Embedding climate change resilience in coastal city planning: Early lessons from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Case Summary: 

Coastal cities like Cartagena are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as sea level rise, coastal flooding, and disease. Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, the Institute of Marine and Coastal Research (INVEMAR), and local authorities developed the concept of integrating climate change adaptation into Cartagena’s land use plan and other planning policies. Between 2011-2012, stakeholders conducted a climate change vulnerability assessment and prepared adaptation guidelines. The guidelines identify how climate change may affect different neighborhoods and environments around the city as well as different socioeconomic groups (e.g. low-income residents, fisherman) and culminates with priority actions and recommendations for adaptation. Notable good practices implemented during this project are highlighted below and profiled in this case study.

  • Encouraging participation allows the priorities of local stakeholders to guide the planning process thereby sustaining engagement and buy-in.
  • Making the connection between climate change and development issues supports mainstreaming of climate change issues at the local level.
  • Involving local officials, building local capacity, and reaching out to international experts in the planning process sustains momentum and builds credibility.
  • Land use and zoning policies are good, practical entry points for climate adaptation planning and actions.
  • Robust scientific research underpins climate adaptation planning and can provide stakeholders with insight on uncertainty, timelines, and baseline data.
  • Managing stakeholder expectations is important when climate adaptation touches on far ranging issues; balancing and communicating the opportunity costs of climate adaptation is critical.
Latin America and Caribbean
Action Area 
Planning and Implementation Activity 
Developing Strategies and Plans, Analysis and Data Collection, Developing and Implementing Policies and Measures, Governance and Stakeholder Engagement, Sub-national Action and Integration
Sectors and Themes 
Disaster Risk Reduction
Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)
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