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ssessing risks and vulnerabilities to climate change

2.6 What is the role of the surrounding areas in adaptation and how do I take that into account?

Cities can no longer be treated as distinct spaces unconnected to the regions surrounding them. The functioning of urban settlements depends on land in the surrounding rural areas for food and water supply, waste disposal, recreational value and the growth of settlements. To sustain both urban and rural livelihoods and ecosystems, there is a need for the sustainable management of the resources requirements of urban and peri-urban areas.

Most direct and indirect impacts of climate change are cross-border in nature. Impacts of climate change and adaptation efforts taken or not taken in rural areas also influence how the impacts of climate change are perceived in the city. Thus, adaptation of a city requires a coherent approach to the rural-urban interface and coordination with the neighbouring municipalities.


The interconnections and dependencies between the urban areas and their surroundings are multi-faceted. Cities depend on their immediate or further surroundings for various climate-sensitive services and products: agricultural food production, water supply, infrastructure networks, energy production, waste and wastewater management, forestry materials, recreation opportunities and others.  Therefore, climate change impacts that might not directly impact the city or town might still have severe repercussions if they hit the area providing these services.

Similarly any climate related shock in a city can put a strain on the surrounding areas if important urban-to-rural movement of goods and services or rural-to-urban access to jobs, resources and various services are disrupted.

Just like rural-specific climate change impacts (such as wildfires and spread of pests) can have repercussions on the nearby city or town, the urban-specific impacts (such as easier spread of infectious diseases) can have repercussions in the neighbouring rural area.

Furthermore, adaptation actions for a city can have impacts on the surrounding areas, especially if it involves drawing more resources from it (e.g. water), assigning land areas for adaptation measures (taking them away from other activities, such as agriculture) or changing the design and location of critical infrastructure networks running through the rural lands.

Adaptation planning and implementation for an urban area needs to include an analysis of these interlinkages and coordination of adaptation action with the neighbouring municipalities. In some countries the inter-municipality coordination is managed on a national or regional level. Where such arrangements are lacking, own initiative is crucial to establish a dialogue and win-win approach to urban-rural adaptation.

It has to be noted that not only are cities inextricably linked to their immediate surroundings, but also their trade and supply chains might extend to other more distant locations within or beyond the borders of the country. The main long-distance dependencies and the arising risks should be accounted for in an urban climate change risk assessment.

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