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Preparing the ground for adaptation

1.1 Obtaining political support for adaptation

High-level political support for adaptation in a city is a prerequisite for successful implementation of adaptation actions. Adaptation to climate change may not be high on the political agenda due to other pressures being perceived as more urgent, a lack of awareness about adaptation, negative connotations linked to the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘risks’, or the mismatch in short-term budgetary cycles and legislative periods and the long-term and future nature of climate change impacts and risks. Thus, securing political support is essential to give more prominence to adaptation.

 A political commitment to climate adaptation agreed by the local council and signed by the mayor, such as signing the Covenant of Mayors, can be an important first step towards political buy-in.

High-level political support can be brought about through several triggering factors.

Top-down recommendations or legal requirements from the national level of governance are one of the most frequent triggers. National adaptation strategies may require that municipalities develop their local level strategies and provide them with support for fulfilling this task, including financing mechanisms. This is a very favourable political situation for adaptation, as high-level political support is already granted. Legal obligations can also originate from sectoral policies.

In situations where there is no top-down mandate from political decision-makers or senior public management (which goes beyond the legislative period), other triggers are likely required such as bottom-up pressure from aware and initiative-ready constituencies, experience of climate-related natural disasters, or high popularity and frequency of discourse on climate change risks and adaptation in public and political circles on various levels.

To strengthen the case for adaptation in the absence of top-down requirements, administrators who would like to initiate adaptation action and win high-level political support can consider the following actions:

  • Collect evidence and knowledge on climate change risks and on benefits of adaptation to make a convincing ‘adaptation case’ (see e.g. guidance from the RESIN project on development of a business case for adaptation);
  • Liaise with stakeholders who have stakes in climate-sensitive sectors, including initial awareness raising among them (see Step 1.6);
  • Develop concrete ideas of how adaptation action could be carried out (see also Step 3.1);
  • Use the momentum of incidences of extreme weather events and exposure to other climate change risks (see Step 2.1);
  • Consider alternative policy lines that can be bundled with adaptation, such as sustainable development, spatial planning, disaster risk management, etc., and the positive synergies and spill-overs (see Step 2.6);
  • Develop and use communication messages that correspond to the current policy priorities or aims (See Step 1.7);
  • Use the experiences of other cities and similar areas as examples of adaptation benefits;
  • Collect information on available adaptation funding, thus lessening the hurdle of decision-makers to find additional funding for adaptation action (see Step 1.5).

Political support can be sustained through long-term policy documents or participation in regional or international adaptation initiatives.