Photo of Sofie Storbjörk

Sofie Storbjörk

Associate Professor, Head of Unit, Docent

In my scientific endeavour, I explore what imprint climate change concerns make in practical policy, planning and decision making. What limits and enables change towards agreed-upon goals and ambitions? How can implementation be accelerated?

The Achilles heels of climate policy implementation

Deciding on climate goals is but the start of approaching such key concerns in society. This is valid both for climate emission reductions and climate adaptation.

My research illustrates and problematises what imprint climate change concerns make in practical policy, planning and decision-making processes at different societal levels. What complicates and hinders enactment? How can change be enabled towards agreed-upon goals and ambitions? How can we ensure policy progression and accelerate implementation? In addition to my research activities I am, since 2018, part of the National Expert Council for Climate Adaptation, assigned by the Swedish Government to follow and evaluate national climate change adaptation and submit recommendations for future directions and priorities.

Early studies on governing climate adaptation 2004-2015

I have worked with studies of how, when, why and under what circumstances climate adaptation takes place as well as what factors drive or restricts adaptation since 2004. Early studies showed challenges concerning ability (will, commitment, mandate, expertise) to put climate adaptation at the local agenda, that adaptation was characterised by technical fix rather than the precautionary principle, the difficulty of settling reasonable and robust safety margins, the adaptation was event-driven with limited long-term continuity, lack of coordination vertically (national-regional-local) and horizontally (between sectors), where sectoral cultures, interest claims and internal turf battles proved challenging. Similarly, the studies showed how tensions and conflicts between e.g. waterfront development interests, conservation interests and adaptation needs created problems for practical climate adaptation.

When it comes to spatial planning as an arena for climate adaptation studies between 2010-2015 show that in local development planning decisions are often made on a case-by-case basis where positions on climate risks depend less on actual climate risks than on how politically and economically attractive an area is. Further, weak intersectoral interplay in the planning sector, where strategic comprehensive planning, local development planning and the granting of building-permits was handled by different political committees in a way that creates unfortunate glitches, lack of visibility and increasing the risk of poor decisions. Although the municipalities on the one hand call for strategic guidelines to allow more strategic considerations of climate risks – for example in attractive waterfront locations – it is also clear from the studies it also becomes clear that settling guidelines is but the start and their practical effectiveness fall back to how they are actually implemented in daily planning. As future protective measures are needed to secure existing urban areas at risk of flooding and erosion, planners see no use in preventing further waterfront development. Problems with enacting guidelines also relate to challenges of accessibility and esthetics where the new waterfront limits meet older city structures. This influences the practical negotiability of guidelines.

Urban climate transformations and public-private interplay 2013-2022

Between 2013-2022 the research projects have emphasised the importance of urban climate transitions. Climate change policy integration in strategic comprehensive planning and concrete development plans was studied in three Swedish municipalities highly engaged as frontrunners in interlinking adaptation and mitigation policy in the arena of spatial planning (CLIPP). Early on it was made clear that a key challenge for the municipalities was including private actors in local transition processes. Therefore, the interaction between private and public actors and particularly the role of property developers in urban development projects was put in focus. Initially singular case-studies were undertaken in Karlstad and (in the EXTRA project on urban transitions) in Norrköping. Since limitations of public-private interactions was strongly emphasised in interviews, a study was designed to pinpoint public-private collaborative vs regulative dialogues in six Swedish municipalities with more long-term experiences in seeking to climate-proof new urban districts. In the EXPECT-project, the role of urban experiments in triggering transitions in the field of multifunctional stormwater management, multifunctional urban coastal adaptation progress and waterfront architectural design in the form of floating houses was explored. Longitudinal urban transformation in Swedish and Norwegian frontrunner and follower municipalities was also empirically studied in the TRANSFORM-project.

Ongoing research: Climate adaptation in the existing urban built environment 2020-

My ongoing research projects directs its main attention to climate adaptation of the urban built environment. While climate adaptation planning and implementation is gradually increasing across the globe, there is a documented gap between what is done and what needs to be done. Accelerated adaptation is therefore required for our societies to meet the challenges imposed by climate change. Cities are both highly vulnerable and important arenas for mobilising climate action. For Swedish cities, climate-proofing the existing built environment has been identified as a key bottleneck. Therefore, my research explores property owner perspectives and the challenges involved in multifunctional adaptation in the existing built environment. This involves finding ways to navigate the current legal distribution of responsibilities, diverse land-ownership patterns and path-dependent urban structures and configurations.

In SAMBO - Support for Actor Collaboration and Multifunctional Adaptation of Residential Areas (Länsförsäkringar 2020-2024) my studies target how ten Swedish early adopter cities seek to proactively manage their climate risks in the urban built environment and find ways forward in practical implementation by means of targeted measures and opportunity-driven measures. The role of multifunctionality in policy and practice is also emphasised. I lead the research project “Making adaptation work: climate governance experiments unlocking inertia for accelerated climate-proofing of the urban built environment” (FORMAS 2024-2026) where attention is directed to how innovative governance experiments contribute to unlocking inertia related to public-private collaboration and co-funding mechanisms in the urban built environment. Case-studies allows us to analyse how governance experiments are set up and progressing in terms of process and output, determinants and how bottlenecks are reconfigured. We also identify policy-lessons in co-creation with policy-actors. Additional ongoing projects are “Where are we heading? Operationalisation, incentivising and follow-up in Swedish national climate adaptation Governance” (FORMAS 2024-2026), which focus on the design and progress of Swedish national adaptation policy mainstreaming. I also play a small role in the project “Towards more climate-robust socially important services: learning from cloudburst impacts on Swedish municipal welfare” (FORMAS 2024-2026 and ”FairWater: Collaborative and fair catchment-based water management - stress testing droughts and floods for resilient multifunctional use of water” (FORMAS 2023-2026).

Research projects



Sofie Storbjörk, Mattias Hjerpe (2022) Stuck in experimentation: exploring practical experiences and challenges of using floating housing to climate-proof waterfront urban development in Sweden Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, Vol. 37, p. 2263-2284 Continue to DOI
Erik Glaas, Mattias Hjerpe, Elin Wihlborg, Sofie Storbjörk (2022) Disentangling municipal capacities for citizen participation in transformative climate adaptation Environmental Policy and Governance, Vol. 32, p. 179-191 Continue to DOI


Sofie Storbjörk, Mattias Hjerpe (2021) Climate-proofing coastal cities: What is needed to go from envisioning to enacting multifunctional solutions for waterfront climate adaptation? Ocean and Coastal Management, Vol. 210, Article 105732 Continue to DOI
Anna Malmquist, Tora Lundgren, Mattias Hjerpe, Erik Glaas, Emily Turner, Sofie Storbjörk (2021) Vulnerability and adaptation to heat waves in preschools: Experiences, impacts and responses by unit heads, educators and parents Climate Risk Management, Vol. 31, Article 100271 Continue to DOI


Sofie Storbjörk, Mattias Hjerpe, Erik Glaas (2019) "Take It or Leave It": From Collaborative to Regulative Developer Dialogues in Six Swedish Municipalities Aiming to Climate-Proof Urban Planning Sustainability, Vol. 11, Article 6739 Continue to DOI



Academic Degree

Environmental Change, Linköping University

Associate professor 
Environmental Change, Linköping University

Doctoral degree

Research platforms

ResearchGate/sofie storbjörk