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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

4.4 How to prioritise adaptation options and select the preferable ones?

Based on the assessment of possible adaptation options, a selection of the most suitable ones should be performed. Most often a multi-criteria analysis can prove useful for ranking and selecting preferred options. A preferred list of adaptation measures should be also agreed with stakeholders.


When it comes to selecting appropriate adaptation measures, a prudent approach begins by recognising that there are several viable options for effective adaptation that at the same time minimise the risks associated with implementation (and are cost-effective) even in the face of associated uncertainties. These options are normally referred to as:

  • No-regrets adaptation measures that are worthwhile whatever the extent of future climate change will be.
  • Low-regrets measures are adaptive measures for which the associated costs are relatively low and for which the benefits, although primarily realised under projected future climate change, may be relatively high.
  • Win-Win options are adaptation measures that have the desired result in terms of minimising the climate risks or exploiting potential opportunities but also have other social, environmental or economic benefits.
  • Flexible or adaptive management options are those options that can be adjusted easily (and with low cost) if circumstances change compared to the projections made.
  • Multiple-benefit options provide synergies with other goals such as mitigation, disaster risk reduction or sustainability (e.g. ecosystem based approaches).

Due to the broad range of potential future climate change impacts and their implicit uncertainties, multiple-benefits, no-regret and low-regret adaptation options should be favoured (see Q0.4 on key principles). Insisting on options with multiple benefits can also facilitate the funding of the related measures by pooling resources and putting the emphasis on shared benefits that outweigh the costs of investments.

In practice there are typically multiple conflicting criteria attached to each adaptation measure that need to be evaluated in making decisions. Multi-criteria Analysis (MCA) describes a structured approach used to determine overall preferences among alternative options where the options accomplish several objectives. In MCA, desirable objectives are specified and corresponding attributes or indicators are identified based on the information elements compiled in Q4.1.

The actual measurement of indicators is often based on quantitative analysis (through scoring, ranking and weighting). Different environmental and social indicators may be developed side by side with economic costs and benefits. Explicit recognition is given to the fact that a variety of both monetary and nonmonetary objectives may influence policy decisions. Links to MCA tools and methodologies for adaptation are listed below.

Involving affected stakeholders (see Q1.6) to discuss and decide on criteria and their weightings for the prioritisation and selection of adaptation options can be useful to identify an appropriate set of options with a high level of acceptance.


EU General information

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International information for cities

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