Setting the vision

Step 3. Setting the vision for adaptation

Climate change adaptation is a long-term process which, by its nature, calls for the integration among different governance levels and sectors. It cannot be done in isolation from other planning and management processes. It is of paramount importance that the adaptation to the climate change contributes to an overarching, wider vision for the territory and its community which goes beyond the pure scope of the adaptation itself. 

  • Contributing to the sustainable development of the society

A climate change adaptation strategy or plan is primarily expected to increase the resilience and reduce the vulnerability to the climate change impacts of a given territory or community. However, this objective must be pursued ensuring the long-term sustainable development of the society as a whole. Therefore it must be ensured that choices made for the sake of adaptation will not compromise aspects of sustainability (e.g. environment, social and economic well-being, and intergenerational equity). At the same time,  investments made for adapting a community and making it more resilient should maximise synergies and co-benefits (e.g. increasing or protecting biodiversity and habitat conservation, reducing air pollution, improving health conditions, creating new job opportunities, improving the quality of life). To achieve this, adaptation shall foster a long-term transformative approach, radically changing the conditions which cause major vulnerabilities. For example, for coastal communities, the adoption of a transformative approach requires the early exploration of long-term effects of sea-level rise and change in the intensity and frequency of extreme storm surges, to keep time for solutions which might require long-term implementation. Such solutions shall consider up to which point the actual protection of coastal sites is feasible or becomes too expensive suggesting to shift towards a managed retreat of infrastructures and human activities more prone to sea-level rise and the climate change impacts. At this stage of step 3, links between adaptation and sustainable development goals in general shall be clarified and brought to the attention of those involved in the strategy or plan elaboration and implementation. Links to mitigation objectives and measures aiming at reducing greenhouse gas emissions shall also be highlighted.

  • Initiating the process for the vision elaboration

A vision can be defined as an optimal desired future, illustrating what we would like to achieve with the management of a territory and its community in the medium or long term. A vision obliges to think in a long-term perspective. It might be the case that a broader, long-term sustainable vision already exists. In this case, the adaptation process is driven by the existing vision. It must be ensured that the adaptation goals do not contrast with the broader vision. This step of the process can formulate recommendations to improve coherence among the different processes and ensure that the vision can also be achieved under changing climate conditions (climate-proofed vision). In many cases a vision is not available and needs to be developed as part of the adaptation process. The initial phase of the process leading to the vision is expected to collect and systematise information on the existing relevant plans and policies, and on those under development setting the direction for the future.

  • Co-creating the vision

Various visioning approaches (predictive, normative, exploratory, etc.) and tools are available ranging from those strongly relying on data and quantitative assessment (e.g. trend analysis and forecasting) to those of more qualitative nature (e.g. scenario building, strategic roadmap). Regardless of the method used, the elaboration of a vision strongly relies on a wide stakeholder involvement (see here for more information on how to organise stakeholder engagement in the adaptation process); indeed a vision is the result of a co-creation process. Considering the wide scope of the vision, stakeholder engagement cannot be confined to those strictly involved in the adaptation process, but shall be extended to a wider arena representing all the subjects dealing with planning and management. The robustness of a vision is increased by comparing different options, assessing the related trade-offs and benefits, and converging on the agreed option. The results of the co-creation process is the description of the desired sustainable future (the vision), as well as the identification of its geographic scope, timeframe, expected benefits and co-benefits, and the expected implications for the surrounding areas. To better inform the successive step of the process, it is recommended that the vision be translated into clear specific objectives for adaptation, coherent with the strategic goals set in step 1.

Outcomes of step 3:

  • Vision for a sustainable and better adapted future
  • Specific objectives of the adaptation process