Begin with the present: People are adapting as we speak, but not necessarily where we are looking. They try new crops, move, and search for more resilient livelihoods. Leaders in developing countries with a high level of poverty are pressed to address the vulnerability that is before them. Therefore, any adaptation strategy must be relevant now, protecting against effects of climate variability and other current stressors. We must understand people’s existing adaptive actions and develop links between these and long term resilience.
Value institutions: All societies have institutions that mediate resources and knowledge, manage risk and resolve conflict, confer legitimacy and accountability. They are formal and informal, public and private, and sometimes ignored, but central for adaptation. Whether or not new institutions may be needed, existing institutions provide the foundation on which to build stronger adaptive capacity. The challenge is to recognize the institutions that societies have and reshape, equip, and connect them for their new task.
Apply and learn – learn and apply: There are no ready-made adaptation solutions. Future climate impacts remain uncertain but will go beyond local human experience. We must be ready to test new measures and put learning from their application at the center of adaptation action. The task is to design enabling policy for strategies that work, exploring other pathways when they lead astray, and providing space for new adaptation decisions as we learn more. Learning from successes and failures is imperative.
Putting this approach into practice requires tailor-made instruments and the skills to use them. WRI helps by developing and adapting tools that are fit for purpose in different contexts, and by mobilizing capacity in areas such as decision support, financial tracking, and institutional analysis, as presented below.