Conceptual and functional design and architecture of Impact and Vulnerability Analysis of Vital Infrastructures and built-up Areas



Erich Rome, Manfred Bogen, Hans Voss, Norman Voß, Rainer Worst (Fraunhofer);


Maddalen Mendizabal Zubeldia, Beñat Abajo (Tecnalia);

Angela Connelly, Jeremy Carter (UNIMAN);

Astrid Kellermann (SIEMENS);

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Executive summary

This report describes the general approach of the RESIN project to support the vulnerability analysis (VA) of urban areas and their critical infrastructures regarding the impacts of climate change (CC). Knowing the CC-related risks is the basis for an informed selection of a given set of adaptation options. In contrast to previous attempts, RESIN explicitly includes the cities’ critical infrastructures in the VA, thus enabling both more targeted and appropriate results for urban areas. The methodology for this ‘impact and vulnerability analysis for critical infrastructures and built-up areas’ is abbreviated IVAVIA. In order to be clear on our use of terminology, we would want to stress that ‘Vulnerability Assessment’ is a process that the RESIN cities conduct for identifying and assessing their climate change related vulnerabilities. IVAVIA is about how to structure and conduct the process of vulnerability assessment. That is, IVAVIA is a set of methods or practices for conducting the VA process.

The current deliverable D2.1 describes the first step of the co-creation process of IVAVIA: the design stage. Here, ‘design’ refers to the term ‘system design’ in informatics / computer science. System design precedes development. The result of the design phase is a ‘blueprint’ that guides the development phase. The focus of D2.1 is on the process of vulnerability assessment and on a methodology of how to conduct this process.

In the RESIN State of the Art Report 4 ‘Vulnerability Assessment: Definitions, Indicators and Existing Assessment Methods’, we have pointed out that there are numerous case studies for vulnerability assessment. Almost all of them are based on findings, recommendations, concepts and definitions of the Assessment Reports (AR) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The latest such report, IPCC AR5 of 2014, introduced a paradigmatic change in the definition of ‘vulnerability’, a change that has profound implications for the execution of vulnerability assessments. In order to harmonise the assessment approaches of the Climate Change Adaptation community with those of the Disaster Risk Reduction community, vulnerability assessments in IPCC AR5 are risk based.

Here, vulnerability assessments form part of a risk assessment. The vulnerability assessment first identifies the sensitivities of the system of interest in terms of what could go wrong. This feeds into a risk assessment that asks, what are the chances of an event happening? What would be the consequences? And, how tolerable are these consequences? Risk is classically defined by multiplying the probability of an adverse event with the magnitude of the expected consequences. By moving to a risk-based vulnerability assessment, two challenges are introduced; these concern determining the consequences of adverse events, such as CC related hazards, and estimating the probability of the occurrences of the hazards. Moreover, for the IPCC, ‘exposure’ now refers to exposed objects, not the extent to which objects are exposed. Since AR5 is quite young, only a few projects (such as RAMSES) have begun addressing these challenges. With IVAVIA, RESIN will make its own contribution in this respect.

Regarding the methodological aspect of vulnerability assessment, we adapt a wellelaborated method, the Vulnerability Sourcebook (VSB) method, to the needs of RESIN. The VSB provides a detailed and modular process for vulnerability assessment. The German Society for International Collaboration (GIZ) published the VSB in 2014 with the aim of making it a de facto standard. Though the VSB is relatively new, the authors deliberately chose to use the older and, by then, better-established concepts of IPCC AR4, since the new AR5 concepts lacked the clarity for operationalization.

The Vulnerability Sourcebook Method (VSM) consists of eight modules for preparing and conducting a vulnerability assessment and presenting the results to policy makers (section 4). The methodological core of the VSM consists in developing impact chains for relevant combinations of hazards/stressors, exposures, sensitivities and adaptive capacities. The VSM describes how impact chains can be utilised for vulnerability assessment. For each of these elements, indicators have to be computed, which are based on suitable models.

For IVAVIA, we have adopted this established concept of impact chains. Since the impact chains in the VSB are based on the concepts of the IPCC AR4, a major task in IVAVIA will be the adaptation of the impact chains such that they are compliant with the concepts in IPCC AR5. D2.1 describes how we envisage this adaptation (sections 4 and 5).

RESIN’s original contribution is in integrating critical infrastructures in the IVAVIA methods through the development of dedicated impact chains in which Critical Infrastructures are the exposed objects. D2.1 contains the first set of 23 such impact chains (annex 10.3). At present, these impact chains are qualitative. Quantification, that is, the computation of related indicators, will be part of the city case studies.

Another original RESIN contribution is the introduction of a new module that shall precede the original first module of the VSM (Module 1: Preparing the vulnerability assessment). The purpose of this new ‘Module 0’ is the systematic analysis and selection of hazards and stressors that relate to climate change and could possibly affect the region / urban area under consideration. With this, we address the lack of a systematic selection of relevant hazards and stressors, and a re-evaluation of hazards and stressors when the cyclic order of the processes of vulnerability assessment, adaptation planning and implementation are repeated.

An important activity in WP2 is the development of software tools for supporting certain parts of the risk based vulnerability assessment process. The development will be driven by the needs of RESIN’s city partners, as to be specified in the early stages of the city case studies. D2.1 provides a brief overview of suitable existing tools that might be a basis for the development of dedicated IVAVIA tools (section 6).

IVAVIA will be further developed in cooperation with RESIN’s city partners by performing dedicated case studies (RESIN WP4). The results of this co-creation process are two-fold:

  1. A refined vulnerability process and methods for assessing CC-related risks for urban areas and their critical infrastructures that are compliant with the risk-based approach of the IPCC AR5; and,
  2. A set of dedicated software tools for supporting the vulnerability assessment process.

First agreements for concrete co-creation activities have been made with the cities of Manchester, Bilbao and Bratislava during RESIN’s second Process Management Workshop in Freiburg (March 2016). A detailed plan will be elaborated and agreed by the General Assembly in Paris (June 2016). A third contribution of RESIN for advancing methods for vulnerability assessment with respect to CC-related hazards and stressors concerns standardisation efforts. D2.1 contains a section describing how RESIN WP2 plans to contribute to actual national and international standardisation activities in the area of ‘Adapting to the consequences of climate change’ (section 5.4).