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How to adapt better to climate change

An EU-backed project has developed a self-assessment tool that helps decision-makers check planned climate adaptation actions and anticipate potential risks.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Global warming poses risks to all life on Earth. How bad it gets depends on the actions we take. However, sometimes efforts to adapt to climate change can go wrong, increasing our vulnerability, reducing our well-being and undermining sustainable development. To tackle this problem, the EU-funded REGILIENCE project has created a self-assessment tool to spot risks of poor or insufficient adaptation.

What causes maladaptation?

According to an article posted on the REGILIENCE website, maladaptation is the result of a failure to adequately deal with future scenarios and uncertainties, implementation shortcomings, geographic or demographic reasons, and the prioritisation of popular short-term solutions. It is also caused by limited information and improper data use, unsustainable financial steering and being stuck in siloed systems. The REGILIENCE team identifies five categories of maladaptation risk factors: lack of effectiveness; insufficient knowledge and understanding; lack of mainstreaming and coordination; lack of sustainability and path dependency; and lack of relevance. “By checking the risks of maladaptation, it becomes less likely for adaptation actions to cause increased vulnerability or harm to livelihoods, ecosystems, and the economy,” reports the article. “It is useful to look at the risks of maladaptation to detect the risks early on in the planning phase of an adaptation action and once identified, the risks can be reduced. Also, understanding potential risks can raise general awareness of maladaptation.”

Guidance and recommendations

As explained in the article, the self-assessment tool is mainly designed for people or institutions in the public sector that are responsible for planning or carrying out regional adaptation projects or actions. However, given the growing importance of the role played by community organisations and the private sector in adaptation, the REGILIENCE researchers “encourage decision-makers on all levels to use the tool to spot potential maladaptation risks.” The tool should be used during the planning phase of a climate adaptation action. The tool guides users through a checklist of 17 questions that focus on the risk factors of poor or insufficient adaptation. Users can find out how maladaptive a particular planned adaptation action is by selecting ‘yes’, ‘partially’ or ‘no’ as answers to each question. The project team recommends that the checklist be filled in by more than one person so that the results can be compared. The project partners also provide a set of recommendations on how to avoid maladaptation in practice. To prevent such a pitfall, they suggest that decision-makers tackle the complexity of maladaptation, better anticipate future developments, align strategies and work across sectors, encourage the participation of all stakeholders and allocate funding to the right adaptation actions. REGILIENCE (Resilience Strategies for Regions) is also organising a series of 10 online open training sessions to inform interested European regional actors about available support and technical solutions for climate adaptation. Scheduled to run through to 2025, the sessions commenced in March 2023 with the first focusing on the EU resilience landscape. For more information, please see: REGILIENCE project website


REGILIENCE, climate, adaptation, climate adaptation, maladaptation, self-assessment tool

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