Vulnerability and Risk Analysis as an instrument for the advancement of Resilience of Cities and urban Infrastructure (ZURES)

The background of the project are observations that although scenarios in previous risk evaluations regarding climate change and their corresponding adaption strategies are standard, future changes on the side of social vulnerability are mostly disregarded.

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Submitted in the course of social-ecological research with main emphasis on sustainable transformation of urban areas

Planned project period: September 2016 – August 2019

Project description

The background of the project are observations that (1) although scenarios in previous risk evaluations regarding climate change and their corresponding adaption strategies are standard, future changes on the side of social vulnerability are mostly disregarded. Furthermore, (2) actors and their networks are playing a minor part in the matter of concept and conducting risk and vulnerability assessments and their appropriate evaluations. In this regard, the joint research project focusses on innovations by linking social vulnerability towards the impacts of climate change with the examination of institutions and actor constellations and embedding them into the broad processes of socio-economic change on municipal level. So far, the processes of socio-economic change are not sufficiently considered in the latest risk and vulnerability studies.

ZURES aims at developing new methods and instruments for future-oriented urban vulnerability and risk assessment regarding heat stress in particular. In terms of transformation management on municipal level and in context with an urban development aiming at sustainability and resilience, existing testing and planning procedures as well as planning instruments are being further developed. This is comprising instruments such as environmental assessment (EA) or methods for the update of land-use and development plans. As a result, institutional-methodical preconditions for the adaption of planning and controlling processes are being created. Using the example of urban heat stress for the cities of Bonn and Ludwigsburg, driving forces of small scale transformation processes are gathered. Analyses of the status quo and changes of the city climate are developed through scenarios for the whole city (macro level) and for selected focus areas (districts and focus areas / micro level) and combined with socio-economic and demographic scenarios regarding vulnerability. Methodical innovations are linked with formal and informal instruments, as well as examination procedures of city development, to strengthen the institutional-planning set of tools for a future-oriented transformation management. As the approach of sustainability often relies on a stable system and balance between social, ecological and economic interests, the concept of resilience assumes that social-ecological systems may also be unstable and critical. Here, crises are a component of innovation and renewal processes. In this regard, the heatwave of 2003 with a death toll of more than 30,000 in Europe revealed the endangerment and crisis-proneness of urban areas and people towards heat stress.

The cities of Bonn and Ludwigsburg have similar issues regarding vulnerability and risk towards heat stress. At the same time, both cities are characterized by a growing pressure on undeveloped areas. Therefore, we develop innovative estimation and valuation methods for urban areas, infrastructures and adaption processes which comprise both, the future city-climatic change and changes in social vulnerability on an overall-city-level as well as in selected focus areas. The amendment of EA 2014/52/EU requires, besides the evaluation of the environmental impact of projects and plans (construction projects, infrastructures, development plans, land use plans, etc.) which are obligatory to an EA, also the consideration and evaluation of the susceptibility of projects and plans concerning climate change. The existing instruments and methods of the EA are failing to meet these requirements. So far, the EA basically considers merely the effects of a project or plan towards the environment. This is why the advancement of test procedures for practical use is of substantial methodical but even institutional importance.

In summary ZURES is based on five cornerstones:

  1. Further development of vulnerability and risk estimation by including stakeholders in normative-methodical decisions and in the context of various socio-economic and spatial future scenarios considering current transformation processes using the example of heat stress in cities,
  2. further development (in consideration of the day and night situation) and the conjunction of urban climate analyses with socio-demographic and economic analyses towards vulnerability on the level of districts, as well as their transferability to other cities and hazards (especially heavy rain),
  3. the operationalization of the concepts regarding vulnerability and resilience,
  4. the provision of new methods (participatory scenario methods) for the evaluation of the vulnerability and resilience of new projects and programs and
  5. the conjunction and execution of the new methods with existing formal and informal assessment and planning procedures on a municipal level, particularly in the context of the updated EA guideline 2014/52/EU, as well as regarding the target of the adjustment in the BauGB in the context of updating and restructuring of land use and development plans (e.g. with new maps with planning advices).


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