School of Finance and Management

Improving climate-change risk management in Shanghai and Hangzhou


Floods caused by torrential rainstorms, tropical cyclones and storm surges have been the most expensive and devastating natural hazards in the Yangtze River Delta metropolitan region, centred at Shanghai.

To contribute to the mitigation and adaptation efforts in Shanghai and Hangzhou, SOAS researchers Laixiang Sun and Huan Zou Sun worked on two consecutive Foreign and Commonwealth Office China Prosperity Fund projects, and two further projects funded by the UK Met Office and by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The researchers conducted a knowledge co-creation process using modelling and scenario planning together with the departmental authorities of the two municipal governments. They developed an integrated framework for flexible testing of multiple mitigation strategies under the condition of deep uncertainties. This tool assisted flooding control and heatwave defence decision-making in the two cities.


These research projects have been ground-breaking in that they have trialled a knowledge co-creation process which emphasises the generation of useable science for decision-making through sustained and meaningful dialogue with scientists and their institutions, policy makers, and other stakeholders in the Yangtze River Delta, the economic engine and population centre of China.

This process improved the way the five-year plans address climate change adaptation and risk management, enabled sustained engagement as plans become implemented, and created a space for more UK-China collaboration on climate change.

The significance of this impact lies in the fact that China’s policy-making processes differ from those of the UK. The role of outside expertise is never openly acknowledged in central planning, and planning documents have no "author". Institutions involved in policy making often keep reports submitted to central and/or local planning committees confidential, providing instead cover letters acknowledging inputs and thanking the planning committees for accepting their reports – which are public.

Five-year planning and long-term master planning have played arguably the most important role in the Chinese policy arena. The research provided very timely assistance to the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau, a part of Shanghai municipal government, in drafting "Shanghai’s 13th Five-Year Plan on Adaptation to Climate Change". The plan now includes:

  • New standards on urban drainage and buildings, which will protect Shanghai’s buildings and roads from flood damage and make the city more resilient to heatwaves.
  • Schedules of improvements to the city’s early warning and risk management systems.