15th RAMSES newsletter

Table of contents

Welcome to the fifteenth RAMSES Newsletter!

  I) RAMSES research news

  • Cost assessment framework for prioritising and financing adaptation decisions
  • RAMSES transition model and its application in the city of Antwerp
  • Application of detailed systems-based risk analysis and production of final synthesis report 

II) Latest RAMSES publications


I) RAMSES research

Cost assessment framework for prioritising and financing adaptation decisions   

Developing more climate-resilient cities is necessarily becoming a greater priority for governments and businesses. And increasing investment flows for adaptation is without question a major financing challenge. In order to utilise limited public finance resources and mobilise private finance effectively, city governments will need appropriate processes and resources for sound investment planning and execution. Despite this, most cities lack the tools for performing economic assessments of damages, adaptation, and financing options. To help policy makers make adaptation decisions more effectively and efficiently, a cost assessment framework has been developed that follows a hierarchical approach for prioritising and financing adaptation. The RAMSES Transition Handbook and the Urban Adaptation Support (UAS) tool represent a comprehensive process for dealing with adaptation decision-making that include social, political, technical, environmental, economic and other considerations. The cost framework is designed to provide much of the economic and financial assessment for the Transition Handbook, specifically supporting phases 2 to 5 of the RAMSES UAS tool.

The cost assessment framework is divided into three key iterative phases that follow a hierarchical process across four levels: describing the UAS phases 2 to 5 (level 1), quantifying costs (level 2), cost assessment methods and financing mechanisms (level 3) and a range of inputs (level 4). The three phases define a procedure for [1] assessing risks and vulnerability based on damage costs, [2] identifying and assessing adaptation options based on their economic net benefits, and [3] planning and implementing city investments. Figure 1 describes the costs assessment framework, including its relation with the RAMSES UAT Tool. 

Figure 1 Cost assessment framework for adaptation in cities

Part of the difficulty in performing cost and benefit assessments for climate impacts and adaptation investments relates to factors including (but not restricted to) uncertainty (e.g, related to the timing and severity of the climate change/event; the assets, systems and people who will be exposed, the scale of the damage, and the prices to mitigate against the damage and to restore/rehabilitate, etc.); the cost-optimal timing of the investment; and thresholds or tipping-points after which damage scales dramatically and adaptation measures are ineffective. The long-term, multivariate, and probabilistic nature of climate change assessments makes perfect knowledge impossible. The damage cost and adaptation benefit assessment methodologies presented in the cost assessment framework provide decision-makers with better guidance on the right tools and processes to prepare cost-effective adaptation strategies given the inherent information limitations.

At the same time, policy-makers tasked with determining how to implement adaptation options deemed worthwhile from their economic benefits will be influenced by the available local government finance or likelihood of finance instruments becoming available and ability of local government to influence finance flows from other public sources; and ability for investments to be borne by private actors based on the private and public co-benefits realised. Without this knowledge related to financing, a full determination of which options to prioritise cannot be completed. 

The framework offers guidance to understanding finance mechanisms available at the city level and their application to adaptation projects. An analysis of the literature identifies major finance instruments and funding models, to provide: A) main barriers to financing urban adaptation; B) sources of finance that can be mobilized; and C) finance actions by local actors: raising, steering or blending finance mechanisms to overcome the barriers and access finance.

The RAMSES Transition Model and its application in the city of Antwerp

One important aspect for adaptation planning and the transition to a resilient city is flexibility. Adaptation requires multiple actions to be taken that are managed over time and supported by various methods and tools. In this context, RAMSES has adopted the pathway approach to stimulate the European urban strategies for transition towards more sustainable urban development and resilient cities. The RAMSES transition model (see Figure 2) includes the required elements to become a tool to support the decision (of the stakeholders handling sustainability, resilience and climate change adaptation) and helps gaining urban resilience. Two main challenges are addressed by RAMSES: (i) identifying the key components of the pathway (which are already mentioned in the literature); and (ii) defining a step-by-step methodology for its design (different authors describes superficially the pathway approach and therefore there is a lack of a clear step-by-step methodology proposal).

The defined step-by-step methodology can be applied in different level of concretion: it can be applied quickly with less resolution (high level adaptation pathway), without existing empirical data or information and involving a small group of stakeholders; or it can be applied with high specificity and high resolution in order to develop a detailed adaptation pathway. The latter contains more detailed analysis, involves more experts and goes deeper into the pathway design.

The presented methodology contains 5 general steps: define objectives, pre-identify an adaptation options list, develop adaptation pathway alternatives, recommend an adaptation pathway, and implement the recommended pathway and monitor. These general steps are supported by the following sub-steps:

  • Analysis of the system (vulnerability & risks) and threshold definition (for the general step ”objectives”); 
  • Review existing plans to identify adaptation assets, identify new options that complements the previous ones and characterize the adaptation options (for the general step “adaptation options”); 
  • Group options, assess effectiveness and efficiency, sequence over time and identify tipping points (for the general step “develop pathway alternatives”); 
  • Prioritisation and ranking (for the general step “recommend pathway”); 
  • Mainstreaming and monitor indicators (for the general step “implement and monitor”).



Figure 2  Adaptation Pathway approach followed in RAMSES (Source D8.2, Mendizabal, M. et al., 2016a)


This step-by-step methodology has been validated through two main activities and applied in one city (Antwerp). The validation resulted in a more open Stakeholder Dialogue and other with direct invitations from across different sectors of London as well as other cities close to London (in collaboration with the London Climate Change Partnership). As a result of both activities, the present methodological approach has been validated and the inputs from the validation have been included into the methodology. 

The Antwerp case study analyses the heat effect in health and work productivity. Three exposed elements (individuals, buildings and city) and the relationship between them are considered, which need to be considered together, as the adaptation measures applied at one level affect the others. As conclusion, the need of assessing the effectiveness of the adaptation options and monitoring climate events that impact on mortality, morbidity or even work productivity (absences, days off work) has been detected as key components. This information will be an input for the pathway and will force to adjust it according to the evidences.

The pathway approach complements existing planning approaches as it is an input to develop long-term planning. The presented approach is an additional tool for the Urban Adaptation Support Tool which gives the required flexibility to develop a dynamic adaptation plan.

One important aspect for this transition model is the flexibility, that is, the model has been built with flexibility through a combination of different alternatives: consider the implementation of adaptation options in near-term, while leaving open the possibility to implement additional complementary options in the future. This allows stakeholders to monitor and learn before making a major investment.


Application of detailed systems-based risk analysis and production of final synthesis report

In order to plan effectively for climate change adaptation, cities must first understand the risk they face from changing climate hazards and the effectiveness of potential adaptation options available to them. The RAMSES project has developed a tool for decision-makers called the Urban Adaptation Support Tool (UAST) which assists with the adaptation planning process from assessing risks and vulnerability through to assessing adaptation options and planning investments (see article on cost assessment framework above).

Work Package 3 of RAMSES has focussed on models and tools to assess the risk and impact of climate events on urban areas, from both a top-down continent-wide and a bottom-up city-specific perspective. The city-scale analysis has developed a framework to simulate the impacts from extreme rainfall and subsequent pluvial flooding on urban systems, particularly transport infrastructure. This methodology allows the assessment of climate risk as a function of hazard (the severity of future rainfall and thus pluvial flooding), exposure (the spatial intersection of flooding with important urban infrastructure), and vulnerability (the level of disruption and damage for a given hazard). 

Pluvial flooding can be affected by a number of factors including the volume and Intensity of rainfall, urban topography, condition and capacity of drainage systems, the permeability of surface materials, and the capacity of soil to absorb water. Some of these factors adapted to manage urban flood hazards. In addition, there are three basic adaptation approaches to protect infrastructure: Retreat, avoiding development in high-risk areas; Protect, installation of hard and soft measures to protect transport infrastructure or mobility such as additional drainage, flood walls or green spaces; or Accommodate, adapting the use and operation of infrastructure. Estimating the need for adaptation, the effectiveness of options, and the costs of such interventions is crucial to improved planning. Priority areas for imposing adaptation strategies should be identified according to criticality, costs, and difficulty of increasing resilience through the use of risk assessments.

Figure 3 shows the simulation process used by RAMSES to identify the effectiveness of different adaptation options in reducing the impact of pluvial flooding on transport infrastructure. Using the Source-Pathway-Receptor model allows a holistic urban flood risk management approach, with the simulation of adaptation measures implemented at the source of the flooding (e.g. reducing the flood depths for a given rainfall intensity), along the pathway of the flood water (e.g. managing the depth or velocity of surface run-off), or the receptor of the impact (e.g. improving the ability of a given section of transport infrastructure to cope with inundation by flood water). Green adaptation options can be implemented at source or pathway, and are simulated in the CityCAT flood model for the RAMSES case study city of London. Grey adaptation options are simulated at transport network links, reducing the vulnerability of those links to a given flood level. Soft adaptation options reduce criticality of transport infrastructure by reorganizing the operation of infrastructure.

Figure 3 Simulation of different adaptation interventions to reduce pluvial flood risk.

The framework was used to test a number of adaptation options and assess the effectiveness of modelling of this kind in informing adaptation planning. A set of city-scale land-use planning scenarios were simulated for London using CityCAT to determine the impact of urban greenspace and roof storage or reducing flood impacts to transport infrastructure. Alongside these green adaptation measures, the testing of hard adaptation options was also demonstrated by reducing the vulnerability of road links to flood conditions. 

These simulations showed that current greenspace in the city is responsible for reducing the flood risk to the transport infrastructure by around 16%, and the cost of disruption by around 23%. Comprehensive implementation of roof storage across the city is shown to reduce flood impacts by up to 32%, whilst the installation of city-wide permeable paving in conjunction with roof storage could reduce disruption by as much as 72%. Hard adaptation was tested by targeting the most critical links in the network to protect them from flood damage. It was shown that protecting only the 100 most critical links in the network had the potential to reduce overall network disruption by nearly 10%.

Deliverable 3.4 shows how city-scale models can be used to assess the impact of extreme weather events on urban systems, and to prioritise and test the effectiveness of potential adaptation measures. The results of this type of analysis can be used to inform the UAST and allow cities to better plan responses to climate change. In combination with other modelling work in RAMSES, the co-benefits and economic costs of such approaches can be assessed, giving decision-makers new tools for adaptation planning.

II) Latest RAMSES publications

Heidrich, Oliver, et al. "How do cities support electric vehicles and what difference does it make?." Technological Forecasting and Social Change (2017). doi: 10.1016/j.techfore.2017.<wbr>05.026 (in press)

Lenk, Stephan, et al. "Costs of sea dikes–regressions and uncertainty estimates." Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 17.5 (2017): 765-779. doi: 10.5194/nhess-17-765-2017

Rybski, Diego, et al. "Cities as nuclei of sustainability?" Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science 44.3 (2017): 425-440. doi: 10.1177/0265813516638340

Zhou, Bin, Diego Rybski, and Jürgen P. Kropp. "The role of city size and urban form in the surface urban heat island." Scientific Reports 7.1 (2017): 4791. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-04242-<wbr>2

Europe The work leading to these results has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreement No. 308497
Project RAMSES - Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development for Cities.