Triggers of change as facilitators to achieve sustainable, resilient, and adaptive cities


This paper proposes pathways and triggers of change for city representatives and decision makers to consider for enabling transition to sustainable, resilient and adaptive cities. It investigates a range of triggers of change, including regulatory, structural/operational, behavioural, awareness, and resources. A conceptual framework for identifying the triggers of change is presented that was developed under a participatory process and tested during stakeholder dialogues with representatives from 15 cities from 12 European countries. The framework comprises of the following three steps: 1. Indicator-based vulnerability assessment, conducted to analyse city vulnerability and problem identification; 2. Constructed visions of the underpinning factors; and 3. Backcasting exercise, to detect the triggers of change. Following a prioritisation exercise across our European sample, regional differences and the prominence of the following patterns in supporting triggers of change have been noted. In Mediterranean region main triggers were public decision and political leadership, regulatory framework (including building codes, accountability, pricing, taxation, penalties and incentives) and learning from disasters triggers of change. Whereas in the Southern-Central region: adaptive multi-level governance, horizontal and vertical improved relationships governance were the main triggers of change. These patterns and framework are applicable to other cities, and indeed to other topics (e.g. mitigation, sustainability, etc.) that support implementation on the ground to achieve truly sustainable, resilient and adaptive cities. We acknowledge the challenges in deriving universally applicable triggers of change, however the study identifies eight overarching triggers of change that can facilitate the transformation of cities.


open access article


backcasting, climate change adaptation, climate policy, low-carbon communities, stakeholder dialogue, vulnerability assessment


Mendizabal, M., Feliu, E., Tapia, C., Rajaeifar, M.A., Tiwary, A., Sepúlveda, J. and Heidrich, O. (2021) Triggers of change as facilitators to achieve sustainable, resilient, and adaptive cities. City and Environment Interactions,100071.


Research Institute

Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD)