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Preparing the ground for adaptation

1.7 How do I communicate adaptation to climate change?

Successful communication of adaptation is often key to ensure political and public support, strengthen public participation and encourage private sector action. For the communication to reach the intended aims, the appropriate messages in the most suitable format for different target audiences need to be developed.

 

Identifying effective ways to communicate climate change and the needs for adaptation is an essential prerequisite for joint adaptation efforts among responsible authorities and affected stakeholders (See Q1.6).

The use of supportive adaptation messages, agreeing on a common language and establishing mechanisms to disseminate and share information should form an integral part when preparing an adaptation process.

Adaptation to climate change might be a novel and unfamiliar topic to stakeholders or there might be pre-existing negative connotations with terms such as ‘climate change', ‘risks' or ‘vulnerability'. Adaptation, however, can be communicated in a way that is easily understandable, links to familiar discourses and creates positive attitudes. Some helpful messages for this purpose can be:

  • Successful adaptation to climate change impacts ensures that the aims of sustainable development of the city can be attained;
  • Adaptation is about increasing the well-being and quality of life of the citizens;
  • Adaptation contributes to making a city liveable and attractive;
  • Adaptation protects the public and private property from losses;
  • Adaptation is already happening and it is preferable that it is carried out in coordinated manner to avoid mal-adaptation (when adaptation measures cause negative impacts on other activities or aims or disadvantage certain population groups, etc.);
  • There is a wide range of adaptation measures possible, and the choice of the most suitable ones can be made by stakeholders in a participatory process;
  • Adaptation action now can be less costly than delaying it to later when the climate impacts have increased;
  • Adaptation not only concerns future risks but also improves the level of civil protection against current weather extremes;
  • Adaptation is not new; it is the continuation and coordination of the work done on policy-making, sectoral and household levels to protect citizens and assets from natural hazards.

Agreeing on common language

When working with other services and stakeholders, but also when informing the general public on the issue of adaptation, important terms need to be clarified to build a common language and reach a common understanding. Agreed international definitions could be first considered and defining key terms specific to the local characteristics could then be a task for the core team. Once agreed, a glossary could be added to the adaptation policy documents.

The CLIMATE-ADAPT Glossary, for example, provides definitions for key terms and concepts used by the climate change community.

Dissemination:

Sharing information is, among others, an essential pre-condition for good adaptation. Information on climate change, impacts and possible adaptation actions should be bundled and refined in user-oriented ways to reach different audiences. Good practice examples from other cities might further foster the adaptation process and enable learning.

Various formats for communication exist and can prove useful, such as personal consultations, internet communication/platforms and mass media to spread information on climate change, impacts and possible adaptation actions. Information can be presented in the form of written text in reports, websites and media, as narrated stories in meetings, events and workshops, as visual information in the form of graphs, infogrammes, maps or creative visuals, or as audio-visual information through video and audio messages brought to audiences via internet, television and radio, or in other creative ways such as through games and competitions.

A web-portal gathering tailored information on climate change and climate change adaptation for the urban area may be an excellent tool for disseminating relevant information.

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