Mainstreaming Adaptation

Integrating Climate Change Adaption
into all Areas of Policy-Making

‘Meeting adaptation needs is a prerequisite for sustainable development as by definition, it requires long-term resilience’ (OECD 2019, The Only Way Forward). To facilitate sustainable development, adaptation goals and activities thus need to be proactively mainstreamed into all areas of decision-making and planning, as well as across all sectors.

The idea of mainstreaming adaptation is to systematically include climate risks and adaptation considerations in regular decision-making and planning processes instead of only implementing ‘stand-alone’ adaptation measures. This can take place at different levels of decision-making (i.e., international, national, sub-national level; sectoral and project level), as well as across sectors.

By taking climate change into account in planning and investment decisions, the adverse impacts of climate change, as well as the costs of dealing with its consequences can be reduced. Mainstreaming is therefore about checking whether a decision needs to be modified and adapted to a changing climate.

The mainstreaming of adaptation can be applied to a wide range of decision-making contexts, e.g. governmental investment decisions on infrastructure, sectoral strategies, or community development plans. The decision-making process itself determines where to best integrate adaptation considerations (the so-called ‘entry points’).

Depending on the entry points, mainstreaming adaptation can be linked to planning, budgeting, training, awareness campaigns, etc. Given this range of application, there is no single ‘blueprint’ approach, but rather a plethora of different methods and approaches. Mainstreaming can for example mean the inclusion of adaptation experts in planning bodies, a mandatory climate check, or participatory planning approaches and capacity building.
Irrespective of where mainstreaming of adaptation is applied, it always comprises a process of institutional change.

Examples show that easy-to-understand, systematic tools can support mainstreaming. At the same time, there should be enough flexibility to address different mainstreaming challenges. The process of setting up the mainstreaming of adaptation within an institution and the participation of those in a position to take better informed decisions will be crucial. The buy-in from high level decision-makers can be very supportive. Lessons can be drawn from a large number of cases in which the mainstreaming of adaptation has been applied with reference to projected medium- and long-term climate risks (e.g. taken from climate risk assessments).
The Climate Risk Analysis for Ghana serves as example for an in-depth climate risk analysis for identifying and weighing adaptation strategies in the country’s agricultural sector. Further examples can be found here.

A variety of different guidance and tool descriptions about mainstreaming adaptation under different conditions is available. Check out further reading and tools and training material.

Recent Publications

Building on the estimated financing needs for the adaptation measures prioritized within the AGRICA Climate Risk Analysis in Zambia, this study discusses suitable financing options with the overall aim of bringing resilience goals closer to implementation.
Climate change has far-reaching consequences for rural development. If you want to better understand this nexus, have a look at this living document. It provides you with many relevant publications and websites for the nexus of climate change and rural development, including basic concepts, reference documents of the UNFCCC and relevant tools and data bases.
This qualitative study highlights the interactions between climate change, human mobility and pastoralists' livelihoods in the border regions of Uganda and Kenya. It provides nuanced perspectives and recommendations on adaptive strategies and the role of both governmental and non-governmental actors in fostering resilience amidst these climatic shifts.

As at 01/2021