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Understanding Climate Change Adaptation and Adaptive Capacity

Lorena Patino
Created: 8/31/2010 - Updated: 3/13/2019


This report synthesizes 19 of the 20 CCIAD commissioned research projects, 2007-08, and integrates discussions drawn from the workshop, Understanding Adaptation and Adaptive Capacity, held June 5, 2009, in Ottawa. This report has found a number of common themes and key messages, covering a wide range of sectors, institutions, disciplines, and authors involved in the research projects and workshop discussions.

  • Mainstreaming climate change adaptation is recommended. It refers to the integration of climate change consideration throughout the planning and decisionmaking processes of diverse sectors.
  • The need for an adaptive management approach emerges as a response to deal with the inherent uncertainty and knowledge gaps involved in the climate change science. An adaptive management approach allows for necessary adjustments to adaptation policies and programs when necessary.
  • Uncertainty in climate change can be addressed by accommodating a range of possible future climate scenarios, providing flexible rather than fixed-static responses.
  • Adaptation requires a tailored approach to respond to the differential or contextual character of climate change impact and adaptation at the local, sectoral, and group levels.
  • Existing governance and institutional arrangements need to be designed to respond to local needs and priorities for adaptation.
  • There is a need for more flexible policy and regulatory instruments to respond to the particular adaptation needs and priorities of the local, sectoral, and group levels, while enhancing their capacity to cope with climate stress.
  • Collaborative approaches strengthen adaptive capacity by supporting and enhancing social and human capital.
  • Governments’ leadership and action on climate change may enhances stakeholders’ willingness to adopt an anticipatory response, while providing an action plan to guide stakeholders’ potential adaptation efforts.
  • Mitigation and adaptation are complementary approaches, as opposed to competing perspectives. The search for mitigation and adaptation co-benefits and synergies requires further exploration.

Published On

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Tribal / First Nation
Sector Addressed: 
Disaster Risk Management
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Host adaptation training or planning workshop