You are here: Home / Knowledge / Tools / Urban adaptation support tool / Urban AST step 0-4
Preparing the ground for adaptation Assessing risks and vulnerabilities to climate change Identifying adaptation options Assessing adaptation options Implementation Monitoring and evaluation

The Urban Adaptation Support Tool - Getting started

0.4 What are the key principles for adaptation?

Adaptation should involve all levels of decision-making, as well as most sectors and even the surrounding areas. Adaptation needs to be structured as a cross-sectoral, multi-level and inter-regional activity bringing together actors with different knowledge, interests and values. Adaptation is not necessarily about doing more, it is about new ways of thinking and dealing with risk and hazards, uncertainty and complexity. Exploring suitable adaptation actions to address existing vulnerabilities and increase resilience will require a process of learning by people and organisations. Although every adaptation process needs to be context specific, several key principles as presented below are commonly recognized to support good adaptation.


 Several general principles in the adaptation policy process are commonly recognized as key factors for good adaptation:

  1. Strong political leadership: To ensure the success and durability of the climate agenda, it is essential that sufficient empowerment and support are secured at the highest political level.
  2. Establishment of long-term goals: Adaptation to climate change requires setting long-term objectives and going beyond legislative periods or political mandates.
  3. Coordination of climate policy: Adapting to the impacts of climate change requires coordinated action between mitigation and adaptation. Both mitigation and adaptation must go “hand-in-hand” and when possible reinforce each other. This coordinated approach is essential to trigger effective adaptation action at local level.
  4. Integration of adaptation into plans and policies in a multi-sectoral way: Given the cross-cutting nature of the topic, adaptation requires a holistic, cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary approach. Local authorities can, for example, define climate-resilient standards for both existing and new buildings as well as transport and energy infrastructures; promote green and blue spaces in local spatial plans; reinforce the flood and/or heat wave risk management plan etc. Integrating adaptation across local authority plans and policies will help to address technical concerns and harness political support, while working with all the concerned departments of the local authority, thus facilitating horizontal and vertical policy integration. Coordination among the different policy departments within the local administration and beyond is effective in pooling resources and expertise while creating adaptation advocates.
  5. Strong multi-stakeholder collaboration: Adaptation to climate change is a task that requires action and cooperation of the society as a whole:
    • The citizens – to raise awareness (e.g. on the possible damage due to floods, heat waves, etc.), stimulate behaviour change and ensure the understanding of the risks and uncertainties when coping with climate change;
    • The academic sphere and research institutes to develop and improve the knowledge base (e.g. climate change projections data relevant to local decision making);
    • The practitioners (e.g. urban planners, housing associations, disaster prevention and health care services) – to develop and capitalise on knowledge that leads to effective concrete actions and increased public awareness;
    • The private sector - to explore appropriate technologies, tools and financial mechanisms to meet the local resilience challenge while creating economic growth and jobs.
    • Engaging all relevant stakeholders, communicating challenges and opportunities, and facilitating participation are key to successful adaptation.
  6. Multi-level governance: The consistency between the adaptation frameworks at all (European, national and regional) levels is also important to integrate adaptation issues into relevant policies, programmes and strategies (e.g. disaster risk management). National governments can offer and reinforce the overall climate policy framework but regions, provinces, networks, and associations are also recognised as key supporters and multipliers.
  7. Immediate action to realise the opportunities from adaptation (‘no-regret’ approach): Adaptation to climate change offers opportunities for developing new jobs, promoting innovation and making the local authorities more attractive for investment and living. Designing the necessary policy instruments and incorporating climate change adaptation solutions into concrete measures, such as those aiming at improving the quality of our living environment or reducing energy consumption, will lead the way towards a more sustainable and resilient future for the citizens, the economy and the environment.
  8. Soft, low-cost and ‘no-regrets’ actions could be considered first and kept flexible enough to integrate new knowledge and be adapted to changing conditions. This will ensure adaptation in time and at a lower cost.
  9. Identifying and mobilising financial resources: Adaptation measures should not be considered as a cost but as an investment for the long-term liveability of local authorities. Investing in resilience now is less costly than taking action later.
  10. Innovative mechanisms within the financial sector that are city-oriented and flexible enough to fund and support integrated adaptation actions are needed to enable long-term investment. Capital could be raised through public-private partnerships and through insurance for dealing with climate risks. Besides, specific EU financial funds and programmes (e.g. Cohesion Policy, LIFE etc.) are available from the European Commission to support local authorities in fulfilling their commitments and developing actions in the climate field. For more information on funding opportunities for adaptation, see Q1.4,
  11. Regular monitoring of progress: Monitoring and evaluating results is important for following up on the achievements and for developing future actions. Local authorities should therefore propose clear monitoring mechanisms (e.g. on how to maintain up-to-date data on risks and vulnerabilities, assess the implementation level of the adaptation actions and ensure feedback loops on experience on the ground). For more information on monitoring see STEP6.

Document Actions