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uast_logo_4 Preparing the ground for adaptation Assessing risks and vulnerabilities to climate change Identifying adaptation options Assessing adaptation options Implementation Monitoring and evaluation


Assessing and selecting adaptation options

4.1 Choosing an assessment framework for adaptation options

To allow a good comparison of different adaptation options and a good communication with and among decision makers, each adaptation option (see Step 3.2) needs to be assessed based on agreed criteria. There are many criteria that can be used to assess the suitability of possible options, for example, effectiveness in reducing vulnerability, impact on sustainability or costs. It is advisable to coordinate adaptation options’ assessment across a wide range of political, legal, and institutional actors to increase synergies and avoid cross-sectoral maladaptation. Fact sheets are a useful method for the presentation of the results.

Decision makers should aim for "win-win" (adaptation actions that deliver the desired result in terms of minimising the climate risks or exploiting potential opportunities but also have significant contribution to another social, environmental or economic goal) or at least "no-regret" (worthwhile whatever the extent of future climate change will be) adaptation options. Each option needs to be assessed in two ways: a) to which extent will the option help to achieve the adaptation target and b) what are the impacts on broader social and environmental aspects. The assessment should focus on the following:

  • The urgency of the climate hazard or risk that the option aims to mitigate. Some adaptation actions will be suited for the implementation in the short term to address urgent risks or opportunities; others will require lengthy preparation and planning.
  • Performance against general and wider objectives and avoidance of maladaptation. Maladaptation refers to a situation when actions do not achieve their aims or cause side-effects that impede adaptation elsewhere or in the future. For example, building a dyke in one location can cause more flooding in another location and might prove inadequate protection for the flood levels of the future.
  • Deliverability and feasibility. Options that score highly on other aspects but are hard to deliver, are not always preferred.
  • The governance implications of the measure. For example, the alignment with and amendments to the existing governance structures, necessity to establish new governance structures or processes.
  • Social considerations, i.e. the equality of protection against climate hazards as a result of a given adaptation option and its impacts on social inclusion and cohesion. Unequal adaptation options distribute the benefits of adaptation un-equally across society and exacerbate existing social inequalities. For example, increasing the price of water to promote efficiency as a solution for drought, has the potential to disproportionately impact low-income housing, exacerbating inequality within the region. Where possible remedial action should be built in to lessen negative social impacts. Options that provide ancillary social benefits (as is the case often for green spaces) should be appraised favourably.
  • Stakeholders may be able to co-finance or arrange financing through existing funding streams. Alternatively, EU, national government or private investment may be available to cover the costs of implementation (see Step 1.5).
  • Costs and Benefits. Ideally a full cost-benefit analysis (CBA) should be carried out. However, given the uncertainty and long-time scales of adaptation, traditional CBA is not always possible or applicable. If non-monetary benefits and diverging preferences are to  be included in the assessment, Multi-Criteria analysis can provide more holistic assessment results (see Step 4.3).
  • Environmental considerations. Options should be appraised for their impact on the environment, including their contribution to improving or worsening GHG emissions, water quality, soil quality and biodiversity. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (Directive 2014/52/EU) provides a framework for undertaking such an assessment.

Adaptation to climate change is a cross-cutting issue, which, if  implemented uncoordinated within separate sectors and policy areas, can lead to negative mutual trade-offs, cancel each other out, or miss the opportunities to use potential synergies. In order to improve the coordination and increase the efficiency of adaptation planning and maximise the cross-sectoral synergies, a wide range of institutional and civil stakeholders should ideally be involved in the setting of criteria, assessment of adaptation options, as well as in the subsequent prioritisation (see Step 4.3).

The results of the assessment can be described in concise option factsheets, started with the creation of a catalogue (see Step 3.1) that do not contain too much technical detail, but rather give a quick overview easily understood by non-experts. These fact-sheets can be very useful later for the prioritisation exercise (see Step 4.3). Information within the factsheets should be provided at least on the following points:

  • Adaptation option description
  • Which climate change impact(s) does the option address
  • The potential to reduce vulnerability to the identified climate change impact(s), effectiveness, flexibility to be upgraded or downgraded if necessary
  • Spatial scope, visual mapping
  • Information on whether stakeholder participation is needed or recommended and which type of stakeholders should be involved
  • Success and limiting factors (based on own experience or other cases)
  • Costs (implementing and operational) and economic benefits expressed in monetary terms
  • Social and environmental co-benefits or disbenefits, necessary remedial action
  • Financial resources required, investment timing and sources of funding
  • Time frame for planning and implementation until fully functional, operating lifetime
  • Responsibility for implementation and maintenance within the municipality departments or other institutions
  • Interlinkages with other proposed adaptation options, interchangeability, combinability
  • Reference information