basic principle in adaptation planning is to integrate climate
adaptation planning with the organization’s overall strategic planning,
that is, adaptation to other environmental, economic, and social
changes. This mainstreams climate risk as a normal aspect of risk
assessment and planning. Climate risk is assessed for both standard
projects and projects to prepare for climate change. This also means
balancing adaptation and mitigation policies, strategies and
investments, and particularly avoiding projects that increase GHG
A Planning Process for Climate Adaptation
The basic steps in a regional process to plan adaptation to the impacts
of climate change include:
1. Develop an organizational structure for planning.
2. Assess system vulnerability, risk level, and capacity.
3. Assess likely climate impacts.
4. Develop strategic plan for adaptation.
5. Implement the plan.
6. Evaluate performance and changes in risk patterns.
Who needs to be involved
in climate adaptation planning?
Public agencies, business associations, major companies, and
non-governmental organizations with responsibilities and interests in:
Details of the planning process:
- Water and energy resources;
- Coastal, bay, and estuary
- Biodiversity and habitat;
- Agriculture, fisheries, and
- Human health care;
- The built environment,
infrastructure and planning;
- Natural disaster management.
Develop an organizational structure for planning.
system vulnerability, risk level, and capacity.
- Identify the organization
that will act as home base for the
adaptation process and recruit an initial set of stakeholder
organizations from public and private sectors. Determine the level of
capacity for adaptation planning in the system and the means for
- Develop channels of
communication and action to involve
people and stakeholder organizations in the planning and action
processes of adaptation. Include a web site, speakers bureau, town
meetings, involvement of schools and colleges, and media briefings.
likely climate impacts.
- Assess the capacity of natural
systems to adapt to climate
change. Identify current stresses affecting the region and its natural
resources. This baseline vulnerability assessment studies issues such
as deforestation, water scarcity, air quality, soil degradation, loss
of wetlands, and exhaustion of aquifers.
- Assess the capacity of current
human systems to adapt, such
as economic sectors, the transportation, water, and energy
infrastructure, county and city master plans, and building codes.
Develop strategic plan for adaptation.
- Identify and prioritize
likely impacts of climate variability and change
that will either amplify or lessen current stresses, or create new
ones. This can be done at two levels;
- a) stakeholders identify
impacts based upon their working experience and history of climate
events and trends; and
- b) interdisciplinary teams
of experts and stakeholders conduct a
scenario planning process based upon regional application of climate
- Create alternative scenarios for
best case, middle case, and worst case possibilities for all key
Implement the plan.
- Identify adaptation
strategies that will address the likely
impacts of climate change as well as the current stresses analyzed in
step 3. Link these strategies with other important trends, like the
transition to sustainable farming, energy and water efficiency, the
implementation of renewable technologies, and sustainable land use
- Prioritize adaptation
strategies, projects, and plans according
to the likelihood, intensity, and cost of climate impacts they address.
Determine an appropriate balance between the effort and budget devoted
to climate adaptation and mitigation activities.
- Choose policies, investment
strategies, and action plans in
each of the major areas of adaptation to climate change. Identify the
early no-regrets actions that will pay off, however climate change
unfolds. Look for interventions that will achieve both climate
and greenhouse gas reductions.
Evaluate performance and changes in risk patterns.
- Assess the
organizational structure and communication channels to assure
clear responsibility for oversight and coordination of stakeholders.
- Start with no regrets actions and
steps responsive to climate impacts your system is already
- Set up an evaluation system
with indicators of both the
critical climate impacts and of your adaptation responses.
and update plans, based upon the input from this monitoring and
from scientific studies and scenarios.
A Canadian guide to urban adaptation planning presents a
classification of adaptation strategies, which we have amplified (Adapting to Climate Change: An
Introduction for Canadian Municipalities prepared by Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research
Further content on adaptation strategies is under
- Business as usual or no
adaptation: Rebuild (with no subsidy), or abandon, structures
damaged by climate events.
- Prevent the loss: Adopt
measures to reduce vulnerability, such as establishing building codes
that requie structures to withstand greater winds, heavier
precipitation, storm surges, and more frequent flooding.
- Spread or share the loss:
Spread the burden of losses across different systems or populations
through incentives for climate insurance.
- Change project location:
Relocate coastal infrastructure further inland, outside of the risk
- Change the activity:
Ban activities that are not sustainable under the emerging climate and
indicate alternatives. For instance, prevent development on coastal
land below a certain elevation and rehabilitate natural vegetation.
- Enhance adaptive capacity:
Enhance the resiliency of the system to improve its ability to deal
with stress. Preserve or rehabilitate natural coastal systems that
protect the shore. Develop riparian corridor wetlands to absorb
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