‘Meeting adaptation needs is a prerequisite for sustainable development as by definition, it requires long-term resilience’ (OECD 2019, The Only Way Forward). For sustainable development, adaptation goals and activities thus need to be proactively mainstreamed in all areas of decision-making and planning as well as across all sectors.
The idea of mainstreaming adaptation is to systematically include climate risk 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 (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.
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 wealth of different methods and approaches. Mainstreaming can, for instance, mean the inclusion of adaptation experts into planning bodies, a mandatory climate check, or participatory planning approaches and capacity building.
Irrespective of where mainstreaming of adaptation is applied, it always comprises an institutional change process.
Examples show that easily understandable, systematic tools can support mainstreaming. At the same time, there should be enough flexibility to address different mainstreaming challenges. The process of setting up 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 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.