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Preparing the ground for adaptation

1.1 How do I ensure high level political support for adaptation now and in the long run?

Ensuring high level political support for adaptation in a city is a necessary prerequisite for successful implementation of adaptation actions.

Initially adaptation to climate change might not be high on the political agenda of an urban area either due to other pressures being perceived as more urgent, a lack of awareness about adaptation and its' implications or even negative connotations linked to terms ‘climate change' or ‘risks'.

An additional challenge is to ensure the consistency of the political commitment in the long term in the face of short-term budgetary cycles and legislative periods. Long-term commitment to sustained adaptation effort is, however, essential due to the long-term and future climate change impacts and risks.

Signing the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy commitment or mainstreaming climate change in other policy resolutions might therefore be crucial.


High-level 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 support, as high-level political support is already granted. Legal obligations can also originate from sectoral policies.

In situations where there is no top-down pressure 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, exposure to severe climate change impacts or high popularity and frequency of discourse on climate change risks and adaptation in public and political circles on various levels.

To strengthen the triggers, 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 benefits of adaptation to make a convincing ‘adaptation case'
  • Liaise with stakeholders who have stakes in climate-sensitive sectors, including initial awareness raising among them
  • Develop concrete ideas of how adaptation action could be carried out
  • Use the momentum of incidences of extreme weather events and exposure to other climate change risks
  • Consider alternative policy lines that can be bundled with adaptation, such as sustainable development, spatial planning, disaster risk management, etc., consideration of the positive synergies and spill-overs
  • Develop and use communication messages that correspond to the current policy priorities or aims (See Q1.7)
  • 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

Ensuring long-term political commitment that endures through changing policy cycles requires the commitment to be secured through long-term policy documents or alternatively through communities becoming a committed signatory to adaptation initiatives, such as the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

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