The Opportunities of Adaptation

By: Asuncion Lera St.Clair, Senior Principal Scientist, Climate Change Programme, DNVGL Strategic Research and Innovation, @asunstclair

A new approach to adaptation

Until recently, calling adaptation to climate change an opportunity was a misinterpretation of the urgency to act in the face of climate change impacts. Adaptation is about floating houses, drought resistant crops and greener cities allowing heavy rains to disappear into the soil instead of destroying basements, homes and infrastructures. In short, adaptation is accepting that climate change is already here and learning how to live with it. Adaptation as an opportunity was supposed to misdirect attention from mitigation and implicitly convey that climate change is not really such a big risk. Scientists working on adaptation and vulnerability were careful not to fall into this trap as mitigation is an absolute need if we are to prevent dangerous climate change and reduce the risks of the future. In fact the opportunity framing is almost absent in the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5).

This is, fortunately, no longer the case. The European Climate Change Adaptation Conference recently held in Copenhagen in May (ECCA) has put the opportunity narrative on the agenda. Adaptation to climate change is not only a necessary condition for sustainability and resilience; it is a major opportunity for generating a green and inclusive economy, more liveable cities, and happier citizens. The European Commission, business leaders and scientists converge around the need to shift attention to innovation, creativity and solutions that can create multiple co-benefits while adapting societies and infrastructure to unavoidable climate change impacts.

Adaptation as an opportunity

Europe wants to be a leader in providing climate services and scientific information tailored to the decision makings. In order for this to become a reality it is central to change the framing of adaptation from being an assessment of risks only to becoming pathways of opportunities. Adaptation strategies can become opportunities to create new jobs, better public transport, more inclusive societies, cleaner air, and greener cities. The implication of this shift in perspective is enormous. It is a true game changer, because it means we need to link climate change measurements and modelling with actionable solutions, with innovation strategies, and engage multiple societal actors in the planning, design and implementation of adaptation strategies. It requires creative thinking and courageous action.

Closer interactions are needed between the climate change adaptation research community, business leaders and innovators. The Global Opportunity Network contributed with its presence at the ECCA 2015 conference to assure scientists, civil society and business participants that many opportunities and solutions are already there, waiting to be explored, measured, implemented and scaled up.

The journey from risk to opportunity

In the beginning of June the Global Opportunity Network will hold eight Opportunity Panels to collect information for the next Global Opportunity Report. Eight Opportunity Panels with thought leaders from business, civil society and government will point to opportunities that can put societies on a path towards a more sustainable future. Some opportunities will be high tech ‘game changers’ and others will be low tech and low cost. Follow the hunt for opportunities on and join the conversation on Twitter using the #GlobalOpportunity hash tag.

Learn more about the Global Opportunity Report 2017

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Download the full Global Opportunity 2017 Report here!

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