MSc Global Urban Development and Planning

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Climate, Environment and Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI60552
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Climate change represents one of the most serious challenges currently facing urban poverty reduction. Despite uncertainties within the field of climate science, there is a broad consensus that human-induced carbon emissions are already causing climate change. At a global level, the poor are most likely to experience its effects; in particular, the urban poor majority in cities of the global South are among the most vulnerable to climate-related disasters and changing patterns of severe weather.

Over the past two decades alone, disasters have claimed more than two million lives, with 98 per cent of casualties occurring in developing countries, and climate-related disasters accounting for two-thirds of the total. As well as one-off events, urban residents' homes and livelihoods are also threatened by slow, insidious, weather-related changes brought about by climate change. In urban areas where institutional responses are limited by resources or capacity, households, small businesses and communities are leading adaptation efforts at the local level.

This course will explore how best to strengthen the resilience of these communities to climate change and climate-related disasters, in support of sustainable urban poverty reduction.


The unit aims to provide:

  • An understanding of the complex relationship between climate change, disasters and poverty.
  • An understanding of the impacts of climate change, in particular its implications for vulnerable groups within society
  • An understanding of the implications of differences in perception of climate risk for enhancing resiliencen understanding of the relationship between vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to climate change.
  • A comprehensive understanding of adaptation responses for enhancing resilience to climate change
  • An understanding of the limits and opportunities of climate change adaptation
  • An opportunity  for  students  to  develop  their  range  of  competencies  in transferable areas, including research, analysis, team-work and both written and verbal forms of communication


Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

- Demonstrate a critical understanding of climate change and disasters, as well as of related theories and concepts on adaptation and disaster risk management for sustainable urban poverty reduction.

- Show knowledge of frameworks and operational tools for integrating climate change adaptation and risk reduction into urban development planning, disaster response and recovery, thus building related governance capacities.

- Demonstrate the need to adopt a holistic approach to adaptation and disaster risk management.

Teaching and learning methods

Learning will be through six lectures (six two-hour lectures), three two-hour tutorials, one 6-hour thematic session for student presentations and one one-hour guidance session for assessments). Students will be asked to prepare presentations throughout the course. Students are encouraged to develop their own theoretical understanding through guided individual reading and private study as well as through group tutorial interactions.


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 75%
Oral assessment/presentation 25%

Recommended reading

Bicknell, J., Dodman, D. and Satterthwaite, D. (eds) (2009) Adapting Cities to Climate Change, London: Earthscan
DFID (2005) Disaster risk reduction: a development concern, [URL document], 2010-01-19, Available online:
Few, R., Osbahr, H. et al. (2006) Linking Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management for Sustainable Poverty Reduction, Synthesis Report. Vulnerability and Adaptation Resource Group (VARG), European Commission. Available online:
Moser, C., A. Norton, Stein, A., Georgieva, S., 2010. Pro-Poor Adaptation to Climate Change in Urban Centers Report No. 54947-GLB, Washington D.C., World Bank.
Pelling, M. (2011) 'The adaptation age'. In: Pelling, M. Adaptation to climate change : from resilience to transformation. London : Routledge. 3-19.
Cynthia Rosenzweig et al eds (2011) Climate Change & Cities Cambridge: CUP.
Satterthwaite, D.; Huq, S.; Pelling, M.; Reid, H. and Romero Lankao, P. (2009) 'Adapting to Climate Change in Urban Areas: The possibilities and constraints in low- and middle-income nations', in Bicknell, J., Dodman, D. and Satterthwaite, D. (eds) (2009) Adapting Cities to Climate Change, Earthscan: London.
Tanner, T. and Allouche, J. (2011) 'Towards a New Political Economy of Climate Change and Development', IDS Bulletin 42(3), 1-14. Available online:
UNHabitat (2011) Global Report on Human Settlements 2011 Cities & Climate Change London: Earthscan.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 12
Seminars 6
Tutorials 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 126

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Johan Oldekop Unit coordinator

Return to course details