A path towards climate resilience: the IMPETUS knowledge booster approach

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As our weather becomes more unpredictable and extreme, how can communities adapt to the changing climate and influence the decisions made to protect homes, businesses, nature, and lives? The EU-funded IMPETUS project is developing a ‘Resilience Knowledge Booster’ approach that combines digital technologies and human interactions to help communities and policy makers make the best decisions. On 24-25 January 2023, IMPETUS participants met to review and agree the next steps to achieving the project’s ‘RKB’ approach and other core objectives.

Supported with a newly created animation that explains the IMPETUS RKB concept and context in simple terms, the meeting’s 20 participants explored the complexities of this ambitious project.

The project’s work areas take into account the diverse impacts of climate change at local levels, the solutions IMPETUS is testing in its seven demonstration sites around Europe, the data that must be gathered, processed and analysed to feed into the digital technologies that are being developed, and the aim to engage local, regional and other stakeholders in an ongoing co-creation process. The work encompasses many tasks and fields of expertise.

The workshop participants noted achievements of the project to date, including design of the functional framework for the digital dimension of the RKB approach, creation of the first digital tools, and initiation of stakeholder engagement sessions with local communities around the demonstration sites.

Demonstrating that the IMPETUS RKB approach boosts knowledge about what resilience to climate change means for the project’s demonstration sites is an important goal. Like a cookery book describes the methods, ingredients and tips to create all kinds of recipes, the RKB approach provides a framework that can be modified to produce various RKB ‘recipes’ for other communities. Using the appropriate combination of tools, relevant data, climate scenarios and local knowledge and activities, the RKB approach guides people living in any kind of biogeographical or climatic region to create the knowledge-building processes that will help them choose the best path towards climate adaptation.

Reminding IMPETUS participants of such bigger-picture ambitions was one of the purposes of the January meeting. The event strengthened understanding of the interplay between the technical and human-centric work areas and those that focus on the local level or on the project’s over-arching tools, concepts and collaborations as part of the wider European landscape of projects and policies towards climate change adaptation. It helped clarify terminology, interdependencies, workflows and actions for follow up, to turn climate commitments into action.

Further information

The January 2023 IMPETUS meeting was hosted at the offices of the Government of Catalonia Delegation to the EU in Brussels. The event was planned and prepared by project participants from Eurecat Technology Centre of Catalonia, KWR water research institute and ESCI, the European Science Communication Institute. The lead facilitator was Stefania Munaretto of KWR (pictured left in the first photo above).


High temperatures

Record-breaking summertime temperatures have been recorded in the Netherlands in recent years. With global temperatures rising, such extreme weather events will occur more often, and for longer periods. Prolonged high temperatures, with warm nights as well as hot days, can cause heat stress* and related health issues, particularly among city populations.

*Heat stress occurs when the human body cannot get rid of excess heat and can impact wellbeing through conditions such as heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps and rashes.

"We want to enable municipality decision makers who are working on spatial developments to identify heat stress 'hot spots' and cool areas, analyse the future effects of climate change, and model the effect of different heat stress-reducing measures. The tool must provide them with an easy starting point to integrate heat stress risks in their projects."


Despite the cooling effect of the sea in the region of Zeeland, the growing risk of heat stress has become a concern.

Elderly and other vulnerable people are more impacted by the effects of prolonged heat, which can cause headaches, dizziness, insomnia and other health issues – even death. Excess temperatures also affect general comfort and liveability of cities. Water quality can be reduced, both for drinking and swimming, and infrastructure can be affected. Buildings and concrete surfaces trap heat, potentially leading to damage, and release it during the night, keeping temperatures warm.

During heat waves, it is important that everyone has access to a cool and comfortable place. Appropriate spatial planning can help to decrease and deal with heat stress. Environmental factors like water bodies, trees, and shade have a major impact on stress caused by high temperatures. Therefore, planting trees, removing concrete surfaces, creating green roofs and cool spaces can improve our comfort and health. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for city planning to address these needs.


Flood risk

By 2050, sea-level within this region is predicted to rise by 15-40 cm, with more frequent extreme weather and more (severe) storms triggered by climate change. These changes will exacerbate the natural risk of flooding in the IMPETUS ‘Atlantic’ region, because it is surrounded by rivers and the sea, and is below sea level.

*Risk takes into account two aspects; the chance that an event will occur and the negative impact of such an event once it occurs. When there is a low chance that an event will occur, but its impacts are huge, the risk is still significant.

“In the Netherlands, an extensive system of dikes protects us against sea and river flooding. We have always put our faith in this defence and focused almost solely on flood prevention. However, pressure on our system will increase with climate change and rising sea levels. To adapt and maintain a safe living environment, we should develop other safety measures, like more robust spatial planning and contingency plans."


Rotterdam city, is located in Rijnmond – ‘mouth of the Rhine’. The Rhine river flows through this densely populated area and characterises the region. Protections such as sea dikes and storm surge barriers have been constructed to protect the region, but flooding still occurs.

People living in the city are accustomed to seeing smaller floods. The changing climate affects the interplay between rainfall, river levels and sea storms, increasing the flooding risk. Water levels could rise by a few metres, even in populated areas, with potentially massive impacts. 

Mitigation measures such as storm surge barriers reduce the chance that high water reaches the city, but to minimise the impact of floods when they do occur, adaptation strategies are also needed. A city that can adapt to be safe from floods must be carefully designed. How best to design such an adaptive city?

Critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and evacuation routes, must be accessible at all times. Planning how to best protect them, homes and lives is complex. Flood water behaves in a complex way and flood risks show strong spatial variations. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is developing a digital tool to support regional decision making for adaptive city planning. 


Energy and waste water

To become climate-neutral by 2050, climate mitigation* efforts are crucial in our strategy for how to deal with climate change. Reducing our energy consumption is a significant mitigation step. In the Netherlands, 15% of energy is consumed in the Rijnmond area around the port of Rotterdam, in large part by a major petrochemical industry cluster.

*Climate mitigation encompasses measures such as technologies, processes, or practices that reduce carbon emissions or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.


The Rotterdam port petrochemical industry cluster is Europe’s largest. It consumes 70% of the Rijnmond region’s energy. A large part of this energy is wasted (64%, 203 petajoules). More than half of that energy is lost with wastewater. In addition, most energy processes within these industries rely on fossil fuels, which has a significant impact on the climate.

Energy use must be minimised and fossil fuels should be replaced by renewable sources if climate change is to be mitigated. Electrification of processes opens up the possibility to use more renewable energy and can greatly impact decarbonisation. Recovering wasted heat would significantly reduce energy consumption and is a first step towards a more circular industry. 

Supporting industries in a transition towards climate-neutrality depends on identifying how best to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing production or performance. The IMPETUS Atlantic team is creating a digital tool that supports decision making about pathways towards an effective energy transition for EU industry.