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Key principles for adaptation

Climate Change Adaptation applies to policies, practices and projects which can either reduce risks and / or realise opportunities associated with climate change. Adaptation affects all levels of decision-making, all regions as well as most sectors. Adaptation needs to be structured as a cross-sectoral, multi-level and inter-regional activity bringing together actors with different knowledge, interests and values. Adaptation is not simply about doing more, it is about new ways of thinking and dealing with risk and hazards, uncertainty and complexity. Exploring suitable adaptation pathways to address existing vulnerabilities and increase resilience will require a process of learning by people and organisations. Although every adaptation process needs to be contextspecific, several key principles as presented below are commonly recognized to support good adaptation.

Several principles in the adaptation policy process are commonly recognized as key factors for good adaptation. These principles (based on UKCIP, 2005; Adger et al. 2005; Prutsch et al. 2010; Brown et al. 2011) are:

  1. Adaptation needs to be sustainable – adaptation responses should not add to climate change or limit the mitigation efforts. In addition, it should not cut the ability of other parts of the natural environment, society or business to carry out adaptation elsewhere (e.g. using ground water for irrigation in dry regions which causes a decreasing groundwater level and limits the available amount of drinking water). Where possible, foster adaptation efforts that enhance the capacity of natural systems to boost resilience by buffering climate risks.
  2. Work in partnership – identify and engage with affected actors (e.g. from public authorities, NGOs, business) at all relevant levels and ensure they are well informed and encouraged to work on adaptation.
  3. Adaptation needs to be evidence‐based – making full use of the latest research, data and practical experience so that decision‐making is well‐supported and informed.
  4. Manage climate and non-climate risks using a balanced approach – climate change is only one aspect of multiple stresses that influences social, natural and economic development. Thus, adaptation must take a holistic approach that includes managing both, climate and non-climate risks.
  5. Address risks associated with past and current climate variability and weather extremes – this should be the starting point for anticipatory actions to address risks and opportunities associated with longer-term climate change. It is important to ensure coordination and close synergies with disaster risk reduction/management.
  6. The response to climate impacts should be prioritised – for example, by focusing more attention on sectors that are most affected by the weather and climate, those which have long-term lifetimes or implications, where significant investment is involved or high values are at stake, or where support for critical national infrastructure is involved.
  7. Adaptation must be tailored to the scale required by the climate change challenge (e.g. national/sectoral/cross-border) - solutions need to be modified for individual situations, also addressing responsibilities and financing.
  8. Adaptation should be flexible - although there is still uncertainty over the future climate, we should consider options now in certain fields (e.g. in sectors with long-term planning horizons) and make decisions that can be adjusted easily. Thus, the value of no/low regrets and win-win adaptation options in terms of cost-effectiveness and multiple benefits should be recognized as well as the value of a phased approach to adaptation.
  9. Adaptation needs to be transparent - fully communicate the effects of various adaptation options, both in the near and long term and providing as much detail as possible. Adaptation decisions are also value-laden, e.g. regarding the level of risk to be accepted. Thus, it is vital that decisions are made transparent in order to be able to agree on solutions that are fair and balanced.
  10. Review the effectiveness, efficiency, equity and legitimacy of adaptation decisions continuously in order to gradually improve them according to the evolution of evidence and knowledge on climate change impacts. This requires monitoring and re-evaluations of risks.

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