note that although for many infrastructure systems cost-effective risk reduction actions have already been undertaken, aging infrastructure coupled with increased and/or new types of risk from climate change make further intervention more costly. This problem can be illustrated in a risk reduction cost curve (see Fig. 1 pg. 20)Bostick, T., Connelly, E., Lambert, J. & Linkow, I., 2018. Resilience science, policy and investment for civil infrastructure. Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Volume 175, pp. 19-23.”]. Innovative risk management approaches are required, as the increased cost and complexity of addressing novel risks cannot be sufficiently addressed by traditional risk management approaches [15].

Inclusive EngagementInclusive EngagementThe willingness-to-pay (WTP) either by taxpayers or users for the reduction of these risks can be evaluated through public engagement survey methods. WTP research related to climate change to date has mostly focused on climate change mitigation, including the use of carbon taxes and investment in clean energy, although there is growing work around the topic of WTP for climate adaptation and risk reduction. A UK study published in 2019 found that 61% of survey participants were willing to pay to reduce future increases in climate change-related deaths in Britain, with a correlation between income and WTP [16].Environmental Co-BenefitsEnvironmental Co-BenefitsAnglian Water, a private UK utility, is also pioneering approaches to measuring the economic values its customers give to the quality of water and wastewater services, including ecosystem and climate-related aspects[17]. More information on this project is provided in the case study.

Case Study

Anglian Water - societal valuation

In an example of effective stakeholder engagement in the needs identification process, Anglian Water reviewed a range of customer valuation techniques to inform their societal valuation programme used to measure customer preferences through the estimation of the economic value customers assign to water and wastewater services. The assessment led to an improvement in traditional stated preference survey design, including design simplification and clarification and increased interactivity. In addition, Anglian water incorporated novel valuation methods including wellbeing valuation and environmental studies in their societal valuation programme, thereby addressing issues more holistically, with the triple bottom line in minda (Anglian Water, 2018). This approach helped to inform the company’s 2020 climate change adaptation report and customers are actively engaged to address climate-related risks (Anglian Water, 2020). For additional details, refer to:

aAnglian Water, 2018. 12G. Anglian Water’s PR19 Societal Valuation Programme, Huntington: Anglian Water.


1.1.4 Engage stakeholders in needs identification and goal setting.

There is abundant literature on the benefits of using an inclusive, participatory process for disaster risk reduction and climate resilience planning such as community-based adaptation [7].Inclusive EngagementInclusive EngagementUse of inclusive planning processes is a key tenet of many climate-resilient infrastructure guidance documents[18], advocating for involvement, collaboration with and empowerment of marginalized communities. The benefits include:

  • Leveraging local knowledge of hazards, risks, and indigenous approaches (while acknowledging that past disasters are no longer an indicator of future expected hazards)
  • Equity and Social Co-BenefitsEquity and Social Co-BenefitsShared visioning of solutions that leads to identification of enhanced mutual benefits
  • Development of appropriate approaches that target underrepresented communities
  • Enhanced buy-in and commitment to adopted strategies

However, the challenges of public involvement in decision-making related to climate change, particularly with respect to anticipatory actions (as opposed to reactive actions) has also been highlighted. Specifically, questions related to timing and scale of adaptive strategies to address long-term climate risks (e.g., for coastal management, selecting among three strategies: protect, accommodate or retreat) are particularly challenging to develop adequate consensus for due to the high degree of scientific uncertainty and intergenerational timeframe of climate change. This paper recommends using a participatory decision-making process for determination of overall priorities (e.g., risk tolerance) or for reactive adaptation, where impacts are already being felt [19]. It further recommends: “rather than retreating in the face of participatory difficulties, climate change adaptation needs to forge an honest and creative deliberative approach that both can be more democratic and can yield genuine benefits for the process of societal adaptation…It is important not to promote public involvement as a ‘bottom-up’ process of decision-making. It cannot be so, if the most fundamental decision has already been made. Instead, the purpose, limits and expected outcomes of participation need to be carefully specified, and the value of the process underlined by assurances that it will have a real impact on the formulation of policy.”[19]

Phase 1 of the ICLEI ACCCRN Process provides guidance on identifying and engaging appropriate stakeholders in the climate resilience planning process [20] The World Bank’s report ‘Inclusive Resilience’ also provides guidance on inclusive resilience action planning at country level. It identifies as a problem the lack of guidance in translating national policies and commitments on social inclusion in planning to mechanisms for meaningful participation of marginalized groups [21].

Climate-focused advisory committees have also been established in some cities, and other cities have integrated climate considerations into existing and/or sector-specific advisory panels. A benefit of advisory panels is that complex decisions regarding both climate change mitigation and adaptation, including both quantitative and qualitative information, can be considered simultaneously. Another benefit is that they create ‘bridging actors’ who can support in the further extension and mainstreaming of climate resilience [22] [23].

Case Study

UK Parliament's Climate Change Assembly project - citizen engagement methods

The UK’s Climate Change Assembly, a project in which citizens were brought together to discuss ways to meet net zero targets, is an example of citizen engagement around climate change planning. A cohort of 108 members, representative of the UK population, convened throughout the first half of 2020. Their discussions culminated in the development of “The path to net zero: Climate Assemble UK report”. A prioritisation exercise to rank guiding principles highlighted the importance of “ensuring solutions are future-proofed” i.e., resilient to climate change, “a joined-up approach” i.e., systemic and holistic solutions, and “long-term planning and a phased transition” as three of the most important principlesa. An independent evaluation concluded that the Assembly “was a highly valuable process that enabled a diverse group of UK citizens to engage in parliamentary scrutiny of government on climate policy in an informed and meaningful manner.” The evaluation report recommends the establishment and use of more citizens’ assemblies in the future to input into and scrutinize the work of the UK governmentb. For more information, see this webpage from the UK Parliamentc.

aClimate Assembly UK, 2020. The path to net zero: Climate Assembly UK – Full report, London: House of Commons.

bElstub, S., Farrell, D., Carrick, J. & Mockler, P., 2021. Evaluation of Climate Assembly UK, Newcastle: Newcastle University.

cUK Parliament, 2021. Climate Assembly UK. [Online]Available at:[Accessed 6 October 2021].


Theme 2: Coordinated and Capable Government Structures

1.2.1 Mandate the consideration of climate resilience and vulnerabilities as part of good governance.

The complexity of infrastructure planning means that the division of labour between government structures is unavoidable and is compounded by the fact that different groups operate to different time horizons. Future-Oriented PlanningFuture-Oriented PlanningResilience and climate change require long-term, future-planning approaches, the realm of officials rather than politicians, whose work is governed by short-term political cycles. Therefore, it is vital that climate resilience considerations become part of good governance and are institutionalized within government systems.

This is most efficiently achieved by adjusting the mandate of existing government ministries, agencies, and institutions to require considerations of climate resilience in planning and operations. Alternatively, in the absence of suitable agencies or structures to address the above issues, new agencies or committees should be created [24]. Integrating these mandates within government bodies ensures that accountabilities and responsibilities are clearly defined across all levels, thereby helping to guarantee that risks are appropriately disclosed and addressed and, in some cases, to avoid related loopholes or overlooked aspects. The following resources provide more information on this topic:

1.2.2 Establish new and improve existing coordination mechanisms for systemic resilience approaches.

For a whole-of-government approach to resilience to work effectively, robust coordination mechanisms must be established and maintained both politically and administratively. Inclusive EngagementInclusive EngagementAll the actions and activities described in this phase – from visioning to data collection, to the development of plans and policies – must be developed in a collaborative, interdisciplinary manner and across scales of government. Coordinated efforts are essential not only for achieving the necessary impact that the climate crisis merits but also to ensure that policies and plans are not contradictory, misaligned or creating unintended negative consequences for others [26].

Transboundary coordination is required in many cases. Systems ThinkingSystems ThinkingInfrastructure systems should be managed at the level of their wider geographic impact, to better integrate complexity, interdependencies and interconnectedness. To do this may require the establishment of regional organizing bodies. An example is the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) in Northern California which supports local governments in addressing resilience issues in a coordinated manner. Transnational coordination maps and details within Europe are provided here [27]. The following paper delves further into the topic of policy coordination within and across EU Member States in developing national adaptation policies aligned with the EU’s 2013 Adaptation Strategy [28].

Capacity BuildingCapacity BuildingFrom an administrative perspective, appropriately staffed and funded cross-governmental coordination and procedures for resilience must be facilitated horizontally, between government sectors/silos, and vertically, across different levels of government. Many cities have adopted the model of having a Chief Sustainability Officer and some of put in place Chief Resilience Officers (CRO), many of whom are organized under the Resilient Cities Network [29]. Within the United States, some national agencies are also establishing Chief Climate Officers.

At a national level, there are also examples of central coordinating bodies responsible for ensuring consistency across actors and leading on the monitoring and evaluation of progress towards climate resilience goals. For example, Kenya has a National Climate Change Council to leads and track its progress towards its Climate Change Act. To establish its legitimacy and authority with proper access to resources, it is important for these types of coordinating bodies to be placed at a central level of government, such as the presidency or prime minister’s office, or the head of a central finance agency [24]. Kenya’s Council is led by the country’s president.

The following are additional references on this topic:


Case Study

The UK Committee on Climate Change as an effective coordination mechanism to address climate resilience

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is required by the Climate Change Act (2008) to maintain the UK Government’s political commitment to climate goals and adherence to the Climate Change Act. The government is obliged to respond to the committee’s recommendations and advicea. The motivation behind its creation was to solve the problem of addressing intergeneration issues within institutions governed by short-term political cycles. In addition to an advisory role, the CCC acts as an independent monitor of the government’s progress towards emissions reductions goals, and climate change mitigation and adaptation effortsb. In this way, the role which the CCC plays within the UK’s national climate change policy space is pivotal in not only effectively coordinating mechanisms to address climate resilience across present government structures, but it also ensuring that efforts are coordinated temporally, across timescales that extend across multiple decades. Institutions such as the CCC are therefore well-suited to help to add resilience to the early lifecycle phases of infrastructure development, where long-term planning and policymaking are key.

aHallegatte, S., Rentschler, J. & Rozenberg, J., 2020. Adaptation Principles: A Guide for Designing Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank.

bMcGregor, P., Swales, J. & Winning, M., 2012. A review of the role and remit of the committee on climate change. Energy Policy, Volume 41, pp. 466-473.


1.2.3 Build capacity of government to address climate resilience

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) defines capacity as ‘the knowledge, the tools, the public support, the scientific expertise and the political know-how to identify, plan and implement ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change’ p.67 Matrin 2019[30] and includes measures related to systemic, institutional and individual capacity building.

Capacity BuildingCapacity BuildingSystemic capacity building refers to the creation of enabling environments that support climate resilience through policies, regulations, and planning, covered in Themes 2 and 3. Institutional capacity building refers to the institutional mandates and organizational changes described earlier in this section. In addition to having the appropriate organizational structures and mandates, it is important to also ensure that government functions are properly staffed and funded. A learning paper published in 2018 outlines the ways in which the capacity of institutions like governments must change to address climate change and provides guidance on building these new and different capacities [31].

Capacity BuildingCapacity BuildingFinally, individual capacity building as it relates to government systems refers to training necessary to equip government officials (sectoral ministries, sub-national governments, etc) with the knowledge and skills required to effectively understand, identify, and address issues related to climate risk and resilience[32]. Most government officials working on infrastructure and decision-makers in both developed and developing country contexts have not been trained in topics related to disaster risk management or the emerging field of climate science, and complex concepts such as probabilistic approaches to risk are not self-evident.

Capacity BuildingCapacity BuildingCapacity building can be achieved through education and training; networks and knowledge-sharing platforms; and technical assistance. Communities of practice as well as partnerships, including with boundary organizations are also important means of building capacity. A first step in identifying capacity building needs is to undergo an assessment. While not climate-specific, UNOPS offers a Capacity Assessment Tool for Infrastructure (CAT-I) for governments to self-evaluate their capacity to plan, deliver and manage their infrastructure systems, including the human resource requirements [3]. Additionally, InfraCompass, a G20 initiative, provides policy- and decision-makers with a tool to quantify the strength of their infrastructure enabling environment to better inform infrastructure investments [33]. Although not infrastructure-specific, USAID also offers a Global Climate Change Institutional Capacity Assessment tool to evaluate a formal organization’s (government’s, NGO’s or CSO’s) ability to undertake climate adaptation and mitigation efforts [34]

Theme 3: Plans

Well-conceived, integrated, long-term plans provide the consistent, institutional structure needed to guide investment in and delivery of social, environmental, and economic infrastructure. Addressing resilience in infrastructure planning is imperative, as infrastructure decisions can lock-in development patterns for decades [35]. Climate-resilience planning can be conducted at varying scales, from the community or agency level to the international stage. Decision-makers at all levels play a role in encouraging and mobilising inter- and intra-sectoral shifts towards resilient practices and approaches [25]. Although there is no “one size fits all” solution to planning, a number of tools, frameworks and best-practice approaches exist that can guide decision makers through the process of integrating climate resilience at the planning stage.

1.3.1 Align national and local climate adaptation plans with overarching ambitions.

ambitions, through the development of a shared vision as discussed in Action 1.1.1, will ensure that national, sub-national and local-level planning is developed with climate resilience as a fundamental consideration.

Environmental Co-BenefitsEnvironmental Co-BenefitsAt the national planning level, the Paris Agreement requires all countries to prepare, communicate and maintain successive Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which outline efforts to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. As of 2020, 72% of countries had in place at least one national-level plan that addressed climate adaptation [36]. Any climate resilience infrastructure planning processes at the national, sub-national or local level should engage with the ambitions laid-out in the relevant country’s NDCs and look to align or exceed those ambitions. The Paris Agreement provides limited guidance on what must be contained within an NDC, given the unique set of circumstances, resources and enabling environment present within each nation. Beyond mandating a mitigation component and encouraging an adaptation component, the Agreement outlines suggestions to include sections that address finance, technology (its development and transfer), capacity building and transparency. Learning and IterationLearning and IterationIn addition, each NDC, communicated on a 5-yearly cycle, must build on the previous version and be informed by the achievements and goals of other NDCs. In this way, a globally coherent set of ambitions can work towards a shared vision and the targets outlined in Paris. A “pocket guide” supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides regularly updated, high-level guidance on NDCs to relevant government actors [37].

Currently, the combined NDCs are not thought to be sufficient to achieve the target set out in the Paris Agreement, i.e., holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. A synthesis of the intended NDCs submitted thus far shows that water, energy, infrastructure, and human settlements are considered vulnerable by many. Systems ThinkingSystems ThinkingIt also identifies the fact that national climate-resilient policies are gaining traction and that these are most effective when they address synergies between strategies, thus acknowledging that climate change action requires a holistic approach [38].

The Paris Agreement also establishes a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process as a means for least-developed countries to identify medium and long-term adaptation needs and the strategies and programmes to address those needs. Their primary objective is to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change by building adaptive capacity and resilience. In addition, NAPs facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation, in a coherent manner, into relevant new and existing policies, programmes and activities, in particular development planning processes and strategies, within all relevant sectors and at different levels, as appropriate. The Green Climate Fund supports countries in the process to formulate and implement NAPs, including through support programmes, projects and networks [39]. As of 2020, 125 developing countries had begun the process of developing and implementing NAPs [40]. In those countries in which the Conference of Parties (COP) has mandated the creation of NAPs, infrastructure planning at all levels should refer to the overarching NAP to inform and influence the planning process.

Local-level and sector specific plans should also be aligned with overarching ambitions, to ensure that these contribute to both national goals and help to achieve international targets. Some examples of local-level and sector specific planning guidance include:

The guidance on vulnerability assessments in Action 1.1.2, compliance with relevant regulation in Action 1.4.2, effective data management approaches in Action 1.5.2 and prioritisation strategies in the Prioritisation phase can also be drawn upon to inform effective plans that support climate resilience and adaptation.

1.3.2 Integrate resilience thinking into development plans and sectoral strategies at all levels of government.

Entry points for mainstreaming climate resilience into planning exist at the national level through national development visions, long-term, low-emissions and climate resilience strategies, national development plans and budget allocation processes as well as dedicated national infrastructure plans (ref text=”ADB, 2021. A System-Wide Approach for Insurance Resilience, Manila & Rotterdam: Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Global Center on Adaptation (GCA).”]. Similarly, sector development plans at a national and sub-national level should acknowledge and address climate adaptation needs based on identified vulnerabilities and areas of risk. Such plans are particularly key to ensuring the resilience of important public assets and infrastructure systems such as power systems, roads, water and sanitation [24]. According to the 2020 UNEP Adaptation Gap Report, 58% of countries have integrated climate adaptation into sectoral planning and 21% have integrated it into sub-national planning processes [36].

An important means of mainstreaming climate adaptation considerations into planning is through land use planning. The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed guidance on this topic. Factoring climate risk into land use planning can discourage settlement in current or future areas of flood or other climate risk, including the construction of new infrastructure [45]. Enforcement of land use plans, however, can be particularly challenging in places with high levels of urbanization and informality in the built environment (see Action 2.3 in Adaptation Principles in Lifelines[24].

For climate adaptation planning at a national level, the [46]. This general approach is echoed by many guidance documents that seek to assist decision-makers at varying levels and across a number of sectors including: [3], [47], [24], [48], [7].

Learning and IterationLearning and IterationFor local level climate resilience planning, the ICLEI ACCCRN Process (IAP) enables governments to assess their climate risks in the context of urbanisation, poverty and vulnerability and formulate corresponding resilience strategies by providing a toolkit that guides decision makers through a six-step process [20].

Evidence-Based Decision MakingEvidence-Based Decision MakingThe first stage in many climate adaptation planning tools is to collect and analyse relevant data and their interlinkages to inform a needs assessment. Useful tools and actions include:

  • For Local-Level Decision Makers: Tool 2.2: Urban Systems Analysis; Tool 2.3: Risk Assessment; Tool 3.1: Vulnerable Places and People; Tool 3.2: Assessing the Adaptive Capacities of Urban Systems; Tool 3.3: Data Gap Analysis.[20]
  • NIST, 2020 – for Community Planners: Action 2-1: Assess existing community plans; Action 2-2: Characterize community members and their needs; Action 2-3: Characterize the community’s social functions and dependencies; Action 2-4: Characterize the built environment; Action 2-5: Link social functions to the built environment; Action 3-2: Determine desired performance goals for buildings and infrastructure systems; Action 3-3: Define community hazards and levels.[49]

Following a needs assessment, it is good practice for decision-makers to develop resilience options and pathways and use relevant tools to prioritise the most suitable approaches that align with levels of risk tolerance and other long-term development objectives. This process is discussed in greater detail in the Prioritisation phase, but useful tools and actions can be found here:

  • For Local-Level Decision Makers: Tool 4.1: Resilience Interventions – to develop a list of possible adaptation actions or “interventions” to address the climate risks and vulnerabilities; Tool 4.2: Prioritisation of Resilience Interventions.[20]
  • For Community Planners: Action 4-2: Identify solutions to address gaps including both administrative and construction options; Action 4-3: Prioritize solutions and develop an implementation strategy.[49]

Finally, climate resilience planning requires effective vertical and horizontal integration across government structures, discussed in Theme 2, to ensure coordinated efforts towards aligned objectives and to identify and exploit synergies across sectors. Helpful tools and actions include:

The Resilience, Adaptation and Transformation Assessment Framework [46], Adaptation Principles [24] and Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA) [48] also provide more general guidance on this process.

1.3.3 ‘Build back better’ following a disaster or disruption.

Governments and other actors can use risk assessments to estimate the likely level of damage and downtime to critical infrastructure resulting from specific future climate hazard scenarios. They may introduce adaptation measures to reduce these risks based on a mutually agreed upon level of risk tolerance. The remaining level of risk that exists to the built environment following the implementation of these measures should be dealt with in two ways:

  • Service Continuity and ReliabilityService Continuity and ReliabilityThe first is to establish an appropriate emergency preparedness plan (or pre-disaster response plan) that provides contingencies and temporary strategies to address anticipated damage, lack of staffing or access to facilities, and interruptions in service provision. For example, if a city’s power grid has been established to be particularly vulnerable to expected hurricanes, the city should be prepared to supply back-up generators to critical care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes and ensure a reliable source of fuel. Emergency preparedness plans should be tailored to specific hazard scenarios (both type of hazard and magnitude of event) and account for cascading impacts as well as the need for interjurisdictional coordination.
  • The second is to prepare a pre-disaster recovery plan. Pre-disaster recovery planning involves developing an ambitious plan for adaptation and resilience-building that can be rapidly implemented in the event of a disaster when disaster recovery funding and political will to address risks tend to be in greater supply than during normal conditions. This plan may include decisions to relocate development away from high-risk areas rather than rebuilding damaged infrastructure in-kind[50] (see Recommendation #7). It might also involve requirements for rebuilding infrastructure to higher levels of robustness and performance or for integrating adaptation measures into their design. Environmental Co-BenefitsEnvironmental Co-BenefitsIt may also aim to accelerate energy transition and efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The following resources provide more guidance on this topic:

Case Study

The City of Oakland, CA preparing to 'build back better' following disaster and integrating climate resilience into planning

In 2010, Oakland, California, prepared a long-term disaster recovery plan covering financing recovery issues, recovery of government facilities and services, long-term housing recovery, long-term recovery of business, long-term recovery of health care, schools and education, utilities and transportation, and land use change. It was designed as a catalyst for dialog on public policies and actions needed to improve disaster recovery planninga.

More recently, the city’s Equitable Climate Action Plan has set out actions to transition towards more climate resilient processes across the infrastructure sector, including the restoration of ecosystems and increased neighbourhood resilienceb. In addition, the city produced a resilience playbook which is designed to modernize the city by integrating processes, policies and programs that build resiliencec.

aPerkins, J., Hutchings, D. & Min, L., 2010. Long-Term Disaster Recovery Plan: Prepared for the City of Oakland as a Model Plan for Local Governments in the San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland: Association of Bay Area Governments.

bCity of Oakland, 2020. Oakland 2030: Equitable Climate Action Plan, Oakland: Oakland City Council.

c100RC, 2016. Resilient Oakland, Oakland: 100 Resilient Cities.


Theme 4: Policies and Regulation

Through strategic and innovative use of policy and regulation, governments have opportunities to influence the way in which public and private infrastructure is planned, implemented, and managed, thereby boosting climate resilience in the built environment.

1.4.1 Use policy to integrate climate resilience into the regulation of critical infrastructure sectors through performance targets, risk disclosure and incentives.

Governments can use strategic policy or position statements to confirm and clarify their ambitions and commitment to address climate change through adaptation and resilience measures. Strategic policy statements identify clear priorities for adaptation that can be used to align and guide the development of economic, environmental, and safety regulations (among others) for critical infrastructure sectors. These policy statements should be developed using the holistic, coordinated approaches described in earlier themes in this phase, and they should align with the shared, systemic vision. Page 22-23 of this resource provides more information on this topic: [25]

Service Continuity and ReliabilityService Continuity and ReliabilityStrategic policy statements can set goals for performance, such as for service reliability, that can be adopted by regulators to encourage investment in resilience. For example, they may specify the maximum number of hours or days that electric power is permitted to be disrupted for specific hazard events which must then be translated by regulators into more specific regulation (either prescriptive requirements or more flexible approaches via incentives, penalties, etc) and acted upon by infrastructure owners and operators.

Through policy, governments can also require the disclosure of climate risks from both private infrastructure owners and operators as well as private sector companies (see Stenek & Amado, 2013 report Enabling Environment for Private Sector Adaptation Indicator 6)[54]. Disclosure requirements drive the private sector to identify and, in some cases, mitigate identified risks.Evidence-Based Decision MakingEvidence-Based Decision MakingThey also generate useful data that can support national adaptation planning [55].

Climate risks stem from the physical vulnerability of existing infrastructure assets to climate hazards as well as from a reliance on carbon that create financial risks as the world transitions to a low carbon economy [56]. While disclosures on carbon emissions follow well-established metrics, there is not yet a common metric for disclosing risks related to physical climate vulnerabilities. The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) has developed a reporting framework [57] and the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation (GCECA) are developing reporting metrics [58]. The following two resources provide more information on this topic: Climate-resilient Infrastructure page 21-23[59]; Climate-resilient infrastructure: Getting the policies right (Chapter 5) page 26-29[55].

In general, economic regulations can be used as a tool to encourage the integration of climate-resilient approaches in the private sector by addressing barriers to investment. Adjustments to existing economic regulations are being made in the water and energy sectors to allow for more flexibility for service providers to invest in climate resilience in an economically sustainable manner, for detaill see Climate-resilient infrastructure: Getting the policies right page 22[55] or Climate-resilient Infrastructure page 20[59]. While they may not support lasting systemic change, financial incentives and penalties can also be used as ‘carrots and sticks’ for enhancing resilience. Page 17 of the following resource provides more information on this topic: Lifelines[60] Penalties for non-compliance must be sufficiently high and enforced to not be considered part of the ‘costs of doing business’ (UNEP, 2020, p. 21). Other examples of economic incentives are provided in Table 1 in Enabling Environment for Private Sector Adaptation on page 12[54] and also in the following chapter.

In addition to creating incentives for climate-resilient infrastructure, governments must also reflect on policies that unintentionally create barriers to or disincentivize climate-resilient infrastructure development. Traditional national disaster relief and flood insurance policies that provide financial relief to those impacted by floods and hurricanes are increasingly recognized as problematic from this standpoint. Refer to this resource page 43-46[54] for specific examples. Action A.4 in The Adaptation Principles [24] also provides more guidance and references to tools to support in screening existing policies and expenditures for unintended negative effects on climate adaptation objectives.

Refer to The Adaptation Principles Action 1.2 and Figure 3 [24] for more detail and a clear graphic explaining the role of regulations and incentives in boosting climate resilience efforts by infrastructure service providers. Also see Toolbox D for addition guidance on leveraging regulations[24].

1.4.2 Integrate climate resilience considerations into project appraisal processes.

Governments have opportunities to integrate climate-resilient considerations into existing project appraisal processes. Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s) are traditional tools for identifying and mitigating negative environmental and social impacts of infrastructure projects. Many governments are now expanding the scope of EIA’s by revising their legal frameworks to consider the effects of climate change on a project as well as the project’s systemic contribution to climate risks [23] [61]. Guidance on this topic has been developed by the European Commission [62].

There are opportunities to impose climate-resilience requirements on projects requiring government approval through development and construction permitting, typically at the local level [63]. Environmental Co-BenefitsEnvironmental Co-BenefitsRequirements for green roofs, tree planting and public parks, or low-impact design strategies for storm water management are examples of ways in which climate-resilient features have been mandated in new project development. For existing infrastructure, there are few examples of mandates or triggers for climate-adaptation and resilience measures; however, policies related to seismic retrofit triggers and energy efficiency upgrades can be looked to for guidance. Use of resilience ratings systems can also be mandated for infrastructure development. The city of Los Angeles, for example, requires all public works to demonstrate compliance with the ENVISON[23] standard.

Governments may also develop policies to over time shift development away from areas that are prone to recurring damage due to increasing climate risks, in conjunction with climate-informed national adaptation or development plans. Planned relocation (also referred to as managed retreat) strategies should be a last resort for climate adaptation and should be rooted in a human-rights-based framework [64]. Many planned relocation strategies are voluntary and include financial incentives. The following references share best practices and case studies on this topic:

Climate resilience policies for infrastructure planning and permitting must be complemented by effective enforcement mechanisms and sufficient human resources and capacity for enforcement. Useful recommendations related to building code compliance for safety and resilience are provided here [67]. Training and capacity building of local government officials on climate risk and new compliance requirements is also a critical component for success. Indicator 9 of Stenek and Amado’s report provides additional guidance on this topic[61].

Case Study

Community-led planned relocation as part of the restoration of the Caño Martín Peña in Puerto Rico

The Fideicomiso de la Tierra del Cano Martin Pena is a community land trust of 26,000 residents living along the Caño Martín Peña, a tidal channel located within the San Juan Bay National Estuary in Puerto Rico. The high-density informal settlements along the canal are home to some of the most marginalized communities in Puerto Rico, with homes lacking access to basic water and sanitation. Water flow in the canal was effectively blocked due to inadequate drainage systems and waste management, creating recurrent and more frequent flooding and related health issues in the community, in addition to impacting the environmental health of the estuary. The Corporación del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña (ENLACE) was created to coordinate and implement public policies and projects regarding the restoration of the Caño Martín Peña.

Together with the community land trust, ENLACE aims to restore the ecosystem while promoting equitable urban, social and economic development of neighbouring communitiesa. Since 2016, efforts have been undertaken to improve water quality, restore the watershed’s ecosystem, and address health and safety issues. The ecosystem restoration project involves a major dredging plan to restore water flow in the channel, which requires a widening of the channel in some areas, impacting some homeownersb. A voluntary relocation program was developed in conjunction with community resilience planning that included comprehensive and inclusive stakeholder engagement and community outreach. Besides significant environmental and public health benefits, the project will increase the resilience of the community and the city as a whole to the impacts of climate change. Additional benefits include a reduction in the vulnerability for the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, green tourism opportunities and natural recreational areasc. This brochure and this video provide more information about the project.

Available at:
[Accessed 6 October 2021].

bEPA, 2015. Urban Waters and the Caño Martín Peña (Martín Peña Channel, Puerto Rico). [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 6 October 2021].

cCaribbean Business, 2016. Caño Martín Peña Project Moves Forward After Key Decision by Army for Civil Works. Caribbean Business, 18 May.


1.4.3 Integrate climate risk reduction and resilience approaches into technical standards for infrastructure design and construction.

Construction codes which set the minimum requirements for the safety, reliability, and overall quality of infrastructure, and the technical standards upon which the codes are based, can be key tools in the government’s toolbox for climate-resilient infrastructure see Hallegatte,et al ., 2019 Action 1.1 pg. 15). Most countries have some form of technical regulations in place related to the basic design and construction of buildings and infrastructure, although the quality, appropriateness and modernness of these regulatory instruments vary significantly across countries and jurisdictions. Many countries, even the most progressive, are at an early stage of integrating climate considerations into infrastructure codes and standards, such as design requirements for flooding and sea level rise. Learning and IterationLearning and IterationThe Eurocodes are currently being updated to account for climate change. Increased efforts focused on reforming and regularly updating construction standards and codes to address climate risks and adaptation approaches, including investment in R&D and partnerships with academia, will have significant payoffs. They not only set the baseline of expected performance for climate-resilient infrastructure for the finance and insurance sector and design and construction practitioners, but also save lives and money in the long run [68][3]. The following is a summary of selected guidance on this topic:

  • Future-Oriented PlanningFuture-Oriented PlanningClimate hazard maps and data (e.g., flooding, rain, tidal surge, extreme wind, wildfire, maximum and minimum temperatures, and other spatial data) should be integrated into codes and standards where they do not exist or, where they do exist, they should be updated to reflect future risks.> It is important for these hazard data to be informed by realistic climate future scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways, or RCP’s) rather than historical events. Learning and IterationLearning and IterationThey should also be more regularly updated[69][70].This requires regular translation and downscaling of emerging climate science into hazard data in a format that is useable by planners and engineers in different sectors and different geographies, as outlined in Enabling Environment for Private Sector Adaptation report[71] (Indicator 6). A 2021 report by the International Code Council provides an analysis of the integration of climate science into building codes in countries such as Canada, New Zealand and the USA [72].
  • Service Continuity and ReliabilityService Continuity and ReliabilityConstruction codes and the associated technical standards which they reference should be updated to incorporate new design and analysis approaches that account for the additional performance needs of climate-resilient infrastructure to achieve reliable and safe service provision under expected hazard conditions. In Canada alone, over 100 standards have been identified as needing to be updated to account for climate change [73]. Two global standards, ISO (14090 and 14091) and CEN-CELEC Guide 32, provide guidance on climate adaptation approaches[25]. Resilience Contributions of the International Building Code [74] provides a summary of the ways in which the International Building Code (IBC) addresses various climate hazards from a design perspective. Performance-based codes are another approach for introducing more flexibility and innovation into codes[67].
  • Environmental Co-BenefitsEnvironmental Co-BenefitsDesign approaches outlined in codes and standards should allow and encourage nature-based solutions and provide guidance on other emerging ‘climate-smart’ materials and technologies.
  • Infrastructure codes and standards should reduce climate vulnerabilities not only in new construction but also for existing infrastructure, particularly buildings, including incorporating methodologies for coordinated climate adaptation and mitigation retrofits, supported by policies that require or encourage intervention such as PACE Financing.[75]
  • Evidence-Based Decision MakingEvidence-Based Decision MakingThe integration of digital technologies, including condition monitoring and early warning systems (EWS), will also influence the evolution of infrastructure codes and standards, providing real-time data on the performance of infrastructure and more opportunities for flexible design and operations in response.
  • Developing countries have opportunities to leapfrog in integrating climate resilience considerations into construction regulations. However, where international standards are imported and adapted to local contexts, it is important to ensure that the requirements are locally appropriate and feasible to achieve given identified cost and supply chain constraints as well as expected levels of maintenance[14] (Action 1.1).
  • Equity and Social Co-BenefitsEquity and Social Co-BenefitsConstruction regulations should also be used as a means of achieving other key sustainability benefits including low-carbon infrastructure, energy- and water-efficient design, buildings and infrastructure that support health and well-being, and are more accessible and equitable.

The following are links to other useful resources on this topic:



Theme 5: Data

Climate-resilient infrastructure is built on the foundations of well-conceived plans and policies, which, in turn, Hallegatte, S., Rentschler, J. & Rozenberg, J., 2019. Lifelines: The Resilient Infrastructure Opportunity, Washington DC: World Bank Group. rely on the collection of, access to, and application of reliable data in meaningful ways, as well as data feedback loops that allow for evaluation and adjustment.[/crosstheme] This theme focuses primarily on data related to natural hazards and the climate; however, the general principles are more widely applicable to other data sources and considerations, including ones related to societal and economic aspects of planning and policy making that are also important considerations in climate-resilient infrastructure development.

1.5.1 Recognise open data as a public good and encourage data sharing.

A shift toward open data will help to ensure that new and existing natural hazard data, as well as other key inputs to climate-resilient infrastructure planning, are widely accessible. These are a precondition for risk understanding, identification, and management [80]. Evidence-Based Decision MakingEvidence-Based Decision MakingInvestments in data collection and dissemination also offer significant return on investment by enhancing the quality and performance of new infrastructure assets and targeting risk reduction investments effectively [14]. Many organisations such as the World Bank and UN are developing free, open-source software tools to make datasets on natural hazards, vulnerabilities, exposure and risk available and more accessible to non-experts [21].

The Open Data concept stipulates that data is as open as possible, with findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) data principles as its core facet [81]. According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction ‘open data policies have been shown to be an economic force enhancer for nations, with value created many times over and providing greater returns on investment through increased tax revenues on the products and services created with the data’ [82]. Open data can facilitate interdisciplinary, inter-institutional and international collaboration and capacity building.

Within a decision-making context, relevant open and public data sources can inform plans and policies for climate resilience. The following resources provide links to open databases related to natural hazards, exposure, and vulnerabilities:

Capacity BuildingCapacity BuildingDeveloping capacity to effectively disseminate climate-related data is also needed for it to be of use to policy- and decision-makers as well as the private sector. Data portals and platforms improve the accessibility to open data. (OECD, 2018) – Chapter 3 Box 5 lists and links to a number of sub-, inter- and national data platforms, while [80] Chapter 3.5 provides a summary of and links to global, European and national risk management platforms including INFORM [88].

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) launched the Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) [88]. The initiative aims to build a network of stakeholders around the application of open data to disaster risk reduction and encourage data sharing by collating spatial and statistical data that governments can use to improve the effectiveness of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation efforts [89].

The World Bank also provides a continuously updated toolkit to help governments and others understand the basic precepts of Open Data. It is available here: [88]

1.5.2 Utilize multi-hazard information systems as an effective management approach

Evidence-Based Decision MakingEvidence-Based Decision MakingAs the climate crisis intensifies, it becomes ever more imperative to overcome data ‘bottlenecks’ and to collect new and compile existing climate hazard, vulnerability, exposure and risk data to inform multi-hazard risk assessments and infrastructure policies and plans. [23][14] These data must be collected more frequently and at a higher resolution, both temporally (collection intervals) and spatially (grid square averages) than in the past, as climate and weather patterns become more volatile[89]. Where hazard data and expertise exist within national emergency management and civil protection institutions, efforts must be redoubled to disseminate and encourage their integration into regional, local, and sector-specific planning efforts including the development of risk-informed land use and urbanization planning [90][14]. This includes efforts to share available data across institutions and sectors, to improve resource efficiency, availability, and conformity. In this way, policy initiatives across all sectors facilitate holistic and concordant approaches that encourage resilient outcomes.

Investing in technology and adapting management practices to optimize the development and use of multi-hazard information systems have been shown to be economically viable solutions to overcoming data bottlenecks. By enabling more informed decisions to be made around the planning, delivery and management of infrastructure assets and systems, characteristics of resilience can be better integrated at all lifecycle stages, thereby reducing the vulnerability to hazard [14].

Effectively managed data should be presented in such a way as to facilitate the development of a multi-hazard information system, as per Recommendation 2 of the UNDRR’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. This is best done, by developing clear and concise hazard definitions, ideally aligned with widely accepted vocabularies such as those related to the SDGs and scientific norms [91].

The European Commission reviewed several platforms that offer cross-discipline and multi-hazard approaches. Following their review, they launched the Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre (DRMKC) RiskData Hub, a regularly updated site which hosts various geospatial data, technologies and methodologies coming from different sources, following the open data principles discussed above[88]. Hazus (discussed in Action 1.5.1) is equipped with the [88]>Comprehensive Data Management System support tool, allowing users to manage multi-hazard data more effectively [92]. The World Bank has developed a Climate Change Knowledge Portal equipped with data on climate information, indices and vulnerabilities to natural hazards, allowing access to sector specific data on a degree of scales [93]). The portal offers a uniformity of data for practitioners to use freely, using a unified vocabulary, as recommended by the UNDRR. At the local governance level, a low-tech solution to multi-hazard data management is offered by [20] Tool 1.4: Climate Ready Review and Tool 2.1: Climate Exposure: Projections & Scenarios.

1.5.3 Acknowledge and address data uncertainty and gaps.

Despite many advancements in the detail and accuracy of climate data collected over time, significant uncertainties are still inherent in much of the data used to inform regional, national and international climate models, such as climate dynamics, rainfall patterns and extreme weather. Often it is inherently difficult to know precisely where these uncertainties lie, and, in turn, these uncertainties contribute to further uncertainties surrounding the impact of these changes on physical infrastructure and systems [94]. When governments communicate climate change information to the public, they must therefore convey the large uncertainty around the impacts of climate change and the scenarios that may occur (Lifelines Action 1.1)[95]. In addition, datasets containing varying degrees of uncertainty inevitably inform relevant plans and policies. These must therefore be acknowledged, communicated, and addressed at the policy and decision-making stage [23] and when setting standards and implementing regulations [94].

Compiling records of data that are uncertain or unavailable will help to inform decisions further downstream in a project’s lifecycle, as these unknowns can be accounted for and, in certain cases, allow more effective decisions to be made. Appropriate decision support tools for this purpose are Real Options Analysis (ROA) and Robust Decision Making (RDM), which are designed to perform well in a range of potential futures, rather than optimising against a single projection [25]. These approaches have shown to be more effective for making decisions related to climate resilience than a traditional cost-benefit analysis [96]. These tools are discussed in greater detail in the Prioritisation phase, and the topic of uncertainty is highlighted as a key consideration in other lifecycle stages in this guidance.

Learning and IterationLearning and IterationIn addition to informing downstream decisions, identifying data gaps and uncertainties helps to pinpoint areas of research and opportunities for further study that will contribute to reducing uncertainty and closing these gaps.

1.5.4 Develop performance metrics and measure progress.

Learning and IterationLearning and IterationA fundamental quality of resilience is the ability to reflect on progress and proactively use monitoring and evaluation as a tool to adapt and improve the effectiveness of approaches and to guide future development [97]. Continual data collection and monitoring also improves accountability and transparency and helps to formalize resilience reporting as a business-as-usual approach [24].

Broad monitoring and evaluation efforts by government relevant to this phase of the infrastructure lifecycle may focus on tracking the effectiveness of processes (e.g., collaborative planning efforts), progress towards specific actions and milestones (e.g. implementation of actions in a resilience strategy), impacts from disasters (e.g. economic loss from a hurricane), or the achievement of specific outcomes (e.g. reduction in carbon emissions). In terms of measuring outcomes related to climate adaptation and resilience, there is no clear consensus on the most appropriate method of measurement, as there is for climate change mitigation. At a high-level, the indicators outlined in relevant SDGs targets (e.g. SDG 9 and 11) can be of use to national and sub-national governments [88].

Evidence-Based Decision MakingEvidence-Based Decision MakingEffective monitoring and evaluation require the identification of targets and indicators, a commitment of resources to collect data to track progress against established metrics, and the creation of feedback loops that allow for operational adjustment based on findings. Established indicators must be feasible to measure as well as suitable and useable by relevant stakeholders, and the data used for measurement must be collected at a suitable level of regularity and granularity to effectively measure progress [98]. Uniformity and standardisation of metrics is an effective approach to ensuring that reported results are most useful and useable, as it allows for direct comparisons across similar assets and systems [99]. Applying open-data principles at this stage also enables different government actors to more easily share data, further increasing uniformity across sectors and levels. It is becoming more common for governments to create public-facing websites or annual reports tracking their progress towards the implementation of established plans and programs.

The UK’s Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) has developed a conceptual approach that is structured around an outcome-oriented methodology for strategic performance indicator (PI) development. Their approach emphasises the interdependencies inherent in infrastructure systems, rather than focussing on sector-specific indicators. Systems ThinkingSystems ThinkingIn this way, strategic PIs can be effectively aligned with and help to inform the systemic vision (discussed at the outset of this section), rather than relying predominantly on past, sector-specific performances. In addition, it facilitates the development of an effective evidence base which can be used to address and overcome uncertainties and knowledge gaps. Their approach is broken down into ten design principles and a five-step development process [100] and provides helpful insights to policy- and decision-makers at the conceptual level.

Equity and Social Co-BenefitsEquity and Social Co-BenefitsFor guidance on how to identify and measure metrics and indicators related to sustainable infrastructure more broadly, including climate resilience, disaster risk management and stakeholder engagement, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has devised a common set of aligned indicators. Such approaches help to address inconsistencies across geographies, by providing a blueprint for consistent and comparable metrics, thus facilitating knowledge sharing and collaboration across borders, and helping individual nations to more effectively work towards shared and international ambitions [101]. The World Bank has also developed a Resilience Rating System that can be used to evaluate the climate resilience of infrastructure projects, looking at both the resilience ‘of’ projects and the resilience created ‘through’ projects. It is primarily intended to be used during the project prioritization and preparation phase, rather than as a tool for monitoring and evaluation; however, Appendix 6 includes sector-specific examples of climate adaptation indicators [102].

Case Study

The Central American Probabilistic Risk Assessment Initiative as an example of utilizing multi-hazard information systems as an effective management approach

The Central American Probabilistic Risk Assessment (CAPRA)a initiative seeks to enhance disaster risk understanding in the Central American region. It provides a GIS-based platform of information on natural hazard risk for disaster risk analysis and communication. CAPRA is a tool that enables decision makers to manage risk at local, national, and regional levels. The primary CAPRA product is a series of risk maps. The CAPRA methodology determines risk in a probabilistic manner, i.e., the intensity and frequency of occurrence of hazards over a period of time is considered. These risk maps present specific quantitative information on the potential losses a country, region, or particular city could face if struck by single or multiple hazards. These visual representations of risk enable decision makers to adopt a comprehensive approach toward disaster risk management: with the information CAPRA provides, decisions can be made a priori about prevention, mitigation, and response to natural hazards. Led by the Central American Coordination Centre for Disaster Prevention, in partnership with Central American governments, the CAPRA initiative is supported by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat (UNISDR), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the World Bank” (UNDP, 2010, p. 50).

aCAPRA, 2021. About CAPRA. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6 October 2021].


Co-Benefit Considerations


Climate Change Mitigation Considerations

Equity Considerations

Theme 1: Shared Systemic Vision

The shared, systemic vision should address more than climate resilience and adaptation goals and priorities. It should also address climate change mitigation ambitions and show how they are integrated into a holistic approach. Alignment with international priorities and engagement of stakeholders in needs identification and goal setting must account for how action (or inaction) on climate change mitigation changes climate risk and therefore the imperative for action on climate adaptati

In discussions of risk tolerance and willingness to pay for climate-resilient infrastructure that inform the development of a shared systemic vision, governments and stakeholders must grapple with complex questions related to equity. Intergenerational equity is an important topic as the most severe impacts of climate change will not be felt by those who are currently in a position of power to mitigate it. Furthermore, because climate change more severely impacts those who are poor and vulnerable, and because those who are poor and vulnerable have historically not had a voice in decision-making processes, it is imperative that their voices and inputs factor into the development of a shared vision for addressing climate change. 

Theme 2: Coordinated and Capable Government Structures

While collective action towards climate change mitigation arguably does not necessitate as complex coordination as that for climate adaptation, many of the approaches recommended in this theme to encourage climate adaptation are also relevant for climate change mitigation. When establishing appropriate government coordination mechanisms for climate resilience, both adaptation and mitigation objectives should be considered simultaneously. 

In particular for mitigation, government structures need to be cross-departmental, given the fact that mitigative strategies do not produce acute local benefits – foreign, international development and security departments are particularly important. 

Taking a more systemic approach to government coordination and action can create equity co-benefits. Siloed government mechanisms tend to create gaps and oversights that can negatively impact marginalized populations most severely. More integrated government coordination mechanisms to support climate resilience-building that also recognize the importance of prioritizing equity can identify and address these gaps. In the future, citizens assemblies could present a solution as a more equitable approach. 

Theme 3: Climate Adaptation Plans

All planning processes for climate resilience should consider climate adaptation and mitigation hand-in-hand. The same approaches for mainstreaming climate adaptation into planning processes described in this chapter apply to climate change mitigation and build on the more advanced state of practice for climate change mitigation. 

Climate adaptation planning should meaningfully integrate the voices, opinions and knowledge of all persons and communities who will be impacted by decisions being made. Inclusive stakeholder engagement mechanisms should be built into all planning processes and community-driven approaches to resilience planning should be encouraged and recognized by government. 

In regions where the impacts of climate change are less severe in the short-term, adaptation and mitigation strategies need to be altruistic, where possible mitigation cost must be borne by those with the available resources, even if others benefit more directly from them

Theme 4: Risk-Informed Policies and Regulations

Energy and water efficiency requirements, as well as sustainability requirements, should also be integrated into construction codes and standards, particularly for building design and construction. Similar approaches to mandates and incentives can be used for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Other economic mechanisms, such as carbon budgets and emissions trading scheme could also prove effective. 

Appropriate approaches to mandating and/or incentivizing the integration of climate resilience in the built environment will differ for different communities and contexts. Particularly in situations where there is a high degree of informality in land use and construction of the built environment, different approaches to enhancing compliance and encouraging behavioural changes must be taken. The economic impacts of resilience requirements can be offset, for example, by subsidies for certain qualifying groups. 

Theme 5: Data for Informed Decision-Making

As part of data-informed planning and decision-making, data related to the carbon emissions of the built environment should be collected and quantified. With these data, approaches that promote both climate change mitigation and adaptation goals can be identified and prioritized. 

Open data initiatives must ensure that inclusive approaches are taken including creating mechanisms for the collection of data from and for marginalized and vulnerable populations. These data must be made available for community-based resilience planning processes by marginalized communities via appropriate platforms and targeted programs. Alongside this, where appropriate, data should be sex-disaggregated to address the ways in which women interact with infrastructure systems in ways that men do not, e.g. non-commuter public transport routes, water distribution/collection in remote areas, or domestic fuel availability, etc. 

Downstream Benefits of a Resilience-based Approach in the Policies and Plans Phase

Phase 1Policies & Plans

Phase 2Prioritization

A whole-of-government approach to climate resilience established through integrated policies, planning and government structures and the identification of agreed-upon goals and objectives in Phase 1 (related to climate change and other positive societal impacts) facilitates the prioritization of appropriate climate-resilient infrastructure projects. Fostering data-driven approaches also supports effective prioritization.

Phase 3Feasibility

In Phase 1, governments set the regulatory requirements and standards related to climate risk and resilience that inform project development and evaluation. Mandating risk and impact evaluations, integrated planning approaches and inclusive stakeholder engagement as part of the feasibility phase can yield not only benefits with respect to climate resilience but also broader project co-benefits.

Phase 4Financing

Integrated government planning processes can lead to the identification of more opportunities for funding and financing of infrastructure projects that meet multiple needs and create multiple benefits. Policies that facilitate innovative approaches to financing infrastructure projects also begin in Phase 1. Finally, government policies play a leading role in creating a culture in which the financial impacts of climate risks are recognized, quantified, and addressed.

Phase 5Design

Regulations related to the design and construction of infrastructure, including the identification of performance requirements under specific hazard conditions, are developed by governments in Phase 1 and used by engineers, planners, and designers as inputs to infrastructure designs in the Design Phase. In the opposite direction, designers and engineers should engage with government in Phase 1 to use their expertise to influence the development of codes and standards.

Phase 6Procurement

Policies related to procurement established by government are a key component of a positive enabling environment for climate-resilient infrastructure. They have the potential to unlock new infrastructure approaches and solutions to address climate change and support other broader resilience goals

Phase 7Construction

Regulations on the construction of infrastructure and enforcement of quality are set in Phase 1. The construction industry, with its significant global influence, also has an opportunity to work upstream to influence the types of materials, construction approaches, technologies and projects that are promoted by government policies and plans to favor those that support climate adaptation and mitigation.

Phase 8Operations and Maintenance

In Phase 1, government sets policies and regulations not only for the design and construction of infrastructure but also its operation, including disaster preparedness and contingency planning for natural disasters. Government can also foster an environment in which there is better coordination across infrastructure operators including in terms of data collection and sharing to support climate risk reduction and climate change mitigation.

Phase 9End-of-Life

Long-term plans and policies set by government in Phase 1 will dictate where infrastructure must be built, adapted, or eventually decommissioned. Accounting for future climate risks in planning and developing long-term strategies to address these risks will create a long runway for these types of tough decisions and negotiations to take place. Government can also play a role through regulations in promoting infrastructure that is more easily dismantled and recycled as part of a circular economy at end-of-life.


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