Module 1: Preparing the Vulnerability Assessment

As a starting point, the information gathered in module 0 about relevant hazards for the city and background information about their past occurrences and the increasing risks related to climate change effects will have been communicated, discussed, and informally assessed in the kick-off meeting. This may also have served to identify relevant missing information and to task experts with gathering further relevant input and carrying out analyses to be utilised during the prospected process.

Your major objective of this module is to find a common agreement with the initial party of participants and relevant stakeholders of the vulnerability assessment process on the overall objectives and scope. The group should also come to an agreement on the final set of participants including their roles and responsibilities and should identify the target au- dience of the project.

The key information and decisions addressed in this preparatory phase include:

  • a decision about the managerial approach of the project;
  • an overview of relevant institutions and individuals, within or outside of the project;
  • key strategic documents of the organisations involved (programme documents, sector strategies, community or national development plans);
  • preliminary information on adaptation priorities, plans, strategies, and on-going or planned adaptation measures;
  • information on climatic conditions, past extreme events, climate change projections as well as potential climate change impacts;
  • information on socio-economic conditions (livelihoods, education, health issues, natu- ral resource dependency, ); and
  • information on the sectors that shall be addressed in the risk considerations (social, cultural, economic, health, ).

Overall, module 1 comprises the following steps for the preparation of the subsequent risk- based vulnerability assessment process.


Step 1.1: Understand the context of the risk-based vulnerability assessment


Overall, in this step 1.1 of module 1 you will address and clarify the following issues:

  • At what stage of adaptation planning is the assessment taking place?
  • Are there already results of vulnerability or impact assessments for your topic or region?
  • What are the development and adaptation priorities (if already defined)?
  • How will the assessment process be organized (managerial/social approach, staffing)?
  • Who will become the owner of the assessment results?

The first three questions may already have found partial answers within module 0 and may have been discussed and further clarified with participants in the context of the kick-off meeting. If the choice of the managerial approach and/or the staffing of the management positions have not been finally resolved around the kick-off meeting, then it should be brought to a decision as soon as possible.

Another important decision regards the ownership of results. We suggest identifying the eventual ‘owner’ of the VA results at the outset. This owner, which will most likely be an organisation or department, should ensure that all necessary rights are obtained to utilise the available data in the envisioned way and to publish results based on this data.


Step 1.2: Identify the objectives and expected outcomes



In step 1.2 you will be addressing the following issues:

  • What do you and key stakeholders wish to learn from the assessment?
  • Which other processes will the vulnerability assessment support or feed into?
  • Who is the target audience for the results of the vulnerability assessment?

At a first view, you may think that these questions look to be quite general. Nevertheless, making explicit answers to these questions and writing them down will greatly facilitate a common and motivating understanding within the project team. For example this may include useful outputs to fulfil reporting requirements of the city or links to wider civil con- tingencies/protection activities.

It will be interesting for you and all participants to receive feedback from every participant about their particular expectations of what they wish to learn from the assessment. Given their different professional backgrounds and pre-existing knowledge about vulnerability assessment and climate change, their expectations will be different in terms of topic and level of detail.

Related projects or processes, such as superordinate climate change-related policies, action plans or laws, may have been the triggering reason for conducting this vulnerability assess- ment. As such, national or federal agencies or ministries will be interested in its results.

You should clarify and formulate a statement from within the project about its major tar- get audiences. It is very important to make this explicit and clear, as it will oblige you with regard to reports and communication. Be aware that every audience will expect to be ad- dressed in particular ways. The city council will demand formal reports while the general public will want to see you concerned and enthusiastic. So, it can be important to be re- served in the selection and number of your target audiences. You will ultimately need this information in module 6 again.


Step 1.3: Determine the scope of the risk-based vulnerability assessment


After initial considerations in module 0, step 1.3 will, for the first time, exactly define and confirm the scope of the assessment process. You will find answers to these questions:

  • Do we need spatial results?
  • Do we need qualitative or quantitative results?
  • What is the exact study area of the vulnerability assessment: which geographical area will be considered, usually consisting of multiple regions such as a city with surround- ing area or city
  • What spatial resolution will the assessment take into account?
  • Which topics (sectors, groups) should the vulnerability assessment cover, considering the hazards identified in module 0?
  • Which expertise and respective participants (e.g. relevant stakeholders) should be in- cluded in the project team?

Climate change impacts do not halt or change at virtual or real spatial borders such as the city limit or the greater urban district. However, you must take a decision about the pro- ject’s territory. There is a good chance that you will get involved in highly political processes and debates about this issue. During the process, a document with arguments for consider- ing narrower or larger territories should be brought forward. This may become very helpful later should debates arise about possible influences that might exist between the selected area and its surroundings or components.

The selected spatial resolution will depend on the availability of respective data, as well as on time and human resources to be spent on the project. Also relevant are any policy documents it should be linked with, such as a city master plan or a local development plan. The type of hazard considered may also have an influence on the selection of the spatial resolution. For instance, a severe drought will affect the whole territory uniformly, so its impact will be defined by the sensitivities and coping capacities of the concerned objects. Flooding will have more local impacts: If a detailed elevation model exists for the territory, you can quite exactly determine the exposure to flooding.

It will greatly simplify a structured and consistent assessment if you discern potential ef- fects of climate change on different sectors. This will provide a better focus later when thinking of possible impacts and constructing impact chains. For instance, exposure relat- ed to human population could discern between

  • Total population
  • Health
  • Well-being
  • Vulnerable groups, for instance
    • Population older than 65
    • Population younger than 6
    • Persons under home care
    • Hospital patients

Non-human exposure could discern between

  • Infrastructures, including
    • Public transport
    • Energy (electricity, gas, oil)
    • Water and wastewater, draining systems
    • ICT
    • Health sector
    • Built assets/buildings (including residences, dikes, bridges, shops, governmental buildings, schools, shelters)
  • Cultural heritage
  • Public spaces
  • Green infrastructure

All the above are non-exhaustive lists and depend very much on the concrete situation in your city.

Regarding institutions and people that should be involved in the process, feedback in the kick-off meeting will probably have suggested several more parties that should be included. It is very important that the overall expertise of the project members will sufficiently cover all the addressed sectors. You should now consolidate the list of participants by checking if required expertise from the addressed sectors is missing. If you detect gaps then contact relevant organisations to acquire additional expertise for the project.


Step 1.4: Develop the scenario settings


In this step, you will

  • finalise the list of hazards, drivers, and stressors to be considered,
  • determine what temporal stages the project should consider for assessment,
  • acquire climate scenarios based on the timeframe, and
  • determine the set of scenarios for the future

You should first look into the initial list of hazards, drivers, and stressors. Also, take into account discussions from the kick-off meeting. Now is the time to make a decision about the hazards, drivers and, stressors to be addressed in the future proceedings. As this will be a prime decision for the whole project, you will need to find consent from all major parties involved, including environmental and climatological experts as well as responsible city officials.

The next activity should be the clarification of the temporal stages to be addressed. As you should always start with assessing the current vulnerability of your city as a baseline, the present time should be included as a temporal state. If you do not live in an area under immediate threat, like Venice, the Gulf of Mexico or Miami Beach, you should look at least 30 years ahead to discern distinct scenarios: If you select 2050 as a temporal stage—which is rather close by, with not much difference between the scenarios—you could take a high and a low variant for the climate change projections to get significantly different scenarios. Another option is to go for 2100, which shows clear differences between climate change projections, but is less of immediate policy relevance.

For the next activity, you should check the availability of climate change projections with regard to the selected hazards and drivers such as temperature, precipitation, river dis- charges, or water levels. Data for these variables are available from so-called climate ser- vice providers, e.g. (hydro) meteorological services. Select certain scenarios that you would want to use for the assessment.


Step 1.5: Prepare a work plan for risk-based vulnerability assessment


It is now time to prepare the further work of the project by:

  • defining the pieces of work to be done (tasks),
  • assigning responsibilities of these tasks to members of the project, and
  • creating a work plan, including responsible persons, timing of tasks, and

A risk-based vulnerability assessment is not so different from other projects that have to consider the interests of a large number of distinct stakeholders. In order to succeed, you need a clear work plan consisting of scheduled tasks and assignments of roles and respon- sibilities to project members. If you undertake the process alone or in a small group with only limited resources, you should plan to consult specific domain experts or acquire miss- ing information by conducting specific stakeholder workshops. Nevertheless, as the coor- dinator of the project, you will be challenged by a number of special characteristics of the project that may cause complications:

  • Members of the project may not be particularly well paid for their project work, or may be complete They must be highly motivated to keep interest—a challenge for your capabilities as a manager!
  • Stakeholders will have many diverse backgrounds, expertise, objectives, political stanc- es, intrinsic motivation,
  • Project members also will have very different time slots and person-hours they can spend on the Experts from providers of critical infrastructures might have par- ticularly sparse resources, and their contributions should be planned effectively. It will be critical to understand the available time and efforts of stakeholders in order not to be too ambitious.


21828-200Proceed to Module 2