Against a background of growing urban climate risk, driven by the confluence of urbanization and climate change, the viability of the prevailing physical and institutional modes of organizing urban human-environment relations will therefore be increasingly challenged. This will call for adaptation and fundamental transformation in the ways urban risk is governed. The pressure is particularly high in South and Southeast Asia which, globally, feature some of the highest urban growth rates combined with particularly large proportions of cities being located in low elevation coastal zones.

However, it remains poorly understood how urban vulnerability and risk trajectories will develop at the city and sub-city scale, how different adaptation options can be evaluated and whether fundamental transformations are necessary to secure cities’ successful adaptation and long-term sustainability in the face of global change. If so, how far do these transformations have to go and how can, or should, they be implemented in practice?



TRANSCEND aims to answer the following research questions:

Vulnerability scenarios and risk pathways: Which novel scientific methods and tools can be developed to assess potential risk pathways of cities in a forward-looking and integrative manner, including not only scenarios on climatic and other natural hazards, but particularly on the different possible future trajectories in societal vulnerability?

Adaptation demands and evaluation of different adaptation options: Which levels and types of adaptation will be needed for different actors, areas and sectors in a city? Which capacities and priorities do different actors have in this regard? How can different adaptation options be evaluated to account not only for financial and economic criteria but also for their cultural acceptance, political feasibility and long-term social effects?

Transformation decisions and risk governance: Which adaptation paradigms are, can, and should be used to guide adaptation processes (between resistant and transformative adaptation pathways)? Which levels of transformation are seen as necessary, desirable, feasible and acceptable by different state and non-state actors in the city with respect to, for example, hard urban infrastructure, legal planning regulations and social security systems? How are different viewpoints mediated in urban risk governance settings, particularly when balancing the interests of potential winners and losers of transformative adaptation measures? How does decision making towards transformative adaptation take place? How can adaptation and transformative change be stimulated and supported by knowledge-based decision-support tools?


Research design and methodology

Applying a transdisciplinary approach, the project is composed of three interlocking work streams:

  1. An integrated model will be developed which combines the assessment of future hazard trends with scenarios of future urban development and vulnerability at sub-city scale.
  2. Drawing on the model outputs, risk scenarios and adaptation options will be generated and evaluated in close cooperation with decision-makers, planning officials, affected members of the public and other practical partners against a novel multi-criteria framework developed within the project.
  3. Mumbai and Jakarta, two of the most rapidly growing and hazard exposed cities globally, will serve as pilot cities for method development and analysis in order to develop transferable tools whose application in other high-risk cities will be facilitated through multiplier activities in South and Southeast Asia and beyond.