4.3 Prioritising adaptation options

Based on the assessment of possible adaptation options, a selection of the most suitable ones collected in the catalogue should be performed. Most often a Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) can prove useful for ranking and selecting preferred options to be developed into concrete actions. The preferred list of adaptation actions should also be agreed with stakeholders and stakeholders should be involved in MCA assessments in order to include different values and criteria in the assessment.

When it comes to selecting and prioritising appropriate adaptation options for implementation, a prudent approach begins by recognising that there are several viable options and their combinations for effective adaptation. Some of them will be better suited to minimise the risks associated with implementation even in the face of associated uncertainties regarding the risks and benefits. These options are referred to as:

  • "No-regrets adaptation options" that are worthwhile whatever the extent of future climate change will be;
  • "Low-regrets options" that are adaptive actions for which the associated costs are relatively low and for which the benefits, although primarily realised under projected future climate change, may be relatively high;
  • "Win-Win options" are adaptation actions that deliver the desired result in terms of minimising the climate risks or exploiting potential opportunities but also have significant contribution to another social, environmental or economic goal;
  • "Flexible or adaptive management options" are those options that can be adjusted easily (and with low cost), if circumstances change compared to the projections made initially;
  • "Multiple-benefit options" provide synergies with other goals such as mitigation, disaster risk reduction, environmental management or sustainability (e.g. ecosystem based approaches usually provide such multiple benefits).

Due to the broad range of potential future climate change impacts and their implicit uncertainties, these types of options should be favoured. Focussing on options with multiple benefits can also facilitate the funding of the related actions by pooling resources and putting the emphasis on shared benefits that outweigh the investments.

In practice, each adaptation measure performs differently on multiple conflicting criteria that need to be evaluated and integrated in decision-making (see Step 4.1). Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) provides a structured approach to determine overall preferences among alternative options where the options accomplish several objectives. In MCA, desirable objectives are specified and corresponding attributes or indicators are identified based on the information elements compiled in Step 4.1 and Step 4.2.

The actual measurement of indicators is based on quantitative analysis through scoring, ranking and weighting. Different environmental and social indicators may be developed side by side with economic costs and benefits. Explicit recognition is given to the fact that a variety of both monetary and non-monetary objectives influence adaptation decisions. See the resources below for details on MCA tools and methodologies for adaptation.

Involving affected stakeholders (see Step 1.6) to discuss and decide on criteria and their weightings for the prioritisation and selection of adaptation options is important to arrive at a set of options with a high level social equity and acceptance.

Once prioritisation and selection of options is completed, they need to be integrated in a local adaptation strategy or action plan providing the framework and planning for their implementation as described in Step 5 of this tool.

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