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Climate Change and Future Flood Defense in the Metropolitan Region


Detailed description of the Good Practice

The Metropolitan Region of Hamburg (MRH) has to deal with storm surges, sea level rise and urban heat islands. Flood defence has a long tradition along the river Elbe. To reduce vulnerability, the marshland is protected by a continuous levee-line on both sides of the river, which is up to 14.5m high. According to current climate change scenarios, these levees will protect the land behind them during the next decades. After all, the MRH has to face serious impacts in the second half of the century since ongoing levee enhancement is seen as critical.

“Living with water” becomes the guiding principle among stakeholders, including measures such as “opening the levee-line”, “enabling water- and heat-adapted housing areas” or “innovative rainwater management”. Having introduced the scenario method as a tool of climate adaptation governance, stakeholders are eager to include this as well as the innovative results of the Scenario Workshops into the ongoing adaptation process. In addition, a Feasibility Study contributed recommendations on how to include resilient settlement structures into future regional planning in the county of Pinneberg across administrative boarders.

It has become obvious that there has to be a paradigm shift in the way how water is treated in urban and regional development. Instead of hiding water behind levees, climate change adaptation in MRH will treat water as a resource offering cities and regions new chances for quality of life and sustainability.

flood protection
climate change
climate change adaptation
stakeholder involvement

Objectives of the Good Practice

To develop new adaptation options for climate change.

Participants of the Good Practice

Researchers, representatives of local and regional administrations, decision-makers and practitioners

Funding of the Good Practice

The process is part of the BaltCICA project, partly financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).

More Details of the Good Practice

When it comes to climate change and adaptation processes, the cooperation of different groups and responsibilities is essential. Therefore, aspects of costal management, spatial planning and nature protection, besides several more, have to be taken into account.

In order to raise the awareness of climate change and its possible impacts, HafenCity University Hamburg hosted a scenario workshop for stakeholders throughout the MRH to discuss vulnerability, future floods defence, possible consequences and adequate adaptation measures. Participants represented local and regional administrations, politics and subject institutions. In line with three development strategies (“await”, “protect” and “change”) different scopes of action were discussed to analyse which one could be most effective and efficient. The different strategies were filled with accordant measures along the Tide Elbe.

Two approaches for future flood defence were highlighted: One possible strategy is to keep the water in manageable structures. This approach would include measures like “sticking to dyke enhancement” combined with an ongoing process of deepening the river channel. The other, rather radical approach envisions scenarios where the water is given more space to disperse. This strategy would include measures like “resettlement of existing housing areas and dislocate agriculture in less vulnerable regions” or “open the dyke-line to create (manageable) retention areas”.

Based on those approaches, the participants developed visions for the MRH how to realize adaptation measures and to push forward information and communication strategies. In this respect, exemplary visions are “using natural potentials to create win-win strategies”, “finding sustainable consensus among affected stakeholders to reduce costs” or “creating adaptation awareness”. These visions were presented to a broader amount of regional stakeholders, including politicians and decision makers, on the “Regional Conference for Climate Adaptation in Coastal Regions” which took place in Hamburg in April 2011. This aims to raise the awareness among affected stakeholders and decision makers and sensibilize for adaptation strategies in short, mid- and long term thinking.

Documentation and documents

More information can be found at the BaltCICA project website.

Available files

Contact details

Jörg Knieling,
HafenCity University Hamburg,

Data sources and references

Claussen, M. & H.v.Storch (Ed.) (2011): Klimabericht für die Metropolregion Hamburg. Heidelberg u.a. : Springer.

Fröhlich, J. & J. Knieling (2012): Conceptualizing Climate Change Governance, in: Knieling, J. & W. Leal Filho (eds.), Climate Change Governance, Heidelberg/Berlin: Springer (in print).

Knieling, J., Kunert, L., Schönherr, U. & P. Schuster (2010): Klimawandel und Klimaanpassung in der Metropolregion Hamburg, Szenarioworkshop zur Siedlungs- und Flächenentwicklung im Raum Tideelbe, Hamburg.

Winkel, N. (2011): Das Klima in der Region und mögliche Änderungen in der Tideelbe. In: Claussen, M. & H.v.Storch (Ed.) (2011): Klimabericht für die Metropolregion Hamburg. Heidelberg u.a. : Springer. S. 121- 135