Climate change adaptation planning to policy: Critical considerations and challenges
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While climate change is a global phenomenon, the activities that contribute to climate change and its impacts are inherently local. Accumulating evidence within national and UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments (IPCC, 2013 and 2014), special reports (IPCC, 2012) and from recent extreme events indicates that all countries have elements of society, economy and environment that are vulnerable to a variable and changing climate. According to the IPCC, global surface temperature change for the end of the twenty-first century is likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial levels, with warming projected to continue beyond 2100. Warming and precipitation changes will be much more pronounced at different locations (IPCC, 2013). Continued variability, shifts in seasons, and climate extremes – such as heat waves and more frequent and intense precipitation events – will continue to cause harm. Climate change manifests through two different time dimensions: those over the long-term and those that occur abruptly. While it is easier to investigate the potential impacts of climate hazards and extreme weather events (acute hazards such as typhoons, heat spells or severe storms that last only for a short period), slow-onset events (long-term, gradual changes to an area’s average precipitation, temperature and seasons) such as drought and sea level can be just as detrimental or beneficial as the more flashy events. These types of changes can exceed thresholds, sensitivities and coping mechanisms for a group of people or system, and cause a cascade of impacts detrimental or beneficial to other groups or systems. The impacts of these projected changes are expected to be many and serious for both natural and human systems. The core systems (e.g. agriculture, electricity generation and water, among others) upon which humanity depends for livelihoods, safety and well-being are exposed and sensitive to being affected by climate variability1 and change. Around the world, socio-economic development has sometimes increased vulnerability. This is due to increasing demographic pressures and ageing populations, as well as resource-use pressures and previous policy choices made in pursuit of economic growth and development. This chapter provides an overview of current ideas and practices around adaptation planning processes, as well as the movement from these to develop adaptation policies and actions. The primary goals of adaptation planning processes are to be able to develop policies and actions that meet stakeholderagreed criteria and values – e.g. equity, feasibility and minimisation of environmental impact or economic development – while trying to avoid maladaptation. As such, the chapter also discusses the common challenges and difficulties researchers, practitioners, businesses and policy makers are facing in moving from understanding vulnerabilities and climate risks to actually being able to decide what policies and actions are required and implementing them. Even with growing scientific knowledge about the likely impacts of climate change, moving forward with adaptation planning, policies and actions has not been easy, and levels of action on national to global scales are relatively slow (Brown et al., 2011). The chapter is structured around core concepts and steps in adaptation planning that have been developed through trial-and-error experiences in disaster risk reduction, sustainable livelihoods and development and climate adaptation programmes. These concepts and steps in planning are evolving and are intended to assist in addressing the many challenges and common barriers that slow or prevent adaptation policies and actions, which are also discussed in this chapter. Knowing some of the common barriers to adaptation provides context to the monumental challenges facing China in continuing to improve the lives and livelihoods of its people. Like many other developing countries, the critical question facing China is how to develop adaptation policies and mechanisms in the context of an already complex development environment that has already led to severe environmental degradation. The challenge for China, an emerging world power, is to address the risks and opportunities presented by climate change while also addressing long-term socio-economic needs and, in particular, the needs of diverse rural and urban vulnerable populations in more sustainable ways in an uncertain climate future. This chapter also serves as a guide which can be used to interpret the other chapters of this book. As with many nations, China has begun adaptation planning – a flexible, reflective step-by-step process – with the intent of understanding its complex vulnerabilities and moving toward policies and actions aimed at building resilience to an uncertain future. This chapter describes emerging concepts and phases in adaptation planning processes, how these ideally lead to policies and action, and the challenges in making adaptation happen. China is finding it difficult to identify, prioritise and implement comprehensive guiding policies on provincial and national levels that enable actions at the local level, similar to adaptation planning efforts in other countries and shares many of the adaptation challenges described by this chapter. Many of the chapters in this book describe either the social vulnerabilities of China’s diverse peoples (Chapters 8, 9 and 10) or the biophysical impacts of climate change on key sectors like water or agriculture (Chapters 4 to 7). The chapters also discuss the various policies that China has instituted in various sectors to begin addressing climate change. They acknowledge the challenges and difficulties China is facing in moving from often conflicting and sector-siloed policies to implementable actions.
Climate Risk and Resilience in China
Climate Change Processes