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Risk Management and Adaptation


Date: 30 Sep 2021

Effective planning for adaptation to climate change must be underpinned by an understanding and assessment of the risks posed by ongoing and projected climate change.

Approaches to risk assessment vary from qualitative to semi-quantitative to quantitative, with each step providing a greater level of information on which to base adaptation decisions.
Qualitative risk assessments were employed by Local Authorities (LAs) during the development of their Adaptation Strategies in 2019 to provide an initial interpretation of the risks that are pertinent for a particular asset, community, or environmentally sensitive area. This is an important early step in climate adaptation planning, but the intuitive and judgement-based nature of determining qualitative risk means it is not sufficient to fully inform adaptation action. To support the effective implementation and management of adaptation action, there is a need to transition from qualitative to semi-quantitative to quantitative approaches to risk assessment, with each step providing greater level of information on which to base adaptation decisions
At the international level, the recently published EU adaptation strategy[1] calls for smarter adaptation where adaptation actions must be informed by robust data and risk assessment tools that assess the impact and probabilities of plausible climate change scenarios.  Nationally, the development of national vulnerability and risk assessments has been identified as a key action to enhance adaptive capacity[2].
Actions cited within local authority adaptation strategies call for a semi-quantitative risk assessment to be developed and implemented based on risk management standards, such as ISO31000 (ISO 2018), and look to move some way towards quantifying two fundamental components of climate risk, namely: likelihood/probability of occurrence of a hazard and impact/consequences of occurrence of the hazard. This approach is more useful for informing climate change adaptation planning, as it accounts for spatial and temporal variations in levels of hazard, exposure, and vulnerability.
The CAROs are currently working with Climate Ireland to develop a common methodology for local authorities to carry out semi-quantitative risk assessments that will provide a key adaptation planning tool for the sector, as well as other sectors.
The methodology will align with the approach set out by the IPCC with climate risks primarily determined by three factors
  • Climate hazards (periods of climate variability and extreme weather events)
  • Exposure (elements present in an area in which climate hazard may occur)
  • Vulnerability (the propensity of exposed elements to be adversely affected when impacted by climate hazards).
The IPPC methodology in assessing climate risk & vulnerability
The deliverables of the project will provide a methodology for the sector to develop a Climate Change Risk & Vulnerability Assessment (semi-quantitative) across local authority functions and assets.

The development of a common methodology for local authorities to carry out risk assessments will provide a key adaptation planning tool for the sector to establish the need for climate adaptation based on current and projected future risks, and the effectiveness of adaptation strategies and actions in reducing climate impacts to acceptable levels.

The risk assessment methodology will be trialled across the local authorities in the ASBN region in Q3-2021 before being rolled out nationally.

[1] EC, 2021, Forging a climate-resilient Europe – the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. Brussels (
[1] Shine, T. 2018. Climate Resilient Ireland. Environmental Protections Agency, Wexford, Ireland.