Adaptation to climate change means that the detrimental effects of climate change are identified and provision is made for them. The aim is to reduce the vulnerability of both human communities and ecosystems to the present and future impacts of climate change and to strengthen their ability to recover from disasters caused by climate change.
The present and future impacts of climate change are:
- rising temperature
- changes in precipitation
- rising sea levels and
- more frequent extreme weather events and natural disasters.
Global warming cannot be stopped completely
Even if countries were able to reach a new climate agreement reducing greenhouse gas emissions, global warming could not be stopped completely. The greenhouse gases already accumulated in the atmosphere will keep warming the climate in the coming years. It will be years before any present or future limits on emissions affect the warming of the climate. For this reason, adaptation – alongside mitigation – is an essential element of climate policy and a central issue in negotiations.
Finland and the EU have actively supported the inclusion of adaptation in the new climate agreement. The Bali Action Plan (BAP), agreed in 2007, underlines the importance of adaptation measures especially for developing countries.
Adaptation measures may also have a positive impact on the mitigation of climate change. For instance, replacing deforestation with reforestation both reduces greenhouse gas emissions and increases the ability of ecosystems to endure changes in the environment. Mitigation and adaptation measures can also be combined by developing agricultural methods. On the other hand, the more emissions can be reduced, the less of a need there is to adapt to climate change and to allocate funds for it.
Climate change is a serious threat to development
The impacts of climate change, which vary widely by region, by country and even within individual countries, depend on local conditions and vulnerability factors. For this reason, local adaptation measures are needed.
Climate change poses a serious threat to development by adding an extra burden on circumstances that are already difficult. Measures to eradicate poverty and to adapt to climate change support each other and cannot be examined separately. Many of the poorest countries are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as their economies are largely based on sectors dependent on nature, such as agriculture and the exploitation of natural resources. In consequence, adaptation to climate change must be planned so that it is based on a comprehensive view of sustainable development.
Development measures that strengthen communities’ potential to cope with various stress factors may at the same time lead to adaptation benefits. Despite the overlapping of adaptation and development, there is also a need for measures that are clearly intended for adaptation to climate change. Thus, adaptation ranges from pure development measures to adaptation measures that are specifically geared to climate change. Both objectives are generally parallel and support each other. A central feature is that all development cooperation must be sustainable in terms of the climate and that climate change must be integrated with each country’s general development strategies and planning. Finland has continually emphasized the importance of adaptation to climate change and the inclusion of the climate perspective in all development cooperation.