RAMSES - Science for Cities in Transition

2012 - 2017

RAMSES was a European research project which aimed to deliver much needed quantified evidence of the impacts of climate change and the costs and benefits of a wide range of adaptation measures, focusing on cities.

RAMSES engaged with stakeholders to ensure this information was policy relevant and ultimately enabled the design and implementation of adaptation strategies in the EU and beyond.

Cities are the focal point of many climate change-related challenges. Over 75% of the European Union population lives in urban areas, and this percentage is expected to grow to 82% by 2050 (UN Habitat, 2011). Cities on one hand concentrate cultural, technological, and economic activities resulting in innovation and human wealth, but also consumption of materials and waste production. On the other hand cities occupy only 2-3% of land and often lie in risk-prone areas, like in low-lying coasts or mountainous regions and, if not properly managed, they concentrate vulnerabilities. Hence urban areas are hotspots of vulnerability to climate change impacts such as flooding, drought and heatwaves (cf. e.g. IPCC-SREX, 2012), as well as being responsible globally for approximately 75% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (UN, 2007).

Globally, cities are still undergoing unprecedented growth dynamics. Between 1950 and 2015, urban infrastructure had to be provided for approximately 500 million new urban residents per decade, new infrastructure will be needed for approximately 700 million future urban residents per decade between 2015 and 2050 (own calculations). This shows the pressing need for sustainable concepts of urban development, but also number of opportunities to design liveable cities, which are in line with climate protection goals and safe environments for urban residents. Addressing climate change and related risks begins in cities, and whilst most of future urban growth dynamics will take place in smaller cities in the developing world (e.g. GEA 2011, ADB 2017), Europe must still strive, through new smart concepts of growth and development, for a truly sustainable urban future (cf. Walker et al. 2017, Heidrich et al. 2017).

The RAMSES consortium took these challenges as the basis for developing a project that was highly ambitious in terms of its scientific goals. Although climate change-related challenges are increasingly rising up the agenda of urban stakeholders, concrete action and decision-making often suffers from incomplete evidence and or limited knowledge. Questions are often raised regarding the potential impacts on a certain city, what kind of adaptation such impacts would imply, and how costly any adaptation action will be. While local effects of climate change, and the associated costs and benefits of adaptation, vary greatly from one city to another, typically assessment tools are also bespoken to a particular city, so techniques and studies are rarely comparable. However, such comparison is necessary to utilize and distribute available resources for climate risk management most effectively. Therefore, RAMSES aimed not only at the provision of valuable insights for city stakeholders, but developed a pragmatic research approach which allowed the comparison of both top-down (simplified) and bottomup (more detailed) approaches (cf. Fig. 1). By doing so, new tools for impact and cost assessment were developed, and capabilities of existing tools further advanced.

The consortium as a whole is proud that this shared overarching philosophy was taken up by all partners and maintained during the 5-year lifetime of the project. This commitment made it possible to provide a large number of high-quality final outputs. This overall project philosophy served to achieve the following objectives and goals:

  • The development and application of tools to assess climate impacts, vulnerability, and risks in cities that evaluate climate impacts on priority sectors, and provide a rational basis for testing the effectiveness of adaptation strategies;
  • New methods to quantify damages and economic costs for adaptation and benefits of climate change adaptation;
  • The definition of a taxonomy for architecture, infrastructure and planning, which can be used as basis for the development of approaches for impact and adaptation cost assessment; The generation of urban climate projections at appropriate spatial and temporal scales in order to evaluate the effect of adaptation measures on future urban climate;
  • The assessment of the environmental, social and economic effects of climate change at sector level, e.g. for health, transport, etc.; The identification of general and specific factors forcing cities to successful transitions and develop a transition model which builds on the pathway approach;
  • New methods and tools and a Training Handbook tested in city-cases, including Antwerp, London, Bilbao, Skopje, and Paris that allow the discussion of experiences of city stakeholders and lessons learnt through a step-by-step methodology for urban transformations;
  • The provision of outputs that inform decision-makers and enlarge databases of socio-economic data related to climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation, e.g. via Climate-ADAPT and the RAMSES Common Platform;
  • The creation of concepts for a structured and robust stakeholder engagement to share and communicate the project results, but also, and maybe even more importantly, to inform their development and ensure their applicability in cities in Europe and beyond;
  • The publication of a toolbox for policy makers to assess impacts, adaptation and costs for European cities on an intermediate scale of complexity in order to provide assessments on Pan-European city level and for other cities to widely adopt project results.

Through achieving these objectives and goals RAMSES defined cornerstones for future research and generated policy-relevant knowledge which enables city stakeholders to take action on urban adaptation. To achieve this, the consortium overcame a variety methodological issues, such as how to aggregate/ disaggregate data at different scales, which types of cost categories or climatological threats to consider. Although not all methodological problems have been solved entirely, the project exceeded initial expectations. For example, it provided climate change scenarios for 100 cities, vulnerability and risk analysis for 571 EU Urban Audit cities and damage and adaptation cost curves for 600 European coastal cities. During the project 38 journal papers have been published, with a further 2 in press, and 8 under review . The consortium was one of the main organisers of the 2015 ECCA conference in Copenhagen and responsible for the Cities and Climate Conference 2017 at the Potsdam with more than 120 international speakers. In summary, the RAMSES project created a large number of scientific results, finished on time despite delays to deliverables during the project caused by consortium changes, and created a variety of valuable scientific and policy related stimuli which can be considered both in future research projects and in on-the-ground city adaptation planning.



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.