Planning Principles and Assessment of Transformational Adaptation: Towards a Refined Ethical Approach

Published In

Climate and Development

Document Type


Publication Date



The call for deliberate transformational adaptation (TA) has increased over the last decade. However, a challenge many planners face is the lack of clarity on the norms and principles for designing and implementing such adaptation and the ethical value systems for assessing their significance. This paper contributes to the debate on planning principles, strategies and values underpinning TA. Drawing on consequentialist and deontological value theories and a review of 147 journal articles, we explore the embedded ethics and the defining traits of TA. We found that utilitarian ethics informed both discourse and practice and the majority of papers published on TA focussed on scale of outcome, pathways and speed of change. Yet, this does little to address issues of justice, equity and sustainability which are compelling reasons for transforming current adaptation patterns. To address this problem, we propose a refined deontological framework that goes beyond the focus on the scale of change in material outcomes to changes in values and organizing principles that govern society. We offer eight guiding principles to aid planners in implementing this new framework but argue that ultimately, desired transformation occurs through collective design, intentionality and political negotiation.


Copyright 2019 Taylor & Francis



Persistent Identifier