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Newly started policy lab: KTH assists municipalities with climate adaptation under deep uncertainty

Hydropower station opens its gates fully after major problems with high amounts of rain. Photo credit: iStock, Gerhard Pettersson.
Published Feb 01, 2024

Flooding, drought, and water scarcity – how can Swedish municipalities manage risks and uncertainties associated with a changing climate? In a newly launched project – Robust Climate Adaptation Gävleborg – participants from Söderhamn municipality, the County Administrative Board of Gävleborg, and researchers are coming together to develop policies for decision-making under deep uncertainty.

The uncertainty in future climate changes poses a significant challenge for Sweden's municipalities, which need to adapt their operations and resources to climate change.

"The extent of uncertainty is like a cascade of possible future scenarios. Planning for all different outcomes is practically impossible with reasonable resources. Therefore, a new approach is needed to address the issue," says Per Wikman-Svahn, a researcher at KTH. He leads the two-year project that will employ new methods to find robust strategies for acting under "deep uncertainty"*. Robust strategies, in this context, should be flexible enough to function in many potential scenarios. "We will establish a policy lab where researchers and decision-makers collaboratively work on these strategies," he explains.

Methods for decision-making under deep uncertainty

Traditional decision-making methods rely on "predict first, and then act." Methods for decision-making under deep uncertainty follow a different flow, characterized as "agreeing on decisions." Here, the group begins by proposing a strategy and describing the context within a selected area. The strategy is then stress-tested, and in the final step, new robust strategies are formulated (robust in the sense that they are sustainable under various possible future conditions). The process is iterative and continuously repeated to keep the strategies updated.

Policy Lab

Policy lab is also a new type of method designed to build a coalition through the participation of various stakeholder groups: academics, policymakers, practitioners, and the public, with diversity and representation. This setup establishes trust. A crucial aspect of a policy lab is also working with language and presenting facts, enabling an efficient transfer of information. Additionally, the format engages decision-makers early in the process, allowing them to act when opportunities for policy changes arise. The format can thereby consider timing when creating policy measures.

The project team includes experienced researchers in climate adaptation, risk, and uncertainty management from KTH and Lund University, who, together with policy lab consultants from Ecoloop AB, will conduct policy labs with the County Administrative Board of Gävleborg and Söderhamn municipality. The policy labs will yield results that the County Administrative Board and Söderhamn municipality can directly apply. Formas funds the project, which will run 2024 - 2025.

*Deep uncertainty means it is impossible to know or agree on how likely different future scenarios are.

Per Wikman Svahn
Per Wikman Svahn
researcher 087909520
Belongs to: School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE)
Last changed: Feb 01, 2024