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Durham University research has directly shaped the UN-Habitat’s approach to urban climate governance through the development of the UN’s Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning and toolkit.



Climate governance has an important urban dimension that is critical to achieving long-term global goals, including ensuring that climate action is sufficient to meet the 1.5°C Paris target and is compatible with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Urban climate governance is a multilevel and multifaceted process, challenging the notion that the national or international scales are the most important arenas for climate action.



Research led by geographers at Durham University has analysed how climate governance happens in cities. The research identified innovation at the urban scale, as well as the conditions and constraints that shape urban climate action, through a database of 627 climate experiments in 100 cities.

Evidence was supplemented by five in-depth case studies of cities (Bangalore, Monterrey, Hong Kong, Philadelphia, Berlin).



The impact of the research is evident through the UN-Habitat’s Guiding Principles (UNHGP) for City Climate Action Planning, a series of eight principles developed to change how urban policymakers plan and deliver action for climate change.

The UNHGP have informed the support, policy advice, and training that UN-Habitat provides to individual cities to advance climate action. For example, the UNHGP were used to evaluate Glasgow’s climate action plan.

The principles have also provided a resource for partner organisations to advance city climate action planning. For example, they have been integrated into the indicators used by the World Wildlife Fund in its One Planet City Challenge.

Metro Vancouver, a region that led on climate action by developing its first strategy in 1990, has adopted the UNHGP for its Climate 2050 Strategic Framework. This use of the UNHGP is an important measure of their utility and capacity for framing and motivating climate action at the city level.


More information

Institution: Durham University

Researchers: Professor Harriet Bulkeley, Dr Andres Luque-Ayala, Dr Jon Silver, Dr Andrea Armstrong, Dr Laura Tozer, Dr Sara Fuller

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Cities and climate change: UN-Habitat guiding principles. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>