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

The Energy and Resources Institute, International Development Research Centre
Posted on: 10/31/2006 - Updated on: 2/27/2020

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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.


International Institute for Sustainable Development. (2006).  Designing policies in a world of uncertainty, change and surprise: Adaptive policymaking for agriculture and water resources in the face of climate change. Retrieved from CAKE: