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Designing Policies in a World of Uncertainty, Change and Surprise: Adaptive Policymaking for Agriculture and Water Resources in the Face of Climate Change

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), The Energy and Resources Institute, and International Development Research Centre
Created: 10/31/2006 - Updated: 3/23/2018


Climate change introduces huge unknowns for policy-making. A key challenge to mainstreaming climate adaptation is developing policies that are robust to this highly uncertain future. In this Phase I Research Report, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and The Energy and Resources Institute analyze existing and past policies in the water and agricultural sectors to better understand the features that make policies adaptive to changes in underlying conditions. The study found that "no-regrets" policies and automatic adjustment based on triggers and actions improve adaptability to anticipated conditions. Principles for intervening in complex systems yield many insights for improving policy adaptation to unanticipated conditions, as do structured learning processes such as scheduled policy review and re-adjustment.

Published On

Wednesday, November 1, 2006


Community / Local
Multilateral / Transboundary
Sector Addressed: 
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Water Resources
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Growing season
Water supply
Water temperature
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Governance and Policy
Taxonomic Focus: 

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