Smart and resilient cities are essential in tackling the growing threat of climate instability. This learning track focuses on different analytical and practical approaches to foster resilience and environmental sustainability in urban areas worldwide while covering the most recent trends, developments, and tools related to urban environment, sustainability and climate change. Key topics include the impact nature-based solutions, climate mitigation, and adaptation, sectoral approaches related to energy, water and transport, and urban form have on urban resilience.
The Urban Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change programme is a specialisation track within the MSc in Urban Management and Development, which offers students the opportunity to learn to apply the most innovative analytical tools used to promote smart and resilient cities. Some of the key concepts this specialisation track covers are urban governance, urban form, ecosystem services, climate resilience, climate change mitigation and adaptation, circular economy, and integrated sustainability policy and planning. It further showcases which theories and concepts explain the actions and strategies of different actors and institutions dealing with socio-environmental challenges and provide hands-on tools and methodologies to evaluate and finance different environmental and climate strategies. These perspectives are complemented by a focus on governance arrangements and the management of transition and change processes. Besides developing management and governance expertise, the specialisation uniquely allows you to also gain technical skills like geographical information systems and large data sets analysis.
At the end of the course, the students should be able to:
Plan and design sustainable, low carbon, adaptive, resilient cities and the relationship between urban structures and climate variables.
Understand why a multi-level governance approach is needed to support complex interactions between stakeholders dealing with climate change and environmental degradation and what are the social dimensions of climate change.
Understand and apply assessment tools and methodologies to evaluate low carbon, climate-resilient and green growth policies and projects.
How is your year organised?
In the first and second block, the programme shares courses on urban theory, governance, policy, planning, and public-private partnerships, and local government finance and investment with the other specialisation tracks. However, your assignments within the course modules, as well as the action planning workshop, are always track-specific. In the third block of the programme, your courses will only be track-specific with the possibility to take an extra elective course. In the fourth block of the programme you will strengthen your research skills through research methods courses and workshops and write your Master’s thesis on a topic relevant to your specialisation track. Some example research topics are listed below. Other topics can also be accepted if approved by the coordinators of the specialisation track and the thesis supervisor.
Examples of thesis research
Urban sustainability transitions: Theory and practice in European cities.
Barriers and drivers of circular economy initiatives in Amsterdam.
Financing climate change adaptation: Which instruments are most effective?
Urban water systems and adaptation to climate change in Southeast Asian cities.
The urban governance of sustainable transport systems.
Managing urban energy systems to meet climate change objectives: Trends and innovations.
The roles of community resilience and risk appraisal in climate change adaptation in Chennai.
Developing an urban resilience index: Application to 10.000 urban areas worldwide.
Which factors are conducive to successful climate mitigation projects at the urban level?
The effect of city size and population density on CO2 emissions: Evidence from the Yangtze River Delta urban agglomeration.
Nature-based solutions for flood reduction in African cities.
Assessing climate change risk and prioritizing adaptation measures using GIS.
Blocks 1 & 2 - October to January
Urban Governance, Policy, Planning and Public-Private Partnership
Local Government Finance and Investments
Action Planning Workshop
Block 3 - January to April
Urban Environment, Sustainability and Climate change
Urban Environment and Sectoral Approaches
Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Urban Areas
Urban Ecosystem Services and Nature-based Solutions
Urban Form and Environmental Performance
Urban Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change Methodological Approaches & Data Analysis
Cities and migration
Understanding international urban policy: SDGs and the NUA
GIS methods for urban research
Gender in urban theory, practice, and research
Inclusive smart cities
Urban policy analysis
Block 4 - April to September
Research Methods and Techniques
Urban Research Workshops
Field Work and Master Thesis
The research process for the thesis is divided into three main steps:
The research proposal
Data collection and data preparation
Data analysis and thesis writing
Why study MasterUrban Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change
Loss of biodiversity and natural resources, along with impacts from natural hazards and climate-induced disasters, all have a negative effect on the productivity of cities and the wellbeing of citizens. Designing pathways to a climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable development has become a key goal and principle for policy action at global and local levels. From international organizations and networks to national and local governments, civil society and the business sector, it is now widely recognized that understanding sustainability and climate-resilient development and integrating their principles and methods into everyday practice is vital for the environmental, economic, and social welfare of any urban society. In this programme, you will gain the qualifications to become an urban development professional specialised in reducing major local and global challenges related to environment and climate change.
"This programme has provided me with the opportunity to work within diverse multi-cultural teams, and to explore and develop innovative strategies for urban development while interacting with local stakeholders of Rotterdam."
Max Russell, United Kingdom
Urban Management & Development Alumnus
Why study at IHS, Erasmus University Rotterdam?
Earn your MSc degree from a top 100 university
Known for its academic rigour and high quality of education, Erasmus University Rotterdam is consistently ranked in the top 3% of the world’s best universities.
Our teaching methods are unique
Alongside IHS teaching and research activities, our faculty members work in the field on real-life cases around the world. Challenges, learnings, and questions from these different contexts are brought back to the classroom and woven into our curriculum.
You apply everything you learn - no dry theory
Students learn through a blend of lectures, real-life case studies, discussions, debates, simulation environments, written assignments, and group work. Field visits and projects in Rotterdam and other Dutch cities provide first-hand exposure to local urban problems. Students have the option to complete their thesis fieldwork abroad and immerse themselves in a relevant urban context to collect data.
We offer a truly international and diverse environment
The IHS classroom is comprised of mid-level professionals and fresh graduates with rich and varied experiences from more than 45 countries. Typical backgrounds include architecture, engineering, planning, economics, social science, environmental science, and housing.
Study in Rotterdam - a hub of sustainable urban innovation
Iconic architecture, pioneering urban planning, and a celebrated multicultural population have thrust Rotterdam to the forefront of innovation and cultivation within the urban world.
Enjoy guest lecturers from UN-Habitat and other key stakeholders in the urban field
IHS works with global leaders in the field of urban development, including UN-Habitat, Cities Alliance and ICLEI as well as with leading universities in the Netherlands and around the world to ensure additional academic resources for our students.
What are some of the special features of this track?
Next to earning your MSc diploma from Erasmus University Rotterdam, an institution that is consistently ranked among the top 3% of the world’s best universities, studying the Urban Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change track also means that you will get to:
Learn software (GIS and R) to analyse geospatial and quantitative data
Data analysis is among one of the most highly demanded skills in the labour market. This specialisation will teach you the data skills that will make your CV stand out.
Use different tools to prioritise climate decisions
You have the chance to use the Climate Actions Prioritisation Tool (CLIMACT Prio) and the Climate Tech-wiki database. The CLIMACT Prio is a system IHS developed to support urban policymakers and local stakeholders to make climate action decisions.
Visit a successful climate change resilience project
Every year the urban environment, sustainability and climate change track students visit a different example of successfully implemented climate change resilience and sustainability initiative. For example, last year a field trip was organised to the Rotterdam Storm Barrier.
Link your thesis research to real-life ongoing projects
This track has the distinctive feature of being very active in research and advisory services worldwide, which offers you the unique opportunity to link your thesis to ongoing research and projects.
Benefit from a broad network of international organisations
The specialisation track has close ties with international organisations such as UN-Habitat, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank as well as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.