Climate Impacts: Field of Action Spatial, Regional and Urban Development Planning

Bird's eye view of geometrical arranged, colourful fields and settlementsClick to enlarge
Climate change also affects spatial and land use planning.
Source: Lukas Pollmüller/

Climate change will have impacts on the suitability of areas for specific uses and is therefore a challenge for spatial planning. The changing climate conditions can affect the use of space directly (in the case of a flood zone) or indirectly (for example, in case that water availability changes), gradually or suddenly.

Climate and spatial planning

Climate changes which increase the risk of natural hazards, affect human health, threaten water and energy supply, and cause or aggravate land use conflicts are deemed to be particularly relevant for spatial planning. This can concern both, sudden weather extremes and long-term temperature and precipitation changes.


Changes in precipitation can affect the spatial planning in different ways. Droughts lead to a shortage of water resources, increase the risk of forest fires and threaten the environmental protection function of forests. If the water resources usable as utility waters are impaired, this will concern almost all spatial functions such as settlements, infrastructure or the energy industry.

Flood protection is another important task of regional and urban development planning. The use of space can have a significant impact on the amount of damages caused by floods. In all cases, spatial planning must address the climate impacts through a provision of land and coordination of the statements given in the context of sectoral planning.


Also the changing temperature conditions determine the spatial planning. Higher temperatures and increasing heat waves enhance the effect of urban heat islands, for example. Thus it is crucial that regional and urban development planning ensures that sufficient cold and fresh air generation areas are provided and that fresh air corridors are maintained.

Spatial planning also faces new challenges at a larger scale. As far as issues of environmental protection are concerned, the shifting of area borders and vegetation zones as well as changes in habitats due to climate change play an important role. The spread of animal and plant species is changing and thus influences ecosystems as well as the agricultural and forestal use of space. Against this background, habitat connections and corridors between protected areas are important to enable animals to adapt to changing climate conditions. The spatial planning can preserve land for those purposes and minimise space use conflicts by balancing interests.

Rising Sea Levels

Rising sea levels accelerate the coastal retreat. Cliffs will break off more frequently and material on flat coasts will be carried away. Consequently, the maintenance costs for flood protection dunes will rise. Furthermore, near-coastal settlements and infrastructure may be damaged.

If you are interested in obtaining information about possible adaptation measures in the field of action spatial, regional and urban development planning, please click here.