Transitions Pathways and Risk Analysis for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies


TRANSrisk is an EU-funded research project studying the risks and uncertainties within low carbon transition pathways, and how transitions can be implemented in ways that are technically, economically and sociably feasible. The project’s objective is to produce a new assessment framework, and an accompanying toolbox, for policy makers. TRANSrisk aims to assess low emission transition pathways that are technically and economically feasible and acceptable from a social and environmental viewpoint. TRANSrisk brings together quantitative models and qualitative approaches, focusing on participatory consultations with stakeholders as a link between the approaches.

To achieve Paris Agreement targets low carbon technologies need to be deployed on a massive scale, alongside energy efficiency and behavioural change measures. But carbon cuts cannot be delivered at the expense of everything else – the economies of tomorrow need to be dynamic, productive and low carbon.

Transition pathways set out how we can get from the economies of today to the low carbon economies of tomorrow. Risks and opportunities exist in every low carbon transition. These need to be identified and planned for - successful transitions will avoid or mitigate risks whilst making the most of opportunities.

TRANSrisk is studying the risks and uncertainties within low carbon transition pathways, and how transitions can be implemented in ways that are technically, economically and sociably feasible. The project will produce a new assessment framework, with accompanying tools, for policy makers.

TRANSrisk’s main objectives are to:

  • Create a novel assessment framework that incorporates risk and uncertainty into analysis of the costs and benefits of transition pathways and resulting policy design.
  • Design a decision support toolbox that helps policy makers better understand policy-related uncertainties and risks, and informs robust policy design.

In order to achieve these objectives we aim to:

  • Use stakeholder engagement to identify potential synergies, constraints and risks associated with alternative policy strategies and transition pathways.
  • Explore synergies and conflicts between energy system pathways and other societal objectives, including sustainable development, health, and green growth.
  • Examine the effects of alternative policy pathways on innovation dynamics.
  • Identify risks associated with different mitigation pathways, such as:
    • Risk of failure. Where do the risks of failure lie in a policy approach and what are the conditions that affect the chances of success?
    • Public acceptance. What factors associated with particular technologies and technological systems determine their acceptability amongst the public?
    • Economic risks. What are the economic risks within a particular policy? Can these risks be identified and mitigated by modelling energy (and other) systems under multiple scenarios using a number of different core assumptions?

TRANSrisk’s work programme focuses on 4 key areas:

Stakeholders Engagement & Participatory Scenario Development

Stakeholders are people working in the area of study, for example industry representatives, regulators and NGOs. In TRANSrisk stakeholders provide the link between theory and practice: we are using their insights to guide our theoretical, qualitative and quantitative modelling and analysis. We engage with them through means such as workshops, focus groups and individual interviews, where they help us test assumptions for quantitative models and assess synergies, conflicts, and risks of transition pathways. The stakeholder engagement work of our partners is being supported by development of a range of stakeholder engagement frameworks, expert-driven qualitative methodologies and supporting tools.

Synergies & Conflicts

TRANSrisk is investigating the co-effects of low-emission pathways in other dimensions of sustainable development, such as access to energy, security of supply, air quality, and impacts on water, land use and ecosystems. During the first year of the project this work focused on assessing the economic implications of policy inaction, including the role of permafrost thawing and the implications of an abrupt loss of Arctic summer sea ice. Following this work, synergies and conflicts are now being explored between different energy system pathways and other societal objectives.

Innovation Policies & Transition Pathways

Innovation for a low emission future often takes place along complex pathways with many different actors and incentives. TRANSrisk is investigating the potential action (or inactions) of multiple actors under different socio-economic and socio-technical scenarios, linking closely with our stakeholder engagement work. The micro-level implications of key technological and institutional options will be integrated with the results of macro-level economic and policy analyses. To assist with this work we have developed an enhanced stakeholder tool, alongside a systematic approach to explore key stakeholders’ position in value chains and their interests and capabilities to influence innovation and transition pathways.

Assessing Uncertainties & Risks

It is well known that climate change itself will impose many risks upon society, but there is much less understanding of the opposite situation - risks that different climate policies may impose upon society. TRANSrisk will expand our understanding of these risks, and how their perception by various interest groups and the public constrain different transition pathways. To provide a starting point for this analysis we have carried out a thorough literature review of risks and uncertainties associated with climate mitigation options.

TRANSrisk’s key output include a new framework, with accompanying tools, to help policy and other decision makers evaluate low carbon technology options. The framework covers the environmental, economic and social impacts of these technologies.

On our way to achieving this output improved scientific understanding of how low carbon transition pathways can be implemented across multiple sectors and geographical areas (14 case studies in the EU as well as Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia and Kenya).

Ultimately, TRANSrisk’s outputs help policy and decision makers implement more effective climate change policy, and improve their understanding of the costs, benefits, risks and uncertainties of rolling out low carbon technologies. Through our dissemination efforts we hope to assist the review of the EC’s “Roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy by 2050”, and contribution to major international scientific assessments and climate change discussions.

Information on the TRANSrisk's results can be found on the project's website.

Science Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex (SPRU) UK
Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) ES
Cambridge Econometrics (CE) UK
Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) NL
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) CH
Institute for Structural Research (IBS) PL
Joint Implementation Network (JIN) NL
National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) GR
Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) SE,KE
University of Graz (UniGraz) AT
Technoeconomics of Energy and Environmental Sytems laboratory, University of Piraeus Research Centre (UPRC - TEES Lab) GR
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (CLAPESUC) CL