What is Climate Adaptation Planning?

climate adaptation planning

Climate adaptation planning is a process by which local governments and agencies plan how to deal with climate change. Once a plan has been developed, local officials can use the plan to help them manage the effects of climate change. There are several key components of climate adaptation planning, including environmental justice considerations, a new approach to planning, and a range of resources.

Environmental justice considerations for climate adaptation planning

When designing climate adaptation planning, environmental justice should be a priority. Environmental justice is about the rights of all people to be treated fairly and equally when dealing with environmental hazards. Environmental justice includes ensuring that all communities receive equal protection from harmful pollution and have an equal voice in decision-making. Despite recent successes in this area, there is still much work to be done.

The Canadian Climate Change Adaptation Plan, for example, focuses on frontline communities and risk reduction. The national plan also includes the launch of a Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF), which can be used to fund city-level measures. Vancouver and Canada scored well on the social justice axis compared to other case sites. The high level of social justice reflected in the governance traditions in Canada and Vancouver is expected to continue to rise in discussions of climate adaptation planning.

Climate adaptation planning in cities will require new mechanisms and processes to address issues of social equity. The inclusion of the poor and marginalized is key to ensuring the equitable implementation of climate adaptation planning. Developing clear criteria to assess climate adaptation planning is a first step to ensuring justice in urban climate change adaptation.

New approach to climate adaptation planning

To effectively address climate change, the planning process must be iterative and integrate both top-down and bottom-up approaches. While top-down approaches can inform bottom-up ones, bottom-up approaches can feed back into top-down approaches, thereby generating a more holistic picture of vulnerability and potential responses.

Governments must ensure that their public investments are protected against climate risks. The impacts of transport and power outages alone are estimated to cost $390 billion per year in developing countries. Building resilience into new infrastructure costs a fraction of that, but is critical for long-term sustainability. Meanwhile, urban and land-use plans influence huge private investments and must be adapted to long-term climate risks.

Top-down approaches are typically used to scope adaptation assessments and define initial assumptions. They require a high level of technical expertise and are difficult to translate across wide geographic scales. In addition, top-down models fail to provide enough information to guide effective risk management.

Resources for climate adaptation planning

Several resources are available to help municipalities develop climate adaptation plans. These resources cover key areas such as hazard mitigation plans and risk maps, as well as incentives for infrastructure hardening and upgrades. They also highlight the need for improved funding sources for hazard mitigation and adaptation measures. While these resources are essential for local governments, they are not the only option.

The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals has produced a climate change adaptation planning toolkit that can be used by tribal communities. Although the materials are not designed to be “one-size-fits-all,” users are encouraged to make modifications to meet their specific needs. Most of the toolkit’s users will be the climate change working group within the tribe.

The research also suggests that incentives for conservation efforts to conserve climate-resilient farmland and open space are essential. Another major need is improved coordination between conservation groups and resource agencies. Water supply planning is another area of concern, as are conservation programs that take into account a changing climate.

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