How to identify suitable climate adaptation measures?

The need to adapt to the impacts of current and future climate change in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is urgently felt and recognised. But how can suitable measures and responses be identified and how can decision-making support tools help in this endeavour?

1 March 2018

By Omagano Shooya and Martin Rokitzki

The need to adapt to the impacts of current and future climate change in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is urgently felt and recognised. But how can suitable measures and responses be identified and how can decision-making support tools help in this endeavour?

One of the key aims of the IMPACT project is helping our stakeholders integrate scientific, policy, legal and economic knowledge on climate change into the development of policy instruments, investment plans and transformational strategies for adaptation and mitigation.

Our researchers currently study how suitable adaptation measures are identified, and once compared with other potential measures, prioritised over others. What role do the findings of climate impact and vulnerability assessments play in these decision-making processes? What scientific tools and techniques are used to support it? What criteria are used to support these decisions – only costs and benefits or also other considerations? How are future climate risks and related uncertainty, avoided losses or limits of adaptation being considered in these decisions?

These questions comprise the core of the study being conducted by IMPACT researchers, scrutinising both economic and non-economic decision-making support tools for adaptation in LDCs and SIDS. To start with, our researchers focus on the Caribbean region. Later, the focus will shift to the West African and the Pacific region.

The study is motivated by findings of recent research projects, such as ECONADAPT and MEDIATION, which concluded that approaches to adaptation have shifted from scenario-based impact assessment frameworks focusing on physical climate impacts towards policy-focused approaches that embed responses to expected climate impacts into existing socio-economic contexts. Many of these studies, however, focused on Europe and other more developed parts of the world.

In line with this shift, methodologies for identifying and appraising adaptation options and assessing adaptation costs and benefits under uncertainty have advanced over time, yet the application of these methodologies by planners and policy makers remains limited, particularly in developing countries.

Recognising the limitations of traditional decision-making approaches for investment appraisal in the context of climate change, alternative approaches to appraise and select adaptation options are being explored, both in the academic and also in the practitioner-focused literature. The analyses of current practices used in adaptation planning could play a vital role in improving the design and application of new methodologies.

The study aims to analyse current practices of adaptation planning through a systematic review of adaptation plans, strategies, programmes and projects (PSPPs) in LDCs and SIDS. The objectives of this review are:
(a) assess real-world applications of adaptation options appraisal, prioritisation and costing techniques as well as tools used in adaptation planning in order to better understand the identification of responses and decision-making processes before implementation.
(b) identify gaps and challenges in the effective application of adaptation appraisal, prioritisation and costing tools in LDCs and SIDS.

The study also aims to fill knowledge gaps by focusing on the following aspects of adaptation decision-making techniques, which have been overlooked in previous studies:

  • Actual application status of traditional and new APC tools in the development and implementation process of PSPPs in LDCs and SIDS.
  • Empirical evidences on applicability, strength, challenges, data requirement and data availability for APC tools application in LDCs and SIDS.
  • Appraisal, Prioritisation and Costing (APC) tools, sequencing and interconnecting in real application scenario.
  • Linkage between the nature of funding and adaptation decision making approaches.
  • Status, challenges and opportunities for customized and more pragmatic APC tools for LDCs and SIDS.
  • Consideration of phasing, co-benefit in real adaptation planning and implementation process.
  • Consideration of adaptation limit and residual impacts/loss and damage in real adaptation planning and implementation processes.

This review is envisaged to contribute towards the improved selection and application of appraisal, prioritisation and costing methods by synthesising the current application status and identifying the gaps and challenges in view of their effective application. Moreover, the findings of this review will assist our researchers with providing methodological guidance to planners, practitioners and policy-makers as to how best they can identify and select appropriate actions to prepare their countries (at both local and national level) for future climate change impacts.

The review for the Caribbean will be completed in May 2018.

The findings will be presented at the Adaptation Futures 2018 Conference in Cape Town, South Africa in June 2018.

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