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Planning for Climate Change

There are two critical ways in which climate change adaptation happens: through externally planned interventions and through autonomous action at the household and community level. Both are important processes and it is essential that planned interventions recognise existing community scale responses. Currently, however, there is a divide between top-down science and technical responses – often leading to physical /structural interventions, and bottom-up or community-based approaches that take a lead from social and economic vulnerability and capacity assessments. Aligning both the knowledge systems and responses from these two approaches is an important step in moving forward on adaptation planning.

But planning for climate change responses also requires a focus on emissions reduction, through mitigation-focussed actions and through taking a low carbon/green growth approach to development. Although low carbon planning remains separated from adaptation planning, policymakers are increasingly recognising the need for development pathways that can be based both on low carbon technologies – such as renewable energy systems – and account for the unavoidable impacts of climate change on socio-economic and natural resource systems.

This guide focuses on introducing approaches and lessons around three core areas:

  1. Top-down and science-led approaches to planned adaptation and mitigation
  2. Local knowledge and vulnerability based approaches to adaptation
  3. Integrating both adaptation and mitigation into development programming.

There are multiple tools available for assisting those interested in climate change planning here as a well as substantial reviews of such tools. This guide does not include any specific tools for climate change planning unless they provide lessons for improving and enhancing planning processes.

Key feature: Planning for climate change: bridging concepts and practice
Despite slow movement in the international negotiations, growth in action on climate change is being generated at all scales. This paper identifies the core challenges arising from planning for climate change before considering the overarching challenge of ‘uncertainty’ in climate science. It also reviews activities in several key areas of relevant planning experience for climate change. The authors present lessons from existing practice, identify gaps in knowledge and learning and set out ten critical dimensions of planning.

Science-based planning

Science-based methods that identify physical vulnerability to climate change impacts are essential for identifying at risk areas and structures and help to identify adaptation needs. More...

Bottom-up planning

At the community level, multiple stressors interact to increase risk and vulnerability to climate change – physical, social and economic. More...

Integrating climate change in to development planning

Climate change impacts on all sectors at all levels of governance – from the macro to the micro. Therefore responding to climate change requires a sustained effort over time to transform economies and development pathways. More...


Image credit: CGIAR Climate / Capacity Enhancement Workshop on Gender and Climate Change Adaptation, India|350.0rg/ Action plan presentation during the Kiribati Climate Leadership Workshop

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This key issue guide is produced in collaboration with the Learning Hub project, managed by IDS with support from UKaid.

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