Preliminary studies for a spatial adaption strategy in a changing climate

Background and Goals

Climate change poses new challenges for spatial planning. The adaptation of the spatial and usage structures to the impacts of the climate change is an essential element of sustainable spatial development. For this, the spatial aspects ?of the climate change risks need to be identified, suitable planning practices and tools need to be developed, and all this then needs to be integrated in spatial development strategies for adapting to the climate change. The mission of the preliminary study is to prepare their examination as Demonstration Projects of Spatial Planning (MORO).

The preliminary study builds on three pillars:

  1. The need for adaptation measures is geographically consolidated by carrying out regionally differentiated studies of the climate impacts. In this, the main task to capture and assess the climate impacts at an elementary level that is relevant to planning. To do this, existing approaches to the adaptation of spatial development to the climate change are initially collected in the course of a literature study and their portability and suitability for Germany is examined. In a multi-stage process, climate change region types will then be determined, from which in the further course of the process climate change exposure areas are to be derived.
  2. From this pool, climate change example regions will be determined, for which a more detailed analysis appears to particularly promising within the context of further spatial development modelling.
  3. Based on an analysis of the existing formal and informal instruments of spatial planning, the need to develop new planning instruments or enhance existing ones will be assessed. Special attention will be given to the potential of existing governance models for developing spatial climate change strategies.

With this three-part approach, the research project aims to bridge the gap between research and planning practice in Germany.

The objective of the preliminary study is to prepare Demonstration Projects of Spatial Planning (MORO) for climate change adaptation strategies that take spatial development requirements into account. To do this, the research project pursues three secondary objectives:

  1. Identification of spatial aspects ?of the climate changes and impacts, i.e., the determination of climate change region types and their assignment to climate change exposure areas, to pinpoint "spatial hot spots" (areas with specific climate risks).
  2. Development of specific strategies, i.e., the formulation of region-specific protection, mitigation and adaptation strategies for regional planning, thereby defining the scope of action in spatial development (climate change action types) on the basis of a nationwide analysis of the existing spatial planning instruments and governance approaches.
  3. Preparation of regional climate change modelling projects based on the characterization of climate change example regions with region-specific protection, mitigation and adaptation strategies.

An essential element of this is the description of possible development pathways for the scope of action in (spatial) development resulting from the effects of the climate change, as well as the development of the measures and instruments for performing these tasks. Special emphasis is laid on adaptation strategies that are relevant to spatial development. First and foremost, the examination concentrates on the "spatial hot spots", i.e., areas with a particularly high need for action.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

The conclusion of the project with respect to regional high-resolution climate scenarios is that the climate model REMO (MPI Hamburg) currently provides the best available data set for deriving adaptation strategies for spatial development. For the REMO climate model, results are available at a resolution of 0.088° (10 x 10kms grid size) for the period from 1950 to 2100, based on the IPCC emission scenarios A1B, A2, and B1.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Altered rainfall patterns
  • Higher average temperatures
  • Sea level rise und storm surges
  • Storm
Further Parameters 

wind and storms, extreme events

Time horizon
  • medium term = to 2050
  • long term = to 2100 and beyond
Further times 


Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

High resolution climate scenarios show that the consequences of the climate change differ significantly from one region to the next. Some individual regions will be more strongly affected than others by natural hazards, such as extreme floods, drought, urban heat effects, high-wind events, mass movements (including mudslides, rock falls, avalanches), or by the economic consequences of changes in the agriculture, forestry, energy, tourism or transport sectors.

The preliminary study concerns itself with the consequences of the climate change in Germany that are relevant to spatial development:

  • Gradual changes: Increasing loss of topsoil through water erosion, increasing threat to biodiversity, increasing fluctuation of groundwater levels, limited tap water resources;
  • Extreme events: More frequent dry periods and heat waves, more frequent heavy rainfall and flash floods, changes in frequency and intensity of river floods, more frequent and higher storm surge levels, increasing risk of gravitative landslides, increasing risk of forest fires, more frequent disturbance and destruction of infrastructure.

The potential regional exposure can be determined by comparing the existing information about the regional occurrence of climate change effects that are relevant to spatial planning and the local sensitivity. An overlapping of different climate effects shows a particularly large exposure to problems caused by rising summer temperatures and declining summer precipitation.

The evaluation suggests an concentration of exposure along the Rhine and in the Alpine Foreland, but the emergence of considerable exposure can also be expected in East Germany. When individual effects are considered, such as the increasing risk of forest fires, this exposure to impacts becomes even more pronounced. In contrast, exposure to the effects of increased precipitation in winter and extreme precipitation will especially occur in the North German Plain and along the North Sea coast. Particularly here, the combination of storm surge hazards and a probable increase of extreme precipitation (especially as a result of winter storms) will increase the potential exposure.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

The preliminary study has produced an overview of the potential in spatial development for the prevention and adaptation to climate change, with regard to the need for action. In the analysis performed, the broad range of possible - existing - instruments and potential areas of action for spatial development will be considered, regardless of the extent to which they may already have been implemented or tested in practice. Both the adaptation to climate change and climate protection are included.

With regard to the need for action against the climate change in spatial planning, the following tasks have been identified for implementing the modelling projects in the model regions:

  1. Implementation and practical evaluation of the regional adaptation strategies;
  2. Further development and application of specific instruments and measures;
  3. Platform for discussion processes with the affected receptors, in order to increase the legitimization and acceptance of the measures and thereby increase their chances for implementation.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Background and aims: Due to the importance of the climate to the economy, the adaptation of the spatial and land use structures to the impacts of the climate change is an essential element of sustainable spatial development. This gives rise to new demands on spatial planning. In future, spatial development will need to coordinate the intensifying conflicts between the different spatial requirements. At the same time, it has the task of initiating the development of climate-proof spatial and land use structures.

The need for adaptation to the climate change demands the development of medium-and long-term concepts that include (preventive) climate protection measures, as well as climate change adaptation measures. The evaluation of the existing regional plans proves the existence of a broad and diverse repertoire of regulatory options in relation to the climate change adaptation. At the same time, it is also clear that regional planning has so far focused on the aspect of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

As a rule, even in preventive flood protection plans, the fundamental issue of climate change is primarily seen as a justification for a more consistent application of existing regional planning instruments in the areas of urban development, cooling parklands and green belts, as well as for renewable energy sites.

One of the most important challenges of regional planning is to expand the range of issues that take account of the adaptation to climate change.


Funding / Financing 

Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS): KlimaMORO

Project management 

Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (BBR), Bonn


Technical University of Dortmund, Faculty of Spatial Planning, Institute of Spatial Planning (IRPUD) and Chair for Landscape Ecology and Landscape Planning (LLP);

Austrian Research Centers GmbH - ARC, "Systems Research" dept., "Spatial Systems" business unit;

Justus Liebig University Gießen, Institute for Geography, Chair for Local and Regional Planning


BBR - Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung
Deichmanns Aue 31-37
D-53179 Bonn

Printer-friendly version Send by email
Fields of action:
 agriculture  energy sector  spatial, regional and urban land use planning  tourism industry  transport, transport infrastructure  woodland and forestry