Urban climate change resilience (UCCR) is relatively new and constantly evolving. UCCR brings together researches, policy makers, practitioners and community leaders from multiple disciplines and backgrounds including climate science, development agencies, organizations working in hazard mitigation, disaster risk reduction and emergency relief, global donors, and institutions focusing on globalization, urbanization and sustainability. Increasingly, the work has been moving from the academic sphere to policy development and to action ‘on the ground’. In this sense, ACCCRN is somewhat unique in that the Partners have deliberately set out to develop and implement strategies at the city level, which will also influence the national policy making sphere and approaches to climate change adaptation at the global level.

Municipal decision making and climate change have begun to address resilience building with the same level of importance that has been afforded to efforts in greenhouse gas emissions reduction and environmental protection generally. At the same time, there is growing awareness of the ultimate challenge humanity faces – unprecedented urban growth, and the impact this has on quality of life, particularly for poor and vulnerable groups, and the potential for climate change to further magnify current challenges.

One of the distinguishing features of UCCR is its focus on systems. Cities depend on both natural ecosystems and engineered services, draw on distant resources as well as utilizing local resources to meet basic needs, and function through complex social and governance systems which can result in the marginalization and increased vulnerability of groups within the community. Cities form a complex web of inter-dependencies, whereby the functioning of the whole system relies on the effective functioning of its constituent parts. For example, local enterprises cannot function if the workforce is unable to get to work because of disruption in transportation systems or energy supply; problems in distant food supply chains can have catastrophic impacts on a city. Climate change places new and ever increasing stresses on urban systems, which requires a robust adaptation strategy if the city is to continue to survive and thrive.