Urban planning has played a central role in efforts for enhancing urban climate and disaster resilience, with global narratives emphasising formal mechanisms as a key tool. Master plans, city development plans and land use plans have helped build resilience by determining what is built (i.e. development control), how it is built (i.e. design control) and where it is built (i.e. location control). However, we contend that this approach is flawed in many cities of the world where large numbers of people in urban centres at risk of climate change live in informal settlements and are dependent on the informal economy for livelihoods. We argue that to bring a comprehensive vision of urban resilience to life, it is crucial that planners embrace informal knowledge, actors and practices. Balancing a focus on formal planning with a greater understanding of informality will deliver effective pathways for enhancing urban resilience.