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Avoiding maladaptation to climate change: towards guiding principles


The publication of the Physical Science Basis volume of IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report reaffirms an already known conclusion: even drastic reductions of global greenhouse gas emissions will be insufficient to avoid some of the impacts of climate change, and is becoming increasingly clear that the temperature increase by the end of the century is likely to exceed the official target of +2°C. Urgent efforts are thus more than ever needed to support socio-ecological systems threatened by climate change, but how to make adaptation happen on the ground remains vague. Consequently, there is a real risk that climate funding may support initiatives that are actually harmful for the socio-ecological systems, i.e. that foster adaptation in the short-term but insidiously affect systems’ long-term vulnerability and/or adaptive capacity to climate change. This generally defines “maladaptation”, and this paper affirms that avoiding maladaptation is a first key concrete step towards adaptation in a broader sense.

Focusing on coastal areas at a local scale and with the aim of providing insights to help avoiding maladaptation to climate change on the ground, this paper develops eleven practice-oriented guidelines that address the environmental, sociocultural and economic dimensions of adaptation initiatives (policies, plans, projects). Based upon this, it affirms that the more guidelines an initiative addresses, the lower will be the risk of maladaptation. Together, these guidelines and this assumption constitute the “Assessment framework” for approaching maladaptation to climate change at a local level.

Reference information


Alexandre Magnan, "Avoiding maladaptation to climate change: towards guiding principles", S.A.P.I.EN.S [Online], 7.1 | 2014.

Published in Climate-ADAPT Mar 03 2022   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Sep 10 2022

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