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Implementing adaptation

5.4 Addressing climate change through adaptation and mitigation

Mitigation of the impacts of climate change, through reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptation to the risks posed by climate change are two complementary approaches to address climate change. As both mitigation and adaptation address the same cause of impact, they need to work in an integrated manner to successfully achieve their respective aims. Furthermore, various adaptation measures can contribute to the achievement of mitigation goals and vice versa, thus maximizing the potential co-benefits.

A decision to mitigate or adapt is usually taken at differing governance levels and by different groups of decision-makers. The main difference between these two policy areas is that mitigation efforts contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions whereas adaptation efforts contribute to increasing the resilience to climate change impacts.  To align the two, it is highly recommended that stakeholders representing mitigation planning and implementation are involved in the adaptation planning and implementation cycle for continuous feedback and cross-checking (see also Step 1.3 and Step 1.6).

The following considerations may be helpful to determine the interaction between mitigation and adaptation:

  • Do adaptation actions impact mitigation objectives? For example, some adaptation measures may require increased energy use; choosing to use energy from renewable sources will enable fewer negative trade-offs with mitigation.
  • Do mitigation actions impact adaptation objectives? For example, afforestation aimed at increasing carbon sequestration as a mitigation measure in an arid region might cause higher demand for limited and diminishing water resources, therefore limiting adaptation potential. Competition for land resources might also arise between mitigation and adaptation measures. Integrated planning is therefore highly recommended for the identification of the most beneficial combination of mitigation and adaptation measures.
  • Are there other processes that impact both mitigation and adaptation actions? These could be processes in various policy and decision-making areas that have the potential to indirectly impact both mitigation and adaptation, e.g. land-use and urban spatial planning, water resources planning, disaster risk management, strategic development planning, budgetary considerations, infrastructure projects, health and social policies, etc. Mainstreaming (see Step 5.3) mitigation and adaptation considerations in all relevant decision-making areas are essential to ensure coherence between the various strategic aims.
  • Are there decisions that improve the co-benefits or cause trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation? These could be decisions that are directly relevant to both adaptation and mitigation, however, do not explicitly take into account the co-benefits and trade-offs, e.g. concerning water allocation between hydropower and consumptive use, budget allocations for mitigation and adaptation activities, monitoring systems that cover both adaptation and mitigation, decisions on media coverage that favour either mitigation or adaptation in an unbalanced manner. In all cases where decisions are made with direct impacts on both adaptation and mitigation, it is highly recommended that mechanisms are set up to explicitly address the interactions.

The main urban sectors with the most synergies between adaptation and mitigation are spatial planning, energy and construction/buildings (see Step 2.3)

In order to appropriately address these interconnection aspects, considerations of mitigation need to be included throughout the adaptation cycle, most prominently when identifying, assessing and selecting adaptation options (see Step 3 and Step 4). Also, the developed adaptation strategy and action plan (see Step 5.1) should  address the interactions and synergies with mitigation efforts.