In 2019, Think City, in collaboration with UN-Habitat, Ministry of Environment and Water (now known as Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change), Penang State Government, Penang Island City Council, Department of Irrigation and Drainage, and Yayasan Hasanah, initiated the first urban climate adaptation programme for Malaysia, the Nature-based Climate Adaptation Programme for the Urban Areas of Penang Island.
In 2020, the programme won the Climathon Global Cities Award for the best urban climate programme in the world after being shortlisted alongside Miami, USA; Salvador, Brazil; Khartoum, Sudan; and Dublin, Ireland. The prize money was allocated to the Climate-resilient Urban Tree Species Study for Malaysia, which sought to identify species that can withstand the expected changes in weather patterns across the country and, therefore, help prevent widespread tree mortality.
An Experts’ Workshop was held to compile knowledge of 251 tree species and evaluate their suitability for several landscape types based on anticipated climatic conditions for Malaysia. The methods model those applied by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in a study assessing the climate change resilience of selected tree species to support ‘climate-proof’ restoration in Indonesian Borneo. Since a lot of the knowledge and experience concerning trees and their management is stored in the minds of practitioners, not all the information gathered is available in published sources.
While the Atlas of Climate Resilient Tree Species (ACResT) contains the data from the study, it was developed to encourage a wider group of experts to record the characteristics of and impacts on more tree species in the country, including those with the capacity to adapt to climate change. As a living document, it enables open collaboration and faster, unrestricted information dissemination while monitored by a moderator. It aims to pave the way for more effective urban planning by including climate-resilient tree species, resulting in higher-quality urban spaces.