Programme overview

Urban Environment, Sustainability & Climate Change

Climate-neutral and resilient cities are essential in tackling the growing threat and impacts of climate change. True climate resilience requires systemic, nexus thinking around the key natural resources of land, water, and air. 

The Urban Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change: Integrated Management of Land, Water and Air programme is a master track within the MSc in Urban Management and Development. This master's track will examine different conceptual, theoretical, and practical approaches to leading sustainable urban transformation and managing climate-neutral and resilient cities worldwide. It equips students with the knowledge and skills to critically evaluate and pursue urban resilience in relation to the universal challenge of sustainable development and the reality of climate change. Next to environmental resilience and climate mitigation, which is the programme's primary focus, the track will examine critical social, economic and governance dimensions of climate-neutral and resilient cities.

Besides developing management and governance expertise, the track allows students to gain skills in geographical information systems (GIS), computer-based analysis tools and strategic planning methodology. 

How is your year organized?

The first block shares courses on urban complexity, governance & finance, data analytics and research design with the other master tracks. In the second block, your courses will be track-specific and you will be working more closely with your master track peers. The third and last block will be entirely dedicated to your thesis. It will further guide you in writing your thesis proposal on a topic relevant to your master track.


Programme Curriculum

Block 1 - September to January

With over half of the population living in urban areas, rising to 70% in 2050, it is of ever-increasing importance to understand how cities work and evolve. Complex and interrelated economic, social, physical, and environmental processes are constantly transforming cities. Understanding cities, therefore, require us to recognize, define and describe these complex and multidisciplinary processes.

This course will discuss the efforts of governments, often undertaken in partnership with other stakeholders, to deliberately intervene in and influence, steer and guide the development process of cities. Local governments are key in planning and executing investments and preparing fundable projects. In some countries, local governments have become increasingly dependent on intergovernmental transfers, which have been shrinking over time in part because of fiscal constraints. Moreover, investment decisions are at the core of any development strategy. This course addresses all these and many other aspects of financial investments.

For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. This does not only mean that a majority of people worldwide live in cities, but also that cities are increasingly becoming larger and more complex. To account for that complexity, an ever-increasing number of quantitative data sources that cover urban areas and cities on different scales have become available, requiring urban managers to have the knowledge and skills for analysing such data and making sense out of them. This course will teach students how to harness the power of quantitative urban data by mastering the way they are prepared, visualised and analysed. The course begins with introducing students to quantitative data analysis (compared to qualitative data analysis), and continues with lectures on descriptive statistics and data visualisation.

Designing and implementing academic research in the field of urban studies is a major component of the master’s programme at IHS. This Research Design (RD) course guides students to design academic research within the social sciences and to develop their thesis proposal.

Blocks 2- January to April

“Climatologies”: Urban environment and climate change and the relationship with sustainability and resilience

The land conundrum: the multiple linkages between land use and (un)sustainable urban development and climate change.

A geographical information systems (GIS) module will run in parallel with the content lecture blocks during the specialisation period. The GIS module will use examples from the content lecture blocks in this period.

The Action Planning Workshop incorporates the concepts learned during the Urban Governance, Policy, Planning and Public-Private Partnerships (UGPPP) module in a practical, one-week exercise conducted in cooperation with local stakeholders in the city of Rotterdam.

The main objective of the Research Proposal Period is to support the individual research process of participants and at the same time produce a body of collective knowledge that is expected to contribute to the understanding of the domain of urban management and development in developing, transitional and developed countries.

Block 3 - April to August

Designing and implementing academic research in the field of urban studies is a major component of the master's programme at IHS. During this period students will write their master thesis on their chosen topic guided by a supervisor.

At the end of the course, the students should be able to:

  • Critically reflect upon and engage with sustainable development frameworks as they relate to climate change.
  • Critically evaluate the concepts of climate adaptation and mitigation and its various components and dimensions in practice.
  • Reveal the land/water/air nexus interlinkages with climate resilience and climate neutrality.
  • Investigate climate mitigation tools and solutions used by practitioners to realise climate-neutral cities.
  • Reflect upon the mutual relationship between environmental resilience and other forms of resilience (social, economic, and institutional).
  • Evaluate the multi-faceted principles of climate “risk” and “resilience” and apply these principles to land, water, air, NBS and climate adaptation in urban areas.
  • Design and present climate adaptation and mitigation strategies for a client organisation based on actual data, circumstances, and needs.


  • Urban sustainability transitions: Theory and practice in European cities.
  • Barriers and drivers of circular economy initiatives in Amsterdam.
  • Financing climate change adaptation: Which instruments are most effective?
  • Urban water systems and adaptation to climate change in Southeast Asian cities.
  • The urban governance of sustainable transport systems.
  • Managing urban energy systems to meet climate change objectives: Trends and innovations.
  • The roles of community resilience and risk appraisal in climate change adaptation in Chennai.
  • Developing an urban resilience index: Application to 10.000 urban areas worldwide.
  • Which factors are conducive to successful climate mitigation projects at urban level?
  • The effect of city size and population density on CO2 emissions: Evidence from the Yangtze River Delta urban agglomeration.
  • Nature-based solutions for flood reduction in African cities.
  • Assessing climate change risk and prioritizing adaptation measures using GIS.

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