Climate adaptation planning in practice: An evaluation of adaptation plans from three developed nations

Benjamin L. Preston, Richard M. Westaway, Emma J. Yuen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

255 Citations (Scopus)


Formal planning for climate change adaptation is emerging rapidly at a range of geo-political scales. This first generation of adaptation plans provides useful information regarding how institutions are framing the issue of adaptation and the range of processes that are recognized as being part of an adaptation response. To better understand adaptation planning among developed nations, a set of 57 adaptation plans from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States was evaluated against a suite of 19 planning processes identified from existing guidance instruments for adaptation planning. Total scores among evaluated plans ranged from 16% of the maximum possible score to 61%, with an average of 37%. These results suggest adaptation plans are largely under-developed. Critical weaknesses in adaptation planning are related to limited consideration for non-climatic factors as well as neglect for issues of adaptive capacity including entitlements to various forms of capital needed for effective adaptation. Such gaps in planning suggest there are opportunities for institutions to make better use of existing guidance for adaptation planning and the need to consider the broader governance context in which adaptation will occur. In addition, the adaptation options prescribed by adaptation plans reflect a preferential bias toward low-risk capacity-building (72% of identified options) over the delivery of specific actions to reduce vulnerability. To the extent these findings are representative of the state of developed nation adaptation planning, there appear to be significant deficiencies in climate change preparedness, even among those nations often assumed to have the greatest adaptive capacity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-438
Number of pages32
JournalMitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2010


  • Adaptation
  • Adaptive capacity
  • Climate change
  • Evaluation
  • Planning


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