Planning for Climate Change in African Cities

This MOOC is developed by IHS in collaboration with African Local Governments Academy (ALGA)United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG) and Erasmus University Rotterdam and it is part of a series of MOOCs on urban development in African cities. This course is available on

Enroll now for this free online course!

(Starting date: 25 September)

Course Overview

Climate change poses a threat to economic growth and long-term prosperity of many countries around the world. Africa is not an exception, considering the actual and potential impacts of climate change and climate variability that will threaten its vulnerable sectors and human populations. African countries are projected to experience changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, and higher temperatures that will affect food security, agricultural production, water availability, and public health, among others. These climate change impacts and climate variability can further produce social and political problems, such as rural-urban migration and water resource disputes.  

Furthermore, the low levels of development in many African countries, as well as limited institutional, infrastructural, and technical capacities to respond successfully to climate change impacts and climate variability, can exacerbate the situation. In terms of contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, although African countries are the lightest polluters, it has also become apparent that alternative energy sources can offset the increasing energy demand and dependence on biomass. Addressing climate change offers possibilities for low-carbon development. Moreover, there are promising mechanisms that can address both climate change actions and development goals simultaneously.

At the city level, strengthening resilience, or the ability to respond to and absorb the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner and to sustain this ability in the future, and adaptation; the process of adjusting to actual or expected climate change stimuli or their effects, should be at the forefront of planning.  Local governments have an important role to play through the provision of adequate infrastructure, regulation of land use, and other public services that are crucial for urban resilience. Mobilizing local governments, in collaboration with national governments, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations, among others, is also critical for an integrated multi-sectoral approach to climate change.

Course trailer


Course description

The “Planning for Climate Change in African Cities is a 5-week long massive online open course (MOOC) that provides the foundation for understanding cities’ exposure and sensitivity to climate change, and how cities can manage these impacts in the face of growing uncertainty. It does so by introducing the basic concepts of urban resilience and adaptation, by using illustrative case studies in different African cities. Developed in collaboration with African Local Governments Academy (ALGA)United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG) and Erasmus University Rotterdam, this MOOC provides lectures on the different approaches for climate change planning, whether ad hoc, strategic or mainstreaming; introduces the different steps in the planning cycle – from initial assessment to monitoring and evaluation; and presents the different decision support and assessment tools for prioritizing climate change actions. This course broadens the discussion on planning for climate change by engaging learners to apply their knowledge and practice their decision-making skills in a simulated exercise.

In line with development that minimizes the harm caused by climate change impacts, while maximizing the many human development opportunities presented by a more resilient future, we ask: what are the connections between urban risk and vulnerability? How is climate change and urban resilience conceptualized and applied in practice? Which policies and measures should be introduced to address climate change? Finally, how to choose among different measures that address climate change adaptation, urban resilience, and other development objectives?

Course Objectives

At the end of this course, learners should be able to:

  • Recognize the effects, impacts, and drivers of climate change in cities
  • Understand the drivers of urban risk and vulnerability in the context of climate change
  • Distinguish the typologies, approaches, and tensions of climate change adaptation
  • Explain the different approaches and steps in climate change planning
  • Examine the decision support and assessment tools for climate change
  • Develop a climate change plan based on participants’ city contexts


Stelios Grafakos: Head of Urban Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change at IHS, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Veronica Olivotto: Climate Change Adaptation Expert at IHS, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Dr. Andy Gouldson: Professor of Environmental Policy at University of Leeds

Dr. Diana Reckien: Associate Professor at Faculty of Geo-Information and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente

Dr. Shuaib Lwasa: Associate Professor at Department of Geography, Geo-Informatics and Climatic Sciences, Makerere University

Marcus Mayr: Associate Human Settlements Officer at Urban Planning and Design Branch, Climate Change Planning Unit, UN-Habitat

Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste: Institute of Human Settlements Studies, Ardhi University

Dr. David Dodman: Director of Human Settlements of the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED)

How can I join the course?

The upcoming online course on "Planning for Climate Change in African Cities" will be launched on the 25th of September 2017. Click to see the course on Coursera!

Note: the course is free for everyone but you’ll need to create a account in order to follow it.

Interested? Fill out the form bellow and we’ll keep you posted.