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Applying climate information for adaptation decision-making: A guidance and resource document

The science of climate change has witnessed tremendous progress in recent decades. At the same time, public awareness of the need to address climate change has also increased significantly across the globe. In the face of recent climate events and climate-related disasters, governments, local communities, and civil society in general gained an increased understanding of the potential impacts of climate change and the need to take actions. Climate change cuts across many different sectors and affects people in many different ways. As a result, livelihoods and ecosystems are at risks in all regions of the world, but the most vulnerable communities are usually found in developing countries and among the world’s poorest. Governments of these countries are confronted with the additional challenge of increasing the climate resilience of their vulnerable populations while having to address pressing development needs. In this regard, it is critical to ensure the effective integration of adaptation efforts into sectoral policies and national development plans.

Among other prerequisites, climate information is needed to characterize climate risks and to inform decision-making for effective risk management. However, decision makers, particularly those in developing countries, often have to make do with limited availability of climate information and limited technical capacity to apply such information for robust decision-making. National teams involved in vulnerability and adaptation studies often allocate most resources in the development of climate change scenarios and impact analysis, but limited attention has been given to the use of climate information to support policy making. The need for guidance in this area became evident through the several Regional Workshops on Second National Communications organized by the National Communications Support Programme (NCSP) in the last two years. Thus, with Global Environment Facility funding and contribution from the Government of Switzerland and the Government of the United States, the NCSP developed this guidance and resource document on Applying Climate Information for Adaptation Decision-Making.

This guidance document intends to provide countries with a practical tool on using climate information in their decision-making processes. A key concern frequently raised by practitioners is designing sound adaptation programmes under the uncertainties commonly associated with climate change. This guide addresses these issues of adaptation planning under uncertainty of observed and projected climate change. It discusses the level of requirement for climate information in the decision-making process and, where possible, it provides examples and practical steps to illustrate the application of climate information. A number of different approaches have been used to guide the adaptation decision process depending on the way climate risks are framed, which in turn requires different levels of information.

This document provides information requirements depending on the scope of the analysis, ranging from assessing initial risk screening and detailed risk analysis to assessing risk management options. The document highlights the need to identify non-climate drivers — a critical consideration that must be given due attention to ensure a rigorous decision-making process to address adaptation concerns. Finally, there are sources for obtaining climate observational data and climate model outputs, and a set of questions to guide the requirement and application of climate information in support of adaptation decisions. We hope the document provides useful guidance to those engaged in climate risk assessment and adaptation planning on making the best possible use of available climate information, even with data constraints, to inform climate risk assessment and adaptation policy decisions. As the National Communications become a more relevant document for strategic decision- making, we certainly hope that the national communications teams can especially benefit from the guidance provided here.

View the document here: Applying climate information for adaptation decision-making: A guidance and resource document.