Adaptation pathways – from trailblazing to trail guide: Learning from practical implementation of adaptation pathways approach and shaping a guide/standard

11:15 Wednesday 29 May


Room S9


Andrew Eden (United Kingdom) 1; Katy Francis (United Kingdom) 2; Tim Reeder (United Kingdom) 3; Marjolijn Hassnoot (Netherlands) 4

1 - Environment Agency, England; 2 - Environment Agency; 3 - TRIOSS / London Climate Change Partnership; 4 - Deltares

Adaptation Pathways planning was devised as an approach to planning and decision-making under conditions of uncertainty; rather than using a singular ‘preferred’ pathway or a ‘most-likely’ scenario an AP approach encourages planners to explore option robustness across multiple plausible futures, and to identify tipping and trigger points (Bosomworth et al., 2017).

Originally developed in the context of planning and decision making for sea level rise and flood risk management and protection, the pathways approach is now also being practically applied to other areas of uncertain decision making such as wildfires, healthcare and natural systems management.

This session will run as an adaptation pathways masterclass, with a participatory world cafŽé element to seek delegates’ experiences and input on future developments of the approach. Building on the implementation of the approach since it was first devised in 2005 this session seeks to share learning on how the approach has been used, the tools developed to support its use and what the challenges and opportunities for improvement are.

The session aims to:

  • Provide a basic overview of what the adaptation pathways approach is
  • Share learning on how the adaptation pathways approach has been implemented in different long term planning contexts (not just flood risk management) and what the limitations and opportunities for improvements are. This will focus on practical implementation case studies from London, UK; Netherlands, France.
  • Explore what tools have been developed; and the pros/cons/limitations and learning points arising from practical on the ground implementation of the pathways approach
  • Explore what current, and potential, users would like from an adaptation pathways standard or guide such as that being developed for BSI (British Standards Institution).

The expected outputs of the session will include:

  • A paper summarising the session to share with workshop participants and beyond
  • User input to BSI standard development, opportunities to test the BSI standard, and invigoration of the adaptation pathways interest group that arose from ECCA 2017.

Target audience

This session is aimed at decision makers responsible for designing plans, strategy responses and decisions under uncertainty and change. The adaptation pathways approach encourages and enables decision makers to use and explore different management options for uncertain risks across multiple plausible futures.

Decision-makers should attend to:

  • find out how this approach has been applied in practice (beyond the initial flooding perspective) at a local and national scale from an international context
  • share their experience of, or learn from others, using a pathways approach – the tools, benefits and limitations
  • help shape development of a standard for managing adaptation decision making.

Proposed format for the session

Session format: Case study speaker presentations (45mins) followed by followed a world caféŽ style discussion with participants (1hr).

We propose 3 speakers (taking 15 minutes each) covering the following topics:

  • The development of an adaptation pathways standard
  • Learning from experience – implementation and 2020 review: Thames Estuary2100, London UK
  • Learning from experience – tools, challenges and improvements: Netherlands

The facilitated world cafŽé session will actively seek delegates input on the following questions:

  • What would you want from an adaptation pathways standard or guide and who would use it?
  • What is your experience of using adaptation pathways and what tools have you used to support implementation?
  • What are the challenges and limitations of the pathways approach and how can it be improved?

Contributing Authors abstracts

1. Tim Reeder: Trioss/London Climate Change Partnership, UK.

Development of BSI (UK business standards body) on Decision Making for Climate Change Adaptation

This session will briefly outline the breadth of use of the adaptation pathways approach across differing sectors and countries. It will summarise where the drivers for a more standardised / common approach have come from. It will set out progress so far in coming up with a BSI (British Standards Institution) guide / standard, and outline how this ECCA session can inform it. The BSI approach is very much aimed at producing a prototype that can be adopted internationally to help operationalise the international standard ISO 14090, which supports a common approach to adaptation globally.

2. London: Katy Francis, Environment Agency Thames Estuary 2100 Team, UK and/or University of Southampton (Ivan Haigh tbc) UK.

E-Rise: Earliest detection of sea level risk accelerations to inform lead time to upgrade/replace coastal flood defence infrastructure.

The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan, developed by the Environment Agency as the managing authority for tidal flood risk in England, is the long-term strategy for managing tidal flood risk in London and the Thames Estuary. It utilises adaptation pathways to allow for different flood defence intervention strategies and timings depending on the rate of sea-level rise that occurs. Which path to follow and intervention timings are determined by monitoring relative sea-level rise and creating projections of future change. Through implementing the plan the Environment Agency’s monitoring programme identified the need to understand when trends are changing. Measured sea-level data are extremely noisy, making it difficult to make accurate long-term projections of sea-level rise, which makes it challenging when some interventions have very long lead times, e.g. 20+ years for a new Thames Barrier. The eRise project developed methods for reducing background noise in sea-level datasets allowing earlier detection of sea-level rise accelerations, and for determining how many years it will be before we have sufficient data to statistically determine whether sea-level rise is diverging from projections for different magnitudes of divergence. The findings of the eRise project and how they affect flood defence management in the Estuary will be presented.

3. Marjolijn Haasnoot, Deltares Netherlands

The Delta Programme was a pioneer in the use and development of adaptation pathways. It continues to have flexible planning at its core. The advantages and issues around pathways will be presented. This will be in the context of a recent report by Deltares that has outlined the initial implications of higher rates of sea level rise than were originally considered in the Delta programme and plan. This additional acceleration has to do with recent insights about the possible accelerated breaking down and melting of the land ice on Antarctica. The Delta Program 2018 states that the possible consequences of the resulting extra accelerated sea level rise will be investigated further.