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Symposium 2011

Proposal - Managing Adaptation to Climate Change in the Developing World

The Challenge

In policy discussions of climate change, mitigation has been the main focus to date but adaptation to climate change is moving up the policy agenda. Simulation models suggest that the negative effects ...

In policy discussions of climate change, mitigation has been the main focus to date but adaptation to climate change is moving up the policy agenda. Simulation models suggest that the negative effects of climate change disproportionately fall on the developing world. Some argue that such effects have already started to become visible in the form of agricultural damage, displacement of people by floods, etc.

Solution 1: Recognize poverty reduction as the primary adaptation measure
Poverty reinforces people’s vulnerability to climate change. For example, poor farmers are caught in weather-sensitive subsistence farming and do not have alternative employment options or financial means for self-protection. Efforts taken for poverty reduction, such as education and the provision of basic health care, can also make the population more adaptive to climate change.
Solution 2: Low-regret investment in infrastructure
Construction of infrastructure, such as water storage facilities and sea walls, is an important element of adaptation strategies to climate change. However, eventual usefulness or necessity of such infrastructures is subject to uncertainty of climate and socioeconomic changes. Therefore, in investment decisions, a priority should be given to low-regret options, i.e., infrastructures to improve people’s welfare even in absence of the damage of climate change. Conversely, all infrastructures to be designed and built from now on need to take account of potential damage of climate change likely to appear in the next decades.
Solution 3: Use innovative instruments such as index insurances
Poor rural populations are vulnerable to weather extremes, and they are likely to be exposed to even greater weather shocks under climate change in the future. Such weather risk could be shared broadly, and in so doing the negative effects of risk on their livelihood could be reduced. Innovative systems of risk-sharing such as index insurances can be useful for mitigating income shocks for the poor. This is an example for a bottom-up strategy that can be integrated into national (top-down) adaptation plans.
Solution 4: Promote coordination and increase incentives for governments

Costs of climate change adaptation will be large particularly for the lowest-income countries, and external financial assistance can play a large role in addressing the problem in those countries. This external assistance could be included in a restructured foreign aid system with improved incentives for governments to engage in national adaptation plans. Since still large unknown remains regarding the actual effects of climate change and adaptation measures, knowledge obtained from research and practice in different countries should be shared promptly by the international community. In this respect efforts should be shared between private and public actors on the national and international level.

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