World Resource Institute

Resilient Cities Action Track

For more information or to get involved, please contact Rogier Vandenberg (rogier.vandenberg@wri.org) and Arnoud Molenaar (a.molenaar@rotterdam.nl).


Adapting to climate change is an imperative for cities, which are home to half of the world’s population and produce 80 percent of the world’s GDP. Cities face serious climate risks. Done right, climate adaptation can put cities on a stronger, safer path, while also tackling persistent problems like poverty and inequality. The Global Commission on Adaptation’s flagship report, Adapt Now, calls for redoubling the effort to build more resilient, equitable cities and lays out a pathway to get there.

The Commission is mobilizing many partners to achieve this goal, through the Resilient Cities Action Track. The overarching goal of this Action Track is to develop a defragmented offer by bringing together key city networks and institutions in the urban adaptation space to leverage their overlapping geographies, complementary skills, city-national-global relationships & partnerships, datasets and knowledge to scale up and accelerate action on urban adaptation. To achieve this goal, the Cities Action Track is forging a strategic alliance, led by World Resources Institute (WRI), the Global Center for Adaptation, Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN), C40, and UN-Habitat, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment of the Netherlands and in collaboration with key knowledge partners such as Deltares.

The three pathways to action identified by this alliance are:

  1. Setup a PLATFORM to enhance coordination and build synergies across urban resilience partners, and adaptation programs to enhance urban adaptation in national plans and policymaking (NAPs and NDCs) and broker subnational financing agreements and access to private sector capital.
  2. Build transformative CAPACITY for adaptation planning in 500 cities and develop a knowledge and learning network with 40 universities. This capacity building initiative will support peer to peer learning, focused on both practice building and knowledge development, by providing and applying tools, such as adaptation academies, documenting and disseminating best practices, building centers for applied research, and co-learning partnerships between cities, universities and community organizations.
  3. Accelerate and scale SOLUTIONS for urban adaptation with a focus on Nature-based Solutions, Urban Water Resilience Actions, Floating Urban Development options, and Inclusive Climate Resilient infrastructure improvements for the urban poor living in informal settlements.

Action Track Goals

By 2030, the Commission’s Resilient Cities Action Track aims to:

  • Assist 500 cities in implementing comprehensive climate resilience strategies.
  • Develop a new MSc program on Climate Adaptation for Cities in collaboration with IHE Delft to educate and train 200 graduates in climate resilience connected to 200 cities.
  • Assist 5,000 cities in becoming more water and climate resilient through a city-to-city learning program.
  • Support 100 cities and 100 communities in developing and implementing 200-300 climate adaptation initiatives in partnership with a network of 40 global universities.
  • Support 60 cities in implementing nature-based solutions (NBS) to address their climate risks.
  • Help 140 cities implement climate resilience policies that address the needs of the urban poor.
  • Launch two regional Urban Water Resilience Accelerators, in Africa and India, which advance the water resilience of 15 cities in each region.

1. A Collaborative Platform for Urban Adaptation Solutions

The Platform brings together key players in the urban adaptation space. Together the core partners WRI, Global Center on Adaptation, UN-Habitat, Global Resilient Cities Network & C40 will develop defragmented offers of urban adaptation solutions that leverage their complementary skills, overlapping geographies and capacities to accelerate and scale implementation in prioritized areas in a broad range of regions. Together these partners commit to convene and influence global, national and local stakeholders as a united front through ongoing research and agenda-setting initiatives, using existing relationships and entry points into decision-making and policymaking processes to gain political leverage for urban adaptation. In addition, partners will evolve capacity to broker sub-national financing arrangements at scale through specific instruments like Project Preparation Facilities (PPFs) & a joint secretariat.

  • Key 2021 deliverables: By Jan 2021, a Declaration on Climate Resilience, launched during the Mayors Forum and the Climate Adaptation Summit, supported by city networks (representing 150 cities). Cities will commit to develop Climate Adaptation Strategies and implement NBS, Water resilience, and focus on the most vulnerable. In addition, cities will commit to share experiences and give technical assistance to 10 cities in the coming decade. During this Year of Action building capacity in 2 cities will have started; one is Accra, Ghana. Additionally, together with the Commission’s Locally Led Action Track, first steps will be made in developing a specific module in the academy portfolio on informal settlements.
  • Long-term target: By 2030, 500 cities will have a comprehensive Climate Resilience Strategy and have started implementing their adaptation action plans. They will do so by applying and upscaling the Adaptation Academy model (co-created by C40-Rotterdam), which will be unrolled via the regional Global Center on Adaptation offices, which enables a tailormade approach. Specific priority will be given to large- and medium-sized cities in Africa. Serving the first 50 cities in a programmatic way requires $10 million. In addition, each of the 500 nodal cities will support 1 medium-sized city per year (for 10 years) to become more water & climate resilient through a city-to-city learning program. This means that in total 5,000 cities will be equipped to adapt to climate change.
  • Partners: Global Centre for Adaptation, C40, Global Resilient Cities Network and Deltares.

2. Transformative Capacity Building for Adaptation and Rigorous Learning

The capacity building pillar will focus on both practice (2a) and knowledge development (2b).

2a. Practical transformative capacity building for resilient cities

We aim to provide transformative climate resilience capacity building in cities by:

  1. Scaling up C40 Adaptation Academy training program (2.0) for climate adaptation professionals starting in C40 and GRCN city networks from 20 cities currently to 500 cities by 2030; Result: 500 cities including 4,000 trained professionals delivered Climate Resilience Strategies and have started implementing action plans;
  2. Developing a new MSc program on Climate Adaptation for Cities in collaboration with IHE Delft and Rotary International; connecting 200 graduates to the City Adaptation Academy training programs. Result: in 200 cities, graduates have crucial positions in accelerating urban adaptation;
  3. Connecting to a city-to-city learning program where 500 nodal cities each support 10 medium-sized regional cities (via mentor/learning-city principles). Result: 5000 cities have become more water and climate resilient based on partnerships, aligning capabilities and mobilizing resources to develop plans and investments.

2b. Knowledge and learning network for transformative resilience planning

Resilience planning requires assessment of complex nexus issues at the intersection on natural, built and human environments; this demands close collaboration across disciplines, knowledge systems and sectors to respond to climate change risks. This needs knowledge development and capacity building at all levels from science to practice. Universities are uniquely positioned to mobilize talent, develop knowledge resources, and support learning and capacity building among and across community organizations, city governments, and the private sector to drive inclusive climate adaptation.

This requires developing and implementing multiple programs to support university, city government and community collaboration on urban adaptation. This is supported by a unique partnership between a network of 40+ global universities — the Collaborative for Urban Resilience Effectiveness (CURE), the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM), the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC), the International Centre for Climate Change & Development (ICCCAD), and a network of 100 resilient cities (GRCN), a global network of non-profits (UN-Habitat, Global Center on Adaptation, WRI) and a federation of 100+ community-based organizations (Slum and Shack Dwellers International).

Fact Sheet: Learn more about the University-City-Community Collaboration

  • Key 2021 deliverables: By January 2021, launch a Knowledge Platform for Inclusive Climate Adaptation, during the Climate Adaptation Summit, supported by 40 universities, a network of 100 cities and a federation of urban poor communities. With the launch partners, we will commit to develop and implement 20 applied research programs; 20 city-university-community partnerships commitments; coursework, field research and solution programs for graduate students; and training programs on urban adaptation for the network of 100 cities and 100 community groups.
  • Long-term target: By 2030, 100 cities and 100 communities develop and implement 200-300 climate adaptation initiatives in partnership with a network of 40 global universities.
  • Partners: World Resources Institute, the Global Resilient Cities Network, Collaboration for Urban Resilience Effectiveness (CURE), Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC), International Centre for Climate Change & Development (ICCCAD), Slum Dwellers International (SDI).

3. Accelerate and Scale Solutions for Urban Adaptation

3a. Advance nature-based solutions in cities to reduce climate risks

Working with Cities4Forest and other partners, we will help a coalition of 60 cities integrate nature-based solutions (NBS) into spatial planning, investments, and infrastructure implementation to reduce their climate risks. We will develop toolkits, policy notes, and guidance documents. We will also set up a Project Preparation Facility (PPF) to disseminate these products, build the capacity of city stakeholders, provide customized technical assistance to cities, and eventually, deploy grants, loans, and equity for NBS projects.

  • Key 2021 deliverables: By January 2021, with support from Canada and Mexico, a Vanguard Cities program (consisting of 15 global cities) committing to advance scaled action on urban NBS will be launched at the Climate Adaptation Summit. In addition, the coalition will announce a partnership to establish an NBS-focused Project Preparation Facility (PPF) or support existing PPFs in developing NBS expertise.
  • Long-term target: By 2030, 60 cities enhance, invest, and implement 100-300 nature-based solutions projects to address climate risks and improve the health and wellbeing of urban residents and the biodiversity of cities.
  • Partners: Cities4Forests, World Resources Institute, Deltares, Geo-Adaptive, Global Environment Facility, Earth Economics, World Bank, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and others.

3b. Build the climate resilience of the urban poor

We will work with the Building Community Resilience for the Urban Poor (BCRUP) program, led by UN-Habitat and a coalition of partners, to integrate and prioritize the resilience of vulnerable and marginalized communities in 140 urban areas. We will mainstream climate resilience of vulnerable and marginalized communities in city-level plans and national level commitments (NAPs, NDCs) to ensure that plans to upgrade infrastructure for the urban poor and informal settlements are prioritized and integrate climate resilience.

Fact Sheet: Learn more about the Urban Poor Initiative

  • Key 2021 deliverable: By January 2021, 12 cities commit to implement community-validated vulnerability assessments, develop inclusive climate adaptation policies, and integrate climate resilience in settlement upgrade plans and infrastructure improvements in informal settlements.
  • Long-term target: By 2030, 140 cities commit to implement inclusive climate adaptation policies and integrate climate resilience into settlement upgradation plans and infrastructure improvements in informal settlements.
  • Partners: UN Habitat, SDI, ITC, Government of Brazil and Government of Kenya, ICLEI, C40, GCOM, ISOCARP, P4CA, AECOM, Arcadis, Arup, Deltares, IIED, University of Twente-ITC, UCCRN, UNDRR, UNDP, EC, Cities Alliance, Rockefeller Foundation, Centre for Resilience, World Pop Project, and World Resources Institute.

3c. Support cities with floating urban development

Working with Blue21 and other partners, we will form a coalition with 25 coastal cities to build climate resilience by exploring and developing options for floating urban development, by offering knowledge, awareness, technical support and potential financial arrangements. With this coalition we will design, research and realize floating projects in delta cities worldwide, in order to create space for new ecosystems and enable bio-based economies to flourish. In this way we will make cities more resilient by addressing fundamental challenges such as climate change, urbanization, population growth, and land scarcity. We will develop technical knowledge, demonstrate good practices, formulate guidance documents and build the capacity of coastal city stakeholders. We will also set up a Project Preparation Facility (PPF) to develop and mainstream floating projects in coastal cities.

  • Key 2021 deliverable: By January 2021, 10 cities commit to form a coalition of coastal cities to explore and develop options for floating urban development to reduce climate risks.
  • Long-term target: By 2030, 100 cities started to implement floating urban development projects as a solution to make cities more resilient.
  • Partners: Blue21, City of Rotterdam, ICLEI, GRCN, Delft University of Technology, Deltares, Arcadis, Arup, EC.

3d. Support a network of cities to develop and implement more resilient water systems

We will launch an urban water action platform, which will provide a vision for integrated water action and galvanize political commitment for cities to act on context-specific water challenges through a peer-partner network. In Africa, we will build a coalition of partners to develop and implement water resilience actions in six pilot cities, eventually scaling to a pan-African network of cities. We will model a similar effort in India, more focused on access issues, by launching an Accelerate Access Coalition (AACO) to support access to decentralized climate resilient, affordable, reliable water and sanitation systems & solutions for urban poor communities in India.

Fact sheets: Learn more about the Africa Urban Water Resilience and India Urban Water Resilience projects

  • Key 2021 deliverable: By January 2021, launch an Africa Urban Water Resilience Accelerator and the India Accelerate Access Coalition.
  • Long-term target: By 2030, build and launch 2 regional urban water resilience accelerators, in Africa and India, that will implement water resilience actions in 4-5 priority areas; scale impact from the initial cohort of 6 cities to 15 cities in each region through a peer-partner network. These regional accelerator models will inform the scaling of urban water resilience in 100 cities, as described in the Water Action Track, through a larger coalition of partners.
  • Partners: Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (BMZ), World Resources Institute, Global Resilient Cities Network, Arup, the Resilience Shift, and others.