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Embedding climate change resilience in coastal city planning: Early lessons from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Cartagena’s fortunes and perils have long been tied to the sea. With the release of its adaptation guidelines, the Colombian coastal city is preparing to manage sea level rises, extreme weather, flooding, health and disease resulting from a changing climate. This report’s vulnerability assessment, summarised in ‘Guidelines for Adaptation to Climate Change in Cartagena de Indias’, is the most comprehensive of its kind yet developed in Colombia, with adaptation actions paired to emerging challenges. The guidelines methodically situate scientific knowledge and adaptation planning within the context of the city; a city that encompasses both wealthy and impoverished communities, together with a heavy reliance on several climate-sensitive industries, such as tourism and transportation. This brief summarises the process that led to the guidelines’ creation, and highlights how they lay the foundation for a full municipal adaptation plan.

Key messages:

  • Cartagena is at the first coastal city in South America to produce its ‘Guidelines for Adaptation to Climate Change’, which assess the city’s vulnerability and draw recommendations for adaptation measures and support socioeconomic development.
  • These guidelines lay the foundation for forthcoming municipal plans, including a full climate change adaptation plan and zoning policies.
  • The government of  Colombia are closely watching the progress of this municipal process  which will influence the implementation of the National Adaptation Plan and similar approaches in other coastal cities and towns in Colombia.
  • Planning for climate resilience is an ongoing process that requires constant and sustained capacity building of local stakeholders.
  • Despite several recent changes in the political leadership of Cartagena, key city leaders remain committed to adaptation planning.
  • The city considers adaptation as an important an opportunity  to build resilience improve the life of its citizens and avoid long-term costs from inaction.