Anna Taylor

Role/Position: Researcher: Climate change and urban sustainability Email: Website:

Anna works on questions of urban adaptive governance and sustainable transitions to address the differential risks, vulnerabilities and impacts associated with climate change. With a background in human geography and environmental science, Anna draws increasingly on conceptual and methodological tools from the fields of organisational studies and political science to address issues of public, collective decision-making that pertains to complex and interconnected environmental, socio-economic and infrastructural systems, especially in cities. She has a keen interest in what knowledge, whose knowledge and how different kinds of knowledge is brought to bear on decisions and actions affecting the resilience of an urban system, which quickly leads to questions of power and (dis)empowerment. In addition to simply understanding these dynamics better, she strives to play an active role in bridging between different disciplines, sectors, communities of practice and organisations to connect domains of knowledge and practice for the purposes of shared learning, more inclusive forms of governance and more sustainable and regenerative ways of growing cities.


Anna joined the African Centre for Cities in 2011 to work on her PhD as part of the Mistra Urban Futures programme. This has involved a close partnership with the City of Cape Town municipal government, working as an embedded researcher to analyse and contribute to the further development of climate adaptation processes and adaptive pathways, both at a strategic city-wide level and within the fields of stormwater management and coastal management. She completed her PhD entitled Urban climate adaptation as a process of organisational decision making in 2017.


While at ACC, Anna has also co-produced:

  • A framework for working with informality to build climate resilience in African cities, commissioned by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN);
  • A comparative study of three South African municipalities (Cape Town, Durban and Theewaterskloof) focused on identifying the socio-institutional preconditions for climate adaptation at the city scale, commissioned by the French Development Agency (AFD);
  • A study of how climate change has been integrated into Cape Town’s City Development Strategy, as one case contributing to a global comparative study coordinated by the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies in the Netherlands, funded by UN-Habitat;
  • A study exploring the collaborative governance of flooding and coastal inundation risks in Cape Town under climate change, funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).


She also seeks to collaboratively build a future for the Cape Town Climate Change Think Tank (previously City Lab), which generated many valuable insights and connections during the first phase, under the leadership of Anton Cartwright, Gregg Oelofse and Sue Parnell. The Climate Change Think Tank provides a deliberative space for thought leaders, decision-makers and activists from across Cape Town’s public, private, academic and civil society spheres to build a joint knowledge base, debate problem framings and explore potential courses of action for strengthening climate resilience of the city and within the city.


Anna works with UCT colleagues in the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) and the Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG). She also maintains a close affiliated with the Oxford Centre of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI Oxford).


Key publications:

  • Taylor, A. (forthcoming) Institutional Inertia in a Changing Climate: Climate Adaptation Planning in Cape Town, South Africa. Research paper accepted by the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management.
  • Ziervogel, G., New, M., Archer van Garderen, E., Midgley, G., Taylor, A., Hamann, R., Stuart-Hill, S., Myers, J. and Warburton, M., 2014. Climate change impacts and adaptation in South Africa, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 5(5), pp. 605–620.
  • Taylor, A. and Peter, C., 2014. Strengthening climate resilience in African cities: A framework for working with informality. Climate and Development Knowledge Network and African Centre for Cities Report.
  • Taylor, A., Cartwright, A. and Sutherland, S., 2014. Institutional Pathways for Local Climate Adaptation: A Comparison of Three South African Municipalities, Agence Françoise De Developpmente, Focales Series No.18.
  • Colenbrander, D., Cartwright, A. and Taylor, A., 2014. Drawing a Line in the Sand: managing coastal risks in the City of Cape Town. South African Geographical Journal, DOI: 10.1080/03736245.2014.924865.
  • Ziervogel, G., Waddell, J., Smit, W., and Taylor, A., 2014. Flooding in Cape Town’s informal settlements: barriers to collaborative urban risk governance. South African Geographical Journal, DOI: 10.1080/03736245.2014.924867.
  • Tadross, M., Taylor, A. and Johnston P., 2012. Understanding Cape Town’s climate. In: Cartwright, A., Parnell, S., Oelofse, G. and Ward, S. (eds), Climate change at the City Scale: Impacts, mitigation and adaptation in Cape Town, Routledge, 9-20.
  • Anna Taylor, Zarina Patel

    Adapting to a changing climate in Southern Africa

    This short film captures the key messages and debates emerging from the first Southern Africa Adaptation Colloquium, held in November 2013 and co-hosted by Mistra Urban Futures Cape Town platform’s Climate Change Think Tank, a partnership within the Knowledge Transfer Programme. Members of the partnership include The University of Cape Town’s African Climate and Development […]