The extent to which climate change will impact our society depends on the exposure, vulnerability (which are linked to the socio-economic development) and the type of hazards. In any case climate change adaptation is needed at all levels: at the local, regional, national, transnational, EU and also the international level. Due to the varying severity and nature of climate impacts across regions in Europe, most adaptation initiatives are taken at the regional or local levels. Capacity building is often, if not always, essential components of climate change adaptation initiatives.

Capacity building refers to the process by which individuals or organisations obtain, improve or retain the skills, knowledge, tools, equipment or other resources to do their work competently. It also refers to further developing the performance and thus leading to greater capacity. Capacity building and capacity development are often used interchangeably. So capacity building in other words is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of the society.

Awareness raising and knowledge building about the expected impacts of a changing climate and the need to adapt are normally starting point of capacity building efforts. Observations, predictions and projections about existing and expected weather- or climate-related (extreme) events or slow onset events (e.g. increasing temperatures, desertification, loss of biodiversity, land and forest degradation, glacial retreat, ocean acidification, sea level rise, salinization, etc.), damage statistics and information on possible adaptation actions constitute the basis for capacity building for adaptation. However, capacity building extends beyond awareness raising and knowledge building, aiming to empower people by developing new competencies and skills.

Capacity building addresses specific target groups involved in climate change adaptation, as practitioners working in a specific region, focusing on a particular climate threat and/or sector, or dealing with a multi-sector and multi-threats perceptive. Capacity building is not only important at one point of time, but is integral over time along the whole Adaptation cycle). Different types of activities can support capacity building like targeted events, debates, sharing information through web platforms and portals (e.g. Climate-ADAPT, weADAPT, OPPLA, national adaptation portals, transnational adaptation portals, etc.), newsletters, reports, policy briefs, videos, brochures, projects, etc. There are different modes of capacity building, which can be categorised as follows:

  • Education (e.g. through schools, universities, other education service providers);
  • Training (e.g. courses, seminars, webinars, e-learning);
  • Networking (e.g. conferences, workshops, sharing platforms, communities of practice, networks of excellence);
  • Specific coaching;
  • Technical assistance (e.g. expert missions, twinning);
  • Attention of groups at risk.

Partnerships and sharing of experiences and knowledge are important contributors to further increase capacity building and learning over time.

Education and training are key capacity building efforts to increase the sustainability and institutionalisation of information and knowledge about climate change adaptation. These professional capacity building efforts can be reached via context-specific or tailored education and training. There is an increased consideration of adaptation-relevant content in existing or new education and training initiatives focused on different groups and available in diverse sectors and fields. Examples are education efforts at schools and universities, as well as specific programmes, courses and events. At the EU level, one of the on-going initiatives in this field is Climate-KIC Education that provides education and other capacity building initiatives via graduate school, professional education or online courses. Training in the field of climate change adaptation for professionals support better delivery of work and thus increased adaptive capacity and climate resilience, but can also be seen as opportunity for innovators and business for finding solutions for climate change challenges. Climate-ADAPT provides access to various capacity training materials (projects, handbooks, manuals, training kits, etc.), including for example:

Training can also be oriented to a specific sector, as in the case of the German initiative “Heat management in outpatient care – education for healthcare professionals and nurses. On one hand, the developed training material sensitized about the relevance of heat-related health problems for nursing staff and medical assistants and on the other hand trained and qualified for adequate health care measures during heatwave periods. The education material is designed based on the inverted classroom method and thus corresponds to a modern, learner-centred teaching structure. In addition to the transfer of knowledge, the application of knowledge plays an important role in this training material. The material is publicly available and can be used by different public and private training and education providers.

Adaptation Details

IPCC categories
Social: Educational options, Social: Informational
Stakeholder participation

It is very important to involve the actors/target groups who shall benefit from capacity building into the development and design of the specific capacity building modes. This ensures that the content and messages prepared are targeting the user needs and are translated into the specific contexts within the target group operates. Often, capacity building is an intrinsic component of wider stakeholder engagement processes.

Success and Limiting Factors

Since different target groups are interested in different kinds of knowledge, the material, even if available, needs to be adapted and made relevant for the target audience. The needs are very different from, varying from very generic knowledge (e.g. for school kids) to very specific and in depth information (e.g. for professionals, such as doctors and health care professionals).

Costs and Benefits

The costs and required efforts depend on the material and skills already available for capacity building, education and training. The better the material is targeted to the user needs, the lower are the costs.

The benefit can be very big, due to the personal identification with the need to adapt and the application of new knowledge in private and professional life. Also capacity building, education and training serve as multipliers of knowledge and its application in practice.

Implementation Time

Typical implementation time of a comprehensive capacity building initiative varies between 1 and 3 years.

Life Time

Capacity building can be performed independently by educational institutions/providers and many others. There is no time limit. However, capacity building materials require regular updating.

Reference information


ECBI (2018). Pocket guide to capacity building for climate change.

Swart, R., J., and Singh, T., (2013). MEDIATION and the adaptation challenge: identifying appropriate methods and tools to support climate change adaptation decision making. Alterra, Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands, p. 32.

Published in Climate-ADAPT Apr 1, 2020   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT May 17, 2024

Language preference detected

Do you want to see the page translated into ?

Exclusion of liability
This translation is generated by eTranslation, a machine translation tool provided by the European Commission.