Integrating, or mainstreaming, adaptation across sustainable development initiatives can help drive economic growth, reduce poverty and improve human well-being in a changing climate. Building resilience doesn’t just help safeguard ecosystems from intensifying impacts, but it also underpins successful policies to reduce climate risks across a wide range of sectors, from agriculture and water to transportation and health.

In Rwanda, for example, the Ministry of Agriculture has placed adaptation at the center of its plans to boost productivity of coffee and tea – the country’s two primary exports – as global temperatures rise, while thousands of miles away in Germany, the national government has adopted an early heat wave warning system to reduce health risks in vulnerable neighborhoods. Mainstreaming such cost-effective and proven adaptation approaches across development strategies can bridge the gap between national plans and local-level implementation, helping the world avoid some two-thirds of expected losses from climate change by 2030. It can also generate benefits that go beyond economics: when decision-makers implement ecosystem-based approaches like mangrove restoration, the environment benefits, and when these actions focus on building the resilience of women and youth, society benefits.

But if global temperatures steadily rise and business continues as usual with largely piecemeal efforts to mainstream adaptation, then countries’ GDPs may fall dramatically, setting global efforts to advance sustainable development back decades. Research shows that climate change has already widened global inequality and will continue to depress economic growth in many of the world’s poorest countries.

WRI’s work on mainstreaming strengthens the resilience of development outcomes in a changing climate. We work with decision-makers across all sectors and at every level of government, as well as adaptation funders and practitioners, to integrate adaptation into development by:

  • Identifying mainstreaming implementation gaps. Policymakers around the world have made commitments in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and national development plans, for instance, to integrate climate resilience across all sectoral plans, policies and programs. But because incorporating adaptation into development requires coordination among multiple actors, institutions and processes, the journey from a plan on paper to action can be slow. Our research focuses on spotlighting steps that decision-makers can take to overcome such gaps and translate resilience commitments into concrete, effective actions.
  • Helping governments create an enabling environment for mainstreaming. After identifying the key roadblocks to implementation, we work with officials to identify supportive, sustainable policy frameworks, advocate for financially sustainable approaches and encourage strong communications networks across ministries. Political and administrative leadership have also proven critical to overcoming bureaucratic inertia, and we provide ongoing technical assistance and capacity-building support to these decision-makers.
  • Shaping the global dialogue and building political will to encourage adaptation mainstreaming and prepare the world for climate impacts. We provide guidance to Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that help decision-makers strengthen their NDCs by integrating adaptation across sectors. We are also building political will to mainstream adaptation in partnership with the Global Commission on Adaptation.

For more information on our mainstreaming adaptation work, please reach out to Rebecca Carter, Moushumi Chaudhury or Ayesha Dinshaw. To stay updated on the latest research, analysis and commentary, subscribe to our newsletter Greening Governance, and follow us on Twitter @WRIGovernance.