Assessing adaptation options
Prioritise adaptation options and select preferred ones
Based on the assessment of possible adaptation options, a selection of the most suitable ones should be carried out. Most often a multi-criteria analysis can prove useful for ranking and selecting preferred options. Evaluations typically include an assessment of effectiveness and efficiency. Effective options reduce a particular vulnerability or number of vulnerabilities to a desired level. Efficient options are those whose benefits exceed costs and are more cost-effective than the alternatives. Such benefits can be economic, social or environmental and in a feasibility assessment all three aspects have to be taken into account.
This analysis should include a set of criteria, such as:
- urgency with respect to already existing threats,
- early preparatory action (to avoid future damage costs),
- range of effect (options covering multiple risks might be favoured),
- cost-benefit ratio,
- robustness under a broad range of likely future impacts,
- flexibility for adjustments or reversibility in case of diverging developments,
- political and cultural acceptability,
- enhancement of learning and autonomous adaptive capacity, etc.
When uncertainty could become a reason for inaction, applying the principles of adaptive management (e.g. focus on flexible solutions, win-win options, robust measures under a range of possible scenarios) will facilitate decision-making.
Involving affected stakeholders for discussing and deciding on criteria and their weightings for the prioritisation and selection of adaptation options can be useful to identify an appropriate set of options with a high level of acceptance.
Due to the broad range of potential future climate change impacts and their implicit uncertainties, multiple-benefits, no-regret and low-regret adaptation options should be favoured (see key principles). Multiple-benefits options provide synergies with other goals such as mitigation, disaster risk reduction or sustainability (e.g. ecosystem based approaches). Examples include water saving devices in regions experiencing drought or insulation of buildings in regions exposed to heat waves. Insisting on options with multiple benefits can also facilitate the funding of related measures, by pulling resources and putting the emphasis on shared benefits which outweigh the costs of investments.