Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development for Cities

The Earth's climate is changing. And with climate change, cities – and the people who live in cities - face increasing risks from flooding, heat waves and other extreme weather events. Adapting to this change could be decisive for the future of cities. But how to adapt? What are the costs? And how to rank options and measures to make urban infrastructure resilient?

The European research project RAMSES gives answers to these questions. Through understanding city characteristics and climate change impacts on the urban scale, the project assesses risks and vulnerabilities and quantifies the costs and benefits of respective adaptation options.

RAMSES delivers much needed quantified evidence of the impacts of climate change and the costs and benefits of a wide range of soft (e.g. land use planning) and hard (e.g. infrastructure alteration) adaptation measures. RAMSES engages with stakeholders and end-users from the outset to ensure the information is policy relevant and ultimately enables the design and implementation of adaptation strategies in the EU and beyond. RAMSES focuses on climate impacts and adaptation strategies pertinent to urban areas due to their high social and economic importance. Ultimately, RAMSES provides the evidence basis that leads to reduced adaptation costs as well as better understanding and acceptance of adaptation measures in cities.

These ambitious aims of RAMSES are achieved through the following specific objectives:

  • Development and application of methods and tools to assess climate impacts, vulnerability and risks in cities;
  • Methods to quantify the economic costs and benefits of climate change adaptation (via top-down/bottom-up approaches);
  • Assessment of the environmental, social and economic effects related to climate change, at sector level with particular attention to cities which are concentrations of high economic and social importance;
  • Consideration of human responses to adaptation and other drivers of change such as mitigation, demographic change and sustainable development issues - including the investigation of conflicts and synergies between mitigation and adaptation actions;
  • Integration of this knowledge base into decision making in adaptation policy as well as in all other policy and business areas potentially affected by climate change; and,
  • Provision of outputs that enlarge databases of socio-economic data related to climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation.

The RAMSES project aims to develop an advanced methodology for presenting urban impacts and estimates of adaptation costs and benefits using a ‘common currency’. In this way, stakeholders will be able to make direct comparisons across cities and sectors with a specific focus on the financial costs of adaptation. RAMSES will follow two complementary lines: a generalized approach will identify key urban infrastructure and characteristics and their relation to efficiency regarding adaptation and mitigation in agglomerations. This line will be complimented by a detailed, high resolution approach to simulate the effects of climate change for selected case studies. Both will form the basis of a new analysis of the institutional and political context to promote changes and finally the development of city specific transition strategies. Stakeholders within the selected case studies will be included in this process throughout the project duration.

The RAMSES approach will capture ‘top-down’ drivers of change, but also provide the ‘bottom-up’ local context for assessing climate risks and the costs and benefits of adaptation RAMSES will develop cost assessment strategies on the basis of an intermediate complexity systems modelling. This is being done  through the identification of typical categories and functions of urban systems rather than the analysis of each and every component. Climate impacts such as storms, heavy rains, drought, sea level rise or heat waves vary from one location to another. The same holds true for infrastructure and other assets that might be threatened by these impacts. These regional differences in climate and other drivers of change will be identified to establish the ‘top-down’ risks and drivers of change that different European cities, and their regions, may be exposed to. The analyses are complemented by a bottom-up approach, which utilises a well established multi-purpose city model. RAMSES aims to transfer this model category to other places and to show how large cost assessments may differ when comparing bottom-up and top-down approaches. Case Studies, like Antwerp, London, Bilbao or New York support the methodological development in terms of generalisation and standardization aspects.

RAMSES was a five-year project focusing on climate change adaptation planning, including the calculation of climate change-related damage and adaptation costs. Given the overwhelming complexity and diversity of urban centers, rigorous analyses in this context are rare and in most cases not comparable. Therefore, in order to achieve some progress in terms of inter-comparability of approaches and results, and in order to foster action on urban adaptation, the consortium developed analytical frameworks for the implementation of adaptation strategies and measures in EU and international cities. Consequently, the project developed a set of innovative methods and tools that quantify the impacts of climate change and the costs and benefits of adaptation to climate change, thus providing evidence to enable policy makers to design adaptation strategies. It integrates the assessment of impacts
and costs to provide a much more coherent approach than currently exists, exploring the balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches necessary to ensure effective policy making in urban areas.

Overall the project published 38 journal articles (with an additional 10 in press or under review), organised several workshops, conferences, and dissemination activities. In addition to novel scientific approaches and methodological developments, the political and institutional context in case study cities was examined allowed the identification of mechanisms that shape concrete policy making. It became obvious that a shift from pure technical and/or simple cost benefit considerations must occur, and that city stakeholders require a portfolio of options rather than one optimal pathway, with the empowerment of people being a fundamental element in increasing the acceptance of climate change adaptation measures. RAMSES succeeded in creating a variety of valuable scientific and policy-related stimuli which can be built-upon in future projects.

In addition to the Final publishable summary report, other important outcomes include the Transition Handbook and Training Package,  and an Audio-visual guidance tool with over 100 short video interviews “On Urban Resilience”, and the RAMSES Common Platform. Furthermore,  RAMSES Bits: The latest news from RAMSES researchers, Scientific reports, Training materials, and Dissemination materials are all available on the project website.

Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung e.V.(PIK) DE
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)  UK
University of Newcastle upon Tyne (Tyndall Centre), (UNEW)  UK
Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek N.V. (VITO) BE
Fundación Tecnalia Research & Innovation (TECNALIA)  ES
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) NO
T6 Ecosystems s.r.l. - T6 ECO IT
The Climate Centre sprl (TCC) BE
Climate Media Factory UG (CMF)  DE
Institut Veolia Environnement (IVE) FR
Universite de Versailles Saint-quentin-en-yvelines  (UVSG) FR
WHO Europe International
ICLEI Europe Europe