Climate change adaptation - Detailed Steps

STAGE 1 Understand the context and objectives

Engage with relevant internal and external stakeholders, for example by arranging a meeting or workshop in the first instance, to:

  • Develop high level climate change adaptation and resilience goals
  • Compile an infrastructure inventory that identifies critical assets, operations and systems, and highlights their current status
  • Establish adaptation roles and responsibilities
  • Set specific adaptation and resilience objectives, recognising boundaries, constraints and possible opportunities

Don’t forget!

  • As well as port or waterway infrastructure, operations and systems, climate change could affect onward transport, energy or water supplies, emergency or other services, other water users, local communities, and so on: collaborating not only with relevant port or waterway departments but also with other organisations can help to identify mutually beneficial solutions and therefore to reduce adaptation costs
  • Climate change adaptation can include modifying existing assets, operations or systems to strengthen their resilience and improve their ability to ‘bounce back’ after an event
  • In order to understand whether a particular asset, operation or system is critical in climate change adaptation terms, think about business continuity needs; transport or other network connectivity issues; threshold exceedances; or health and safety requirements, amongst others
  • The status of an asset or system (e.g. its elevation, design or residual life, condition, and operational thresholds) will influence its future adaptive capacity. Awareness of these characteristics – based on monitoring outcomes where appropriate – is vital to support climate change adaptation decision making
  • Adaptation and resilience objectives should reflect the level of risk deemed ‘acceptable’ (e.g. the frequency and magnitude of disruption/incidents that the organization can handle without significant implications)

To see the suggested (detailed) stepwise approach for Stage 2, click HERE

STAGE 2 Understand climate-related impacts

Work with key stakeholders to collate information and develop an understanding of projected changes in relevant climate-related parameters:

  • Highlight the weather, hydro-meteorological or oceanographic parameters to which critical assets, operations or systems are sensitive (e.g. rainfall, water level, waves, wind, fog, heat, snow or ice); indicate how frequently asset performance is already affected, for example by extreme events
  • Identify and review projected future changes in these parameters using global or regional information; refer to locally-relevant downscaled data if these exist but acknowledge any uncertainties and data inadequacies
  • Understand how the projected changes could affect the critical infrastructure (i.e. identify potential impact mechanisms)
  • Implement monitoring to understand local trends in key parameters and to inform future decision making

Don’t forget!  

  • In addition to projected long-term changes (trends) in relevant weather-related, hydro-meteorological or oceanographic parameters, take into account potential increases in the frequency or severity of extreme events, and possible joint occurrences
  • To reduce the risk of implementing a measure that subsequently proves inadequate or excessive (known as ‘maladaptation’) it is recommended that a range of plausible climate change scenarios be developed and used to inform decision-making. As a minimum, these should include ‘most likely’ and ‘worst case’ scenarios

To see the suggested (detailed) stepwise approach for Stage 2, click HERE.

STAGE 3 Understand vulnerabilities and risks

Work with relevant stakeholders to identify and assess the potential risks to critical infrastructure assets, operations and systems:

  • Consider the exposure of the asset or operation: does its location or setting mean it is at risk?
  • Consider the vulnerability of each critical asset or operation: could it be adversely affected if climate parameters change?
  • Think about existing and future adaptive capacity and whether there is a need to strengthen resilience
  • Explore the possible financial/economic, environmental and social consequences of each climate change scenario; understand the potential costs and consequences of inaction (i.e. doing nothing to adapt) and when these consequences might be expected
  • Prepare an overview of the main risks to critical infrastructure assets, operations and systems

Don’t forget!

  • Risk assessment can be simple or complex: yes/no answers may be adequate; stakeholders can often make a useful contribution; expert judgement has a role
  • Change in climate-related parameters can have consequences for coastal, fluvial, pluvial or groundwater flood frequency; extreme high or low river flows; severe sea conditions; sediment or debris transport; extremes of heat or cold (ice, snow); visibility factors, etc. as well as for ecology and water chemistry
  • Adaptive capacity is a function of (i) the redundancy available in the system such as design overcapacity or operational flexibility; (ii) infrastructure design life or residual asset life; (iii) level of exposure to threats due to asset location, elevation or depth, etc. and (iv) availability of alternatives
  • If no adaptation action is taken, future costs could include infrastructure repair or replacement, but disruption and downtime also have cost implications. An awareness of such costs can help inform adaptation decisions
  • Preparing a colour-coded matrix, highlighting the main risks, can be a useful aid to decision making

To see the suggested (detailed) stepwise approach for Stage 3, click HERE.

STAGE 4 Identify and implement measures

Work with relevant stakeholders to identify, evaluate, implement and then monitor measures to strengthen resilience or adapt to projected changes in key climate-related parameters:

  • Where unacceptable risks are highlighted, identify possible short-term/interim and long-term measures: reference should be made to the portfolio of measures for ideas
  • Consider preparing a long list of potential options and then using a screening process to focus in on measures deserving more detailed assessment
  • Develop, agree and apply option evaluation criteria and select preferred measures
  • Prepare an adaptation plan, strategy or programme for implementation: adaptation is likely to be a phased exercise
  • Develop monitoring programmes and ensure data management is in place and effective: this will help to ensure decisions on when action is needed are well-informed and allow adaptation effectiveness to be understood

Don’t forget!

  • Climate change introduces new challenges so innovative or non-conventional solutions can sometimes be the best ones: think about operational changes, educational initiatives, policy or governance measures and nature-based solutions as well as more traditional structural, physical or technological options
  • Prioritise maintenance to maximise resilience, improve adaptive capacity
  • Retrofitting can be costly and complex; the residual life of an asset will help inform decisions on how and when to adapt. It is always important to understand where adaptive capacity already exists within the system
  • Flexible, adaptive management solutions informed by monitoring can help deal with uncertainties; temporary or interim measures can ‘buy time’ to investigate long term solutions; win-win options or low-regrets measures can be cost-effective; measures taken at a strategic level may be more effective than measures taken on-site; use the business case to justify the incremental cost of climate-resilience
  • The option evaluation process can be simple or complex; a checklist may be adequate; stakeholders can contribute; expert judgement also has a role
  • Conventional methodologies (modelling of return periods; discounting) may not be the most appropriate for use in climate change decision making
  • Monitoring does not always need to be sophisticated as long as it is fit-for-purpose

To see the suggested (detailed) stepwise approach for Stage 4, click HERE.