Starting the process

Step 1. Establishing the ground for adaptation and starting the process

The process of adapting is long and articulated; at the same time action is needed now, as the effects of a changing climate are already visible. Approaching this complex challenge calls for proper and timely preparation. Notwithstanding its importance, the effort required in this step is often underestimated. Indeed, enough time and resources should be secured to establish the ground for adaptation and run the following actions.

  • Obtaining high-level support and setting the governance

High-level political support for adaptation is a prerequisite for the successful design and implementation of adaptation actions. Obtaining and securing this support is essential from the beginning of the process and if possible should be formalised in a policy document or by joining a structured adaptation initiative (e.g. Covenant of Mayors or Coastal plan founded on the “ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean”). Political support can be triggered by top-down and bottom-up drivers, for example the first consisting of legal requirements or recommendations at the national or sub-national level, and the second of initiatives promoted by the civil society or the private sector, also in reaction to the consequences or impacts from extreme events (e.g. flooding).

The political support must be reflected into a transparent and inclusive governance for climate action. This phase is expected to identify public authorities and other private stakeholders to be involved. Uncertainty intrinsic to climate change and adaptation to it requires the best of our knowledge. Therefore, it would be great to get local scientists on board, possibly by creating a science-policy interface supporting the entire adaptation process. Once actors are identified, their respective roles shall be clarified: who drafts the plan, who expresses opinions and evaluates the plan, who approves the plan, who implements the plan, who monitors the plan implementation, etc. The definition of a core team (not necessarily formed only by representatives of the public authorities) within the overall governance scheme can highly improve the coordinated management of the adaptation process. Depending on the local context, this could be a newly established team or an existing working group.

  • Organizing the process leading to the plan

Based on the received mandate, the core team shall transparently define its role, the way of interacting with other actors involved, and the roadmap (activities, timing and milestone) of the process of plan elaboration. The level of human and technical resources needed for adaptation is a critical factor that must be carefully estimated, based on the process’ ambitions and goals. The availability of these resources depends on the characteristic of the local context (e.g. whether experts are already assigned to roles dealing with climate change or sustainability in general), but is also strongly influenced by the availability of financial resources. This step of the process shall secure needed funds for the plan design. In the context of restricted budgets, resource needs can be reduced through various actions, e.g. building upon other initiatives already in place, mainstreaming adaptation into other (planning) processes, participating in support networks and initiatives, cooperating with the private sectors, collaborating with universities, etc. Moreover, all possible sources of funding shall be explored at this stage, including national ones and EU funding programmes such as LIFE, INTERREG, and Regional Development and Cohesion Funds.

  • Planning stakeholder engagement

Adaptation is a cross-cutting, cross-sectoral and multi-level process and is of relevance for a wide, diversified range of stakeholders. Since the beginning, it is important to map the key actors to be involved and understand what their interests, responsibilities and positions toward climate change issues are. This initial activity shall lead to a well-designed stakeholder engagement process, to gain the most from their participation. In parallel, a communication strategy, supporting stakeholders’ engagement and awareness raising activities shall be developed, identifying communication objectives, target groups, communication means, modalities and timing.

  • Identifying strategic goals of the adaptation process

Adaptation is aimed at improving the response capacity and the resilience of a territory and its community to the present and future effects of climate change. Within this overall scope, different adaptation goals can be identified, ranging from the design of measures aiming to solve specific climate-related problems to the systematic transformation of the territory and its communities into a new resilient and sustainable system. The strategic adaptation goals must be identified and agreed on by the stakeholders at the very start of the process, as they orientate the successive steps and in particular the formulation of the future vision (step 3). They need to be coherent with existing overarching goals as those set by national or regional adaptation strategies and plans or policy documents at all levels, including the local one addressing the wider context of sustainability (including SGDs).  This phase shall also make the expected co-benefits of adaptation explicit.

Outcomes of step 1:

  • Policy document or statement supporting the adaptation initiative
  • Governance context defined
  • Roadmap of the adaptation process, identifying human resources, roles, activities, timing and milestones
  • Secured funding sources
  • Stakeholder analysis, engagement strategy and communication plan
  • Strategic goals of adaptation and expected co-benefits


RESIN – Actor Analysis for Urban Climate Adaptation – Guidelines for how to analyse and select stakeholders and involve them in the whole adaptation planning process.

URBINAT – Strategic design and usage of participatory solutions and relevant digital tools in support of NBS uptake MASTER ADAPT – Policy Guidance for setting adaptation objectives, a step-by step guidance for setting adaptation objectives.

MASTER ADAPT – Policy Guidance for setting adaptation objectives, a step-by step guidance for setting adaptation objectives.