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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 What are the main aspects of adaptation measures that need to be assessed in order to choose the most appropriate ones for my city or town?

To allow a good comparison of different adaptation options and a good communication with and among decision makers each adaptation option should be described based on criteria. There are many criteria that can be used to assess the suitability of possible options, for example effectiveness in reducing vulnerability (or enhancing resilience) impact on sustainability or costs. Different sets of criteria have been used to assess different adaptation options. Fact sheets are a useful method for the presentation of the results.


Decision makers should aim for ‘win-win' or at least ‘no-regret' adaptation options. Each option needs to be assessed in two ways: a) to which extent will the option help to achieve the set adaptation target and b) what are the impacts of the measure on social and environmental issues. The assessment should focus on the following:

  • Performance against general and wider objectives to avoid mal-adaptation. Mal-adaptation refers to when options 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.
  • The urgency of the potential climate hazard or risk that the measure aims to mitigate. Some adaptation measures will be suited for the implementation in the short term to address urgent risks or opportunities; others will require lengthy preparation and planning.
  • Deliverability and feasibility. Options that score highly in the assessment; but are hard to deliver or implement, are not always preferred. Particular consideration should be given to the strengths of delivery partners within the region so that preferred options can be easily and quickly implemented.
  • The governance implications of the measure. For example, the requirement for interaction with and amendments to the existing governance structures, necessity to establish new governance structures or processes.
  • Social considerations. Influence of the option on equality, social inclusion and cohesion. Options that have wider ancillary benefits should be appraised favourably. Unequal adaptation options distribute the benefits of adaptation un-equally across society and especially exacerbate existing social inequalities. For example, increasing the price of water to promote efficiency has the potential to disproportionately impact low-income housing, exacerbating inequality within the region.
  • Financing. 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 Q1.4). Options for joint-funding should be explored and exploited.
  • Cost and Benefits. Ideally a full cost-benefit analysis (CBA) should be carried out. Given the uncertainty and long-time scales of adaptation, traditional CBA is not always possible or appropriate. (see also Q4.2 How do I carry out a cost-benefit analysis?)
  • 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 an assessment of a concrete adaptation project's environmental impact and vulnerability of the project to risks of major accidents and/or disasters w relevant to the project concerned.

One and the same measure can score high on some and low on other aspects of the evaluation. For example, increasing the use of air conditioning as an adaptation to higher temperatures in the workplace might cause additional demand for GHG emitting energy production, exacerbate climate change and put additional strain on water resources needed for cooling in energy production processes. Thus, it is unsustainable in the long term and cause negative environmental impacts as well as might cause social inequality issues if the cooling is more readily available for some population groups than others. It conflicts with the aims of other policy areas. Therefore, it would score low on several points in the evaluation, even if it might score positively in deliverability and financing.

The results of the assessment could be described in concise factsheets that would not contain too many technical details, but rather give a quick overview to be understood by non-experts. Information within the factsheets should be provided at least on the following points:

  • Adaptation option description
  • Information if stakeholder participation is needed
  • Success and limiting factors (based on own experience or other cases)
  • Costs (implementing and operational) and benefits expressed in monetary terms
  • Spatial scope
  • Financial resources required and sources of funding
  • Time frame for planning and implementation until fully functional
  • Responsibility for implementation within the municipality departments or other institutions
  • Reference information

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