Just, fair, resilient. For a climate change adaptation that leaves no one behind

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How the costs of climate change are distributed and how adaptation and resilience can be designed in a fair and equitable way, in a study coordinated by the CMCC Foundation.

The impacts of climate change are not neutral. Social and economic conditions determine to a large extent differences in how persons are affected by climate impacts and their ability to deal with them. Moreover, just as climate impacts have different effects on different groups of society, the same is true for adaptation measures.

The EU Green Deal and the revised EU Adaptation Strategy stress the importance of pursuing climate resilience in a just and fair way for adaptation benefits to be shared equitably and widely.

While there is advanced research on climate hazards – such as high temperatures and flooding – and how they affect people and assets, there is less detailed evidence and knowledge about the social factors – such as network, age, and resources – that drive individual or communities’ vulnerability to climate change. As a consequence, there is also less guidance available to support cities in assessing and addressing social vulnerability.

The technical paper “Leaving No One Behind in Climate Resilience Policy and Practice in Europe” analyses existing knowledge on how burdens from climate impacts are distributed and how costs and benefits from adaptation measures can be shared in a fair and equitable way in the European context. The paper, published by the European Topic Centre on Climate Change impacts, vulnerability and Adaptation (ETC / CCA) and coordinated by the CMCC Foundation, starts from the description of the conceptual basis of “just resilience” and provides actionable recommendations for policymakers and adaptation planners, also through case studies across Europe.

“Climate impacts are expected to have particularly uneven distributive impacts” explains Margaretha Breil, researcher at the CMCC Foundation and at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and lead author of the paper. “Potentially disadvantaged groups include persons with reduced mobility or physical capacities like elderly and the young, pregnant women and children, but also members of groups lacking social or economic resources like people living isolated or low-income groups, the homeless, and those depending on particular livelihoods like indigenous people, farmers or residents in coastal areas.”

To be fair and equitable, adaptation to climate change requires a full understanding of how social vulnerability is generated and how benefits from adaptation options are distributed. In this way, adaptation measures can be designed to benefit communities and individuals and avoid inequitable outcomes from the consequences of both climate impacts and adaptation actions.

Data availability, as highlighted by the authors, is a key necessity for both identification and mapping of vulnerable groups and for monitoring implementation and impacts of measures, and inter-departmental coordination is key to collect information, but also to identify and implement risk reduction strategies

“In addition to the need to fill the many knowledge gaps, we found that the understanding of what is ‘fair’ or ‘equitable’ can change with the geographic or temporal boundaries considered,” adds Breil. “Therefore, a strategy for a resilience that, when considered in the local context, may appear to be ‘just’,  could instead create inequalities outside of that context: in neighboring countries, globally, or for future generations.”

Strong political leadership, concludes the study, is essential, and participation is identified as one of the key practices for ensuring just resilience, as long as it guarantees that the most vulnerable groups are included in the process and supported to bring in their knowledge to the identification of the best solution.

Moreover, researchers call for detailed support for policy makers and local authorities to integrate the assessments of local vulnerability and the design of socially just adaptation policies into existing guidance tools for urban climate change adaptation.

Source: Breil et al. (2021)

For more information:

Breil, M.; Zandersen, M.; Pishmisheva, P.; Branth Pedersen, A.; Romanovska, L.; Coninx I., Rogger, M., Johnson, K. (2021) Leaving No One Behind’ in Climate Resilience Policy and Practice in Europe. European Topic Centre on Climate Change impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation (ETC/CCA) Technical Paper 2021/2. DOI: /10.25424/cmcc/justtrans_europe

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