Many cities around the world are undertaking climate change adaptation planning processes in contexts of considerable uncertainty due to climate risks. Understanding if and how these plans are aligned with future risks becomes crucial to assess whether they will effectively contribute to reduce vulnerability. Conversely, failing to account for uncertainty and risk can lead to underestimate climate shocks and hinder resilience.
In this paper, we develop an analytical framework built on the four priorities for action of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: (i) Understanding risk, (ii) Strengthening governance, (iii) DRR for resilience and (iv) Enhancing disaster preparedness, for each of which we defined a set of indicators to examine the degree of alignment of urban climate adaptation policies to future climate risks. We then test this approach in four cities that are considered early adapters or pioneers in climate change adaptation planning: Copenhagen (Denmark), Durban (South Africa), Quito (Ecuador) and Vancouver (Canada). Cities show the highest score in relation to governance, followed by disaster preparedness, while understanding risk and planning for resilience present the lower scores. We suggest that this result is at least partly explained by the lack of follow-up processes within the adaptation plans. In other words, it is uncommon to find monitoring systems that track the actual effectiveness of the adaptation policies and measures to reduce vulnerability or increase resilience. The first wave of urban adaptation plans should evolve beyond a battery of measures, to focus on a final goal: building long-term resilience.