Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Health and Urban Adaptation in the Tagus River Basin (Madrid, Spain)


The Climate Challenge

The case study develops a methodological framework to assess costs and benefits of cross-sectoral adaptation strategies to reduce the impacts of heat waves in the area of Madrid, a city characterized by its large size and population and its drought-prone climate, with multiple vulnerabilities to climate change.

Climate in the Madrid region is characterized by having hot and dry summers and cool winters. Temperatures show a very sharp gradient following a similar pattern of rainfall. Typically temperatures are higher in cities than on the outskirts and this difference increases on stable periods for the presence of the anticyclone, giving rise to the phenomenon called urban heat island, an atmospheric situation that occurs in big cities and involves rapid increase in temperature form the outskirts to the city centre, where buildings and asphalt off the heat accumulated during the day.

The purpose of this case study was to develop a methodological framework to assess the costs and benefits of selected adaptation strategies to reduce the impacts of heat waves in Madrid and study the cross-sectoral effects of those measures. To do this the case study set four objectives:

(1) study direct and indirect impacts of heat waves in the city of Madrid;

(2) establish synergies and tradeoffs between sectors;

(3) robust understanding of system complexity;

(4) assess costs and benefits of some selected measures


The Adaptation Response

A participatory process was used to obtain as much information as possible about the complexity of the urban system, responding to the stakeholder’s feedbacks and main drivers.

The method —Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping— allows modelling the system in a semi-quantitative way and simulating policy options (running different policy scenarios). This information used to feed the cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of a selection of adaptation measures also obtained from the process of interviews to the stakeholders.


The people and institutions involved

The stakeholder consultation focused on individuals either involved in decision making or able to influence the decision making process. Citizen participation was limited to NGOs and Farmer’s Unions.

A first stakeholder meeting was organized to understand the socio-economic and political context of impacts and adaptation in the region of Madrid, including representatives of the Spanish Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equity, Madrid municipality, Madrid community (regional level), the Spanish Climate Change Office, the Health department of the government of Navarra, the water utility foundation Canal Isabel II, a union of farmers, the electricity company Iberdrola, experts from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and Polytechnic University of Madrid.

A second round held personal interviews with stakeholders to get information to be used in the Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping to elicit information about the perceived impacts and adaptation options from different expertise angles in the city of Madrid. It involved the participation of 24 stakeholders including researchers and public authorities (only a few of them participated in the first round).


The Outcome of Action

The participatory process helped understand the urban complexity and interconnections between climate change, health outcomes and adaptation measures. The case study collected data from the main sectors affected in a relatively short time through extensive interviews and was able to identify synergies and trade-offs. The case study conducted a cost-benefit analysis of a heat-health warning system and the potential benefits of future green infrastructure.



Aline Chiabai: (Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), Spain)


Full Report

The full report of this case study can be read here.


Photo: Fotolia © Sergii Figurnyi