Manchester Climate Risk: A Framework For Understanding Hazards & Vulnerability

Manchester’s Climate Change Framework sets out the city’s commitments for 2020-25. Alongside reducing our CO2 emissions, the Framework recognises that the climate is changing and that Manchester needs to take action to respond. The Framework sets out the following high-level objective:

“To adapt the city’s buildings, infrastructure and natural environment to the changing climate and to increase the climate resilience of our residents and organisations.”

However, the adaptation and resilience dimension of Manchester’s climate change work requires further development to reach parity with our carbon reduction commitments and actions.

There is growing consensus that – like most other parts of the UK - our future climate in Manchester is likely to become wetter and warmer, exacerbating weather-related risks for the city.

Flooding is Manchester’s most prominent extreme weather and climate change threat. Floods in February 2020 and January 2021 are just the latest examples of the damage and disruption that these events can cause. Although currently relatively uncommon, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires represent future risks. Of particular concern is the impact that very hot Summer days will have on the city and its inhabitants.

Understanding climate change hazards is just some dimension of our climate risk. We must consider our exposure and vulnerability to climate risk, as well as our capacity to respond to hazards. Many aspects of the city are exposed to the direct and indirect impacts of weather hazards, as summarised in the table below.

More effort is required to fully appreciate the extent of the risk of climate change for Manchester, both in terms of exposure and vulnerability. This is a complex, but vital task. To assist with this, work published by MCCA outlines an indicative framework for understanding climate risk in a more comprehensive manner.

Doing so is the first step in helping us to pursue coordinated action for collectively creating a more climate resilient Manchester.


Summary of framework for understanding Manchester’s vulnerability to climate change


The health, wealth and well-being of everyone in society are fundamental indicators of the success and vitality of a city. Manchester is a complex and diverse city, composed of many intersecting communities with different strengths and vulnerabilities. Communities and individuals will be affected by climate change in different ways. Some people will have greater capacity to respond than others.


Wealth and economic opportunity is not shared equally across the city and its people. Climate change will bring both threats and opportunities to the economic sustainability and the competitiveness of the city. It has the potential to have significant implications for social justice and inclusive growth.


The places that we inhabit, and more specifically our built environment,  are a key element of our exposure to the impacts to climate change. We need to consider how our urban spaces, public places and parks and green spaces are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.


The effective functioning of our infrastructure is vital for economic and social well-being of all those that live and work in the city. Climate change threatens to both exacerbate long-standing vulnerabilities and introduce new vulnerabilities to the city’s infrastructure networks.


Manchester has a vast range of green and blue space and biodiversity. However, these spaces are of varying quality, and face pressure from development for new homes and workplaces. Some of these spaces and their biodiversity and quality will themselves be impacted by climate change.


There are several cross-cutting factors that should be considered when assessing Manchester’s sensitivity and vulnerability to climate change. These include interdependencies that will frame any efforts to adapt to climate change such as the management of risk across the city’s boundaries, and evaluating the understanding of climate risk, resilience and adaptation.