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From impacts assessment to adaptation priorities: the shaping of adaptation policy

Ian Burton, Saleemul Huq, Bo Lim, Olga Pilifosova and Emma Lisa Schipper

Climate Policy, 2002, vol. 2, issue 2-3, 145-159

Abstract: Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adaptation has recently gained importance, yet adaptation is much less developed than mitigation as a policy response. Adaptation research has been used to help answer to related but distinct questions. (1) To what extent can adaptation reduce impacts of climate change? (2) What adaptation policies are needed, and how can they best be developed, applied and funded? For the first question, the emphasis is on the aggregate value of adaptation so that this may be used to estimate net impacts. An important purpose is to compare net impacts with the costs of mitigation. In the second question, the emphasis is on the design and prioritisation of adaptation policies and measures. While both types of research are conducted in a policy context, they differ in their character, application, and purpose. The impacts/mitigation research is orientated towards the physical and biological science of impacts and adaptation, while research on the ways and means of adaptation is focussed on the social and economic determinants of vulnerability in a development context. The main purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the national adaptation studies carried under the UNFCCC are broadening the paradigm, from the impacts/mitigation to vulnerability/adaptation. For this to occur, new policy research is needed. While the broad new directions of both research and policy can now be discerned, there remain a number of outstanding issues to be considered.

Date: 2002
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