Climate-Resilient Pathways:
Adaptation, Mitigation, and
Sustainable Development
Coordinating Lead Authors:
Fatima Denton (Gambia), Thomas J. Wilbanks (USA)
Lead Authors:
Achala C. Abeysinghe (Sri Lanka), Ian Burton (Canada), Qingzhu Gao (China), Maria Carmen
Lemos (USA), Toshihiko Masui (Japan), Karen L. O’Brien (Norway), Koko Warner (Germany)
Contributing Authors:
Thea Dickinson (Canada), Kristina Yuzva (Canada)
Review Editors:
Suruchi Bhadwal (India), Walter Leal (Germany), Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (Belgium)
Volunteer Chapter Scientist:
Sherry B. Wright (USA)
This chapter should be cited as:
, F., T.J. Wilbanks, A.C. Abeysinghe, I. Burton, Q. Gao, M.C. Lemos, T. Masui, K.L. O’Brien, and K. Warner,
2014: Climate-resilient pathways: adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development. In: Climate Change
2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working
Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B.,
V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada,
R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)].
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1101-1131.
Executive Summary ......................................................................................................................................................... 1104
20.1. Introduction .......................................................................................................................................................... 1106
Box 20-1. Goals for Climate-Resilient Pathways ....................................................................................................................... 1107
20.2. Climate Change as a Threat to Sustainable Development ................................................................................... 1108
20.2.1. Links between Sustainable Development and Climate Change ...................................................................................................... 1108 Objectives of Sustainable Development .......................................................................................................................... 1108 Risks and Threats Posed by Climate Change, Interacting with Other Factors and Driving Forces ..................................... 1109
Box 20-2. Key Reasons for Concern about Climate Change Effects on Sustainable Development ............................... 1109
20.2.2. Climate-Resilient Pathways ........................................................................................................................................................... 1112 Framing Climate-Resilient Pathways ................................................................................................................................ 1112 Elements of Climate-Resilient Pathways .......................................................................................................................... 1112
Box 20-3. Selected Elements of Climate-Resilient Pathways ........................................................................................ 1113
20.3. Contributions to Resilience through Climate Change Responses ........................................................................ 1113
20.3.1. Mitigation ....................................................................................................................................................................................... 1113
Box 20-4. Considering Geoengineering Responses ................................................................................................................... 1114
20.3.2. Adaptation ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 1115
Box 20-5. Case Studies from China ........................................................................................................................................... 1116
20.3.3. Integrating Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation for Sustainable Risk Management ........................................................... 1117
20.4. Contributions to Resilience through Sustainable Development Strategies and Choices ..................................... 1118
20.4.1. Resolving Trade-offs between Economic and Environmental Goals ................................................................................................ 1118
20.4.2. Ensuring Effective Institutions in Developing, Implementing, and Sustaining Resilient Strategies .................................................. 1119
20.4.3. Enhancing the Range of Choices through Innovation ..................................................................................................................... 1120
20.5. Determinants of Resilience in the Face of Serious Threats .................................................................................. 1121
20.5.1. Relationships between the Magnitude and Rate of Climate Change and Requirements for Transformational Adaptation ............. 1121
20.5.2. Elements of and Potentials for Transformational Change ............................................................................................................... 1121
20.6. Toward Climate-Resilient Pathways ...................................................................................................................... 1122
20.6.1. Alternative Climate-Resilient Pathways .......................................................................................................................................... 1122
20.6.2. Implications for Current Sustainable Development Strategies and Choices .................................................................................... 1123
20.7. Priority Research/Knowledge Gaps ...................................................................................................................... 1124
References ....................................................................................................................................................................... 1125
Table of Contents
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
Frequently Asked Questions
20.1: What is a climate-resilient pathway for development? ................................................................................................................... 1106
20.2: What do you mean by “transformational changes”? ..................................................................................................................... 1107
20.3: Why are climate-resilient pathways needed for sustainable development? .................................................................................... 1110
20.4: Are there things that we can be doing now that will put us on the right track toward climate-resilient pathways? ...................... 1123
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
Executive Summary
Climate change calls for new approaches to sustainable development that take into account complex interactions between climate and social
and ecological systems. Climate-resilient pathways are development trajectories that combine adaptation and mitigation to realize the goal of
sustainable development. They can be seen as iterative, continually evolving processes for managing change within complex systems.
This chapter integrates a variety of complex concepts in assessing climate-resilient pathways. It takes sustainable development as the ultimate
goal, and considers mitigation as a way to keep climate change moderate rather than extreme. Adaptation is considered a response strategy to
anticipate and cope with impacts that cannot be (or are not) avoided under different scenarios of climate change. In most cases, sustainable
development will also involve capacities for implementing and sustaining appropriate risk management. Responses may differ from situation to
situation, calling for a multiscale perspective that takes the socioeconomic, cultural, biophysical, and institutional context into account.
Nonetheless, most situations share at least one fundamental characteristic: threats to sustainable development are greater if climate change is
substantial rather than moderate. Similarly, opportunities for sustainable development are greater if climate change is moderate rather than
Although findings from this chapter are based on a high level of consensus in source materials and in the expert communities, the amount of
supporting evidence is relatively limited because so many aspects of sustainable development and climate change mitigation and adaptation
have yet to be experienced and studied empirically. The task of this chapter is to suggest options to be considered for decision making, both
now and in the future, as elements of the evolving processes for a variety of locations and scales. This chapter’s findings are as follows.
Climate change poses a moderate threat to current sustainable development and a severe threat to future sustainable development
(high confidence; medium evidence, high agreement).
Some climate-related impacts on development are already being observed (e.g.,
changes in agriculture, increases in coastal vulnerability). Added to other stresses such as poverty, inequality, or diseases, the effects of climate
change will make sustainable development objectives such as food and livelihood security, poverty reduction, health, and access to clean water
more difficult to achieve for many locations, systems, and affected populations. {20.2.1}
Climate-resilient pathways include strategies, choices, and actions that reduce climate change and its impacts. They also include
actions to ensure that effective risk management and adaptation can be implemented and sustained (high confidence; medium
evidence, high agreement).
Adaptation and mitigation have the potential to both contribute to and impede sustainable development, and
sustainable development strategies and choices have the potential to both contribute to and impede climate change responses. Adaptation and
mitigation are needed, working together to reduce risks of disruptions from climate change. These actions, however, may introduce trade-offs
between adaptation and mitigation, and between economic goals and environmental goals. In some cases, for example, adaptation may
increase greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., increased fossil-based air conditioning in response to higher temperatures) and in some cases
mitigation may impede adaptation (e.g., reduced energy availability in countries with growing populations). In many cases, strategies for
climate change responses and strategies for sustainable development are highly interactive. {20.3-4}
The integration of adaptation and mitigation responses can in some cases generate mutual benefits, as well as introduce
co-benefits with development policies (high confidence; medium evidence, medium agreement).
In many cases, reducing the risk of
climate change can enhance capacities for management of other risks. Opportunities to take advantage of positive synergies may decrease
with time, particularly if the limits to climate change adaptation are exceeded. {20.2.1, 20.3.2-3, 20.5.1}
Prospects for climate-resilient pathways are related fundamentally to what the world accomplishes with climate change mitigation,
but both mitigation and adaptation are essential for climate change risk management at all scales (high confidence; medium
evidence, high agreement).
As the magnitude of climate change increases and the consequences become increasingly significant to many
areas, systems, and populations, the challenges to sustainable development increase. Beyond some magnitudes and rates of climate change,
the impacts on most systems would be great enough that sustainable development may no longer be possible for many systems and locations.
At the local scale, governments, businesses, communities, and individuals in many developing regions have limited capacities to mitigate climate
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
change because they contribute very little to global emissions. They may also have relatively limited capacities to adapt for reasons of income,
education, health, security, political power, or access to technology. At all scales, however, mitigation and adaptation actions are fundamental
for effective implementation of climate risk management and reduction. {20.2.2, 20.3, 20.6.1}
To promote sustainable development within the context of climate change, climate-resilient pathways may involve significant
transformations (high confidence; medium evidence, high agreement). Transformations in economic, social, technological, and political
decisions and actions can enable climate-resilient pathways. Although transformations may be reactive, forced, or induced by random factors,
they may also be deliberately created through social and political processes. Whether in relation to mitigation, adaptation, or sustainable
development, it is possible to identify enabling conditions that support transformations. Nonetheless there are legitimate concerns about the
equity and ethical dimensions of transformation. {20.5}
Strategies and actions can be pursued now that will move toward climate-resilient pathways while at the same time helping to
improve livelihoods, social and economic well-being, and responsible environmental management (high confidence; medium
evidence, high agreement).
Transformations to sustainability benefit from iterative learning, deliberative processes, and innovation. {20.4}
Delayed action in the present may reduce options for climate-resilient pathways in the future (high confidence; medium
evidence, high agreement). In some parts of the world, current failures to address effects of emerging climate stressors are already eroding
the basis for sustainable development and offsetting previous gains. Opportunities to design and implement solutions that promote climate-
resilient pathways exist now, and they can capture development co-benefits of improving livelihoods and social and economic well-being.
Current actions will emphasize climate risk management strategies informed by growing evidence, knowledge, and experience. {20.6.2}
More research about the relationship between mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development is needed, as well as
research on the relationship between incremental changes and more significant transformations for sustainable development
(high confidence; robust evidence, high agreement).
Priorities for research include improving understandings of benefits, costs, synergies,
trade-offs, and limitations of major mitigation and adaptation options, along with implications for equitable development to facilitate decision
making about climate-resilient pathways (high confidence; robust evidence, high agreement).
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
20.1. Introduction
Following summaries of what we know about climate change impacts,
vulnerabilities, and prospects for adaptation (Chapter 18) and reasons
or concern (Chapter 19), this chapter summarizes what is currently
known about options regarding what to do in responding to these risks
and concerns.
In terms ofwhat to do” to address climate change and threats to
development now and in the future, the chapter identifies and discusses
climate-resilient pathways. Climate-resilient pathways are defined in
this chapter as development trajectories that combine adaptation and
mitigation with effective institutions to realize the goal of sustainable
development. They are seen as iterative, continually evolving processes
for managing change within complex socio-ecological systems; taking
necessary steps to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change impacts in
the context of development needs and resources, building capacity to
increase the options available for vulnerability reduction and coping
with unexpected threats; monitoring the effectiveness of vulnerability
reduction efforts; and revising risk reduction responses on the basis of
continuous learning. As such, climate-resilient pathways include two
main categories of responses:
Actions to reduce human-induced climate change and its impacts,
including both mitigation and adaptation toward achieving
sustainable development
Actions to ensure that effective institutions, strategies, and choices
for risk management will be identified, implemented, and sustained
as an integrated part of achieving sustainable development.
In many cases, each of the two categories of responses has the potential
to benefit the other as well, offering potentials for win-win kinds of
integration, although mechanisms and institutions are needed to address
cases where the two elements have negative effects on each other and
to ensure that positive synergies are realized. Because climate change
challenges are significant for many areas, systems, and populations,
climate-resilient pathways will generally require transformations—
beyond incremental approaches—in order to ensure sustainable
development (see Sections, 20.6.2; for related language
employed by the UNFCCC, see Box 20-1).
Incremental responses to climate change address immediate and
anticipated threats based on current practices, management approaches,
or technical strategies. These may involve developing energy-efficient
vehicles to mitigate climate change, or building higher dykes to adapt
to sea level rise. Incremental responses are often referred to as business-
as-usual approaches, as they do not challenge or disrupt existing systems
(Kates et al., 2012). Transformative responses, in contrast, involve
innovations that contribute to systemic changes by challenging some
of the assumptions that underlie business-as-usual approaches (O’Brien,
2012). Transformational adaptations, for example, change the nature,
composition, and/or location of threatened systems (Smit and Wandel,
2006; Stringer et al., 2009; National Research Council, 2010a; Pelling,
2010; IPCC, 2012). Importantly, transformations of the systems, structures,
relations, and behaviors that contribute to climate change and social
vulnerability may also be necessary to reduce risks to sustainable
development, as discussed in Section 20.5.2 (see also WGIII AR5 Chapter
6 on Assessing Transformation Pathways).
Conceptual understandings of sustainable development have developed
considerably, particularly over the past 2 decades, as the short- and
long-term implications of climate change and extreme events have
become better understood, although empirical evidence of progress
with sustainable development is often elusive. The discussion of
sustainable development in the IPCC process has evolved since the First
Assessment Report (FAR), which focused on the technology and cost-
effectiveness of mitigation activities, and the Second Assessment Report
(SAR), which included issues related to equity and to environmental
and social considerations. The Third Assessment Report (TAR) further
broadened the treatment of sustainable development by addressing
issues related to global sustainability, and the Fourth Assessment (AR4)
included chapters on sustainable development in both Working Group
II and III reports, with a focus on both climate-first and development-
first literatures.
This chapter recognizes climate change as a threat to sustainable
development. The chapter emphasizes that, as a result, transformational
changes are very likely to be required for climate-resilient pathways—
both transformational adaptations and transformations of social
processes that make such transformational adaptations feasible.
The chapter integrates a variety of complex issues in assessing climate-
resilient pathways in a variety of regions at a variety of scales:
sustainable development as the ultimate aim, mitigation as the way to
keep climate change impacts moderate rather than extreme, adaptation
as a response strategy the way to keep climate change impacts moderate
rather than extreme or to cope with impacts that cannot be (or are not)
avoided, and development pathways as contexts that shape choices and
actions. It stresses needs and opportunities to make progress toward
climate-resilient pathways now, rather than postponing responses to
an indefinite future.
The chapter is organized in six parts: climate change as a threat to
sustainable development, by assessing links between sustainable
development and climate change as well as defining climate-resilient
pathways (Section 20.2); contributions to resilience through climate
change responses (Section 20.3); contributions to resilience through
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 20.1 | What is a climate-resilient
pathway for development?
A climate-resilient pathway for development is
a continuing process for managing changes in
the climate and other driving forces affecting
development, combining flexibility, innovativeness,
and participative problem solving with effectiveness
in mitigating and adapting to climate change. If
effects of climate change are relatively severe, this
process is likely to require considerations of
transformational changes in threatened systems if
development is to be sustained without major
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
sustainable development strategies and choices (Section 20.4);
determinants of resilience in the face of serious threats (Section 20.5);
challenges in moving toward climate-resilient pathways (Section 20.6);
and priority gaps in knowledge (Section 20.7).
Several of the terms that are central to this chapter have been defined
earlier in the WGII contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report, including
climate, adaptation, and mitigation. In addition, by “resilient” we mean
a system’s ability to anticipate, reduce, accommodate, and recover from
disruptions in a timely, efficient, and fair manner (IPCC, 2012). For
literatures on “sustainable development, see Section 20.2. A summary
definition is development that meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own
needs (see Glossary). It achieves continuing improvements in human
well-being and ensures a sustainable relationship with a physical
environment that is already under stress, reconciling trade-offs among
economic, environmental, and other social goals through institutional
approaches that are equitable and participative in order themselves to
be sustainable.
Box 20-1 | Goals for Climate-Resilient Pathways
Climate-resilient pathways are development trajectories of combined mitigation and adaptation to realize the goal of sustainable
development that help avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” as specified in Article 2 of the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Article 2 of the UNFCCC outlines its ultimate objective as the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a
level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system … in order to allow ecosystems to adapt
naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a
sustainable manner.” Article 3.4 of the Convention recognizes that Parties have a right to and should promote sustainable
development. A number of recent decisions by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC has attempted to recognize the
scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2°C and encourage long-term cooperative action to combat
climate change. The Decisions agreed in Cancun at COP-16 recognize “… deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required
according to science, and as documented in the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC, with a view to reducing global greenhouse
gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above preindustrial levels … consistent with
science … [and] also recognizes the need to consider … strengthening the long-term global goal on the basis of the best available
scientific knowledge. The preamble of the Cancun Decisions highlights the central importance of the link between climate change
and employment and Realizes that addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift towards building a low-carbon society that
offers substantial opportunities and ensures continued high growth and sustainable development, based on innovative technologies
and more sustainable production and consumption and lifestyles, while ensuring a just transition of the workforce that creates
decent work and quality jobs (UNFCCC, 2011, Decision 1/CP.16). The 2011 COP, in a decision known as the Durban Platform,
increases the strength of the language in the Decision 1/CP.17 to conclude, “… climate change represents an urgent and potentially
irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires to be urgently addressed … with a view to accelerating the
reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.... This decision was followed by the decisions adopted in Doha at the 18th Conference
of the Parties that noted with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms
of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of
holding the increase in global average temperature below 2°C or 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. As such, the current UNFCCC
negotiations have identified +2°C or 1.5°C as the desirable target upper limit,implicitly equating this with “dangerous” in Article 2.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 20.2 | What do you mean by
“transformational changes”?
Transformational change is a fundamental change
in a system, its nature, and/or its location that can
occur in human institutions, technological and
biological systems, and elsewhere. It most often
happens in responding to significantly disruptive
events or concerns about them. For climate-resilient
pathways for development, transformations in
social processes may be required to get voluntary
social agreement to undertake transformational
adaptations that avoid serious disruptions of
sustainable development.
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
20.2. Climate Change as a Threat
to Sustainable Development
Climate-resilient pathways bring together (1) sustainable development
s the larger context for societies, regions, nations, and the global
community with (2) climate change effects as threats to (and possibly
opportunities for) sustainable development and (3) responses to reduce
any effects that would undermine future development and even offset
already achieved gains. Resilience is defined in this report as the ability
of a social, ecological, or socio-ecological system and its components
to anticipate, reduce, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a
hazardous event or trend in a timely and efficient manner (see Glossary).
Climate resilience refers to the outcomes of evolutionary processes
of managing change in order to reduce disruptions and enhance
opportunities. Considering alternative climate-resilient pathways cannot
be separated from levels of climate change. Overall, most climate
change scientists, decision makers, and stakeholders agree that (1) there
is a level of climate change that is low enough that climate resilience
for most systems could be achieved without enormous efforts and
widespread transformational adaptation; (2) there is a level of climate
change that is high enough that climate resilience cannot be expected
to cope with severe impacts on most systems (e.g., Rockstrom et al.,
2009); and (3) between those two levels the challenges to climate
resilience grow as the level of climate change rises. Scientists do not,
however, agree on what magnitude of climate change (e.g., average
global warming) defines each of the two levels. Some experts support
the view (Box 20-1 and Section 20.3.1) that any level above 2°C would
mean impacts that are incompatible with sustainable development
(Metz et al., 2002). The Summary for Policymakers of the WGII AR4
indicated that there is an approximate threshold between 2.5°C and
3°C of warming, above which impact concerns are severe but below
which concerns are less severe (IPCC, 2007b, Figure SPM.2; see also
Smith et al., 2009). Other scientists are unconvinced that system
sensitivities to climate parameters such as temperature increase are
understood well enough to support any specific warming threshold (e.g.,
National Research Council, 2010c), and some scientists and policymakers
are unconvinced that adaptive management and adaptive response
capacities are well enough understood to support determinations of
limits to adaptation and resilience (Chapter 16). Most experts in
all three groups, however, agree that prospects for climate-resilient
development pathways are related fundamentally to what the world
accomplishes with climate change mitigation (e.g., New et al., 2012).
20.2.1. Links between Sustainable Development
and Climate Change Objectives of Sustainable Development
Different actors have used the concept of sustainable development to
pursue a variety of objectives in policy and practice worldwide, with the
common denominator of delivering improved human well-being while
sustaining environmental services (Sen, 1999; Morgan and Farsides,
2009; Von Bernard and Gorbaran, 2010). “Sustainable development”
is a concept rooted in concerns about balance in the relationships
between society and nature (e.g., Brown, 1981). The Brundtland Report
(WCED, 1987, p. 43) defines the idea as “development that meets the
eeds of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs.It contains within it two key
concepts of “needs”: in particular the essential needs of the worlds
poorest, to which overriding priority should be given; and the idea of
limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization
on the environments ability to meet present and future needs (Rao,
2000). It stresses that equitable economic development is key to
addressing environmental problems both in developing and developed
regions in ways that are sustainable for the long term (Halsnaes et al.,
2008; Lafferty and Meadowcroft, 2010).
Historically, policy and science have subsequently influenced the
development of the concept. Concerns about declining environmental
quality, and increasing population growth, coupled with increasing rates
of consumption (energy, natural resources, input-intensive living
standards), motivated changes in some countries, related for example to:
Water and air quality standards
Management of hazardous materials
Changes in regulation (although some literature says that current
institutional controls and linkages are counterproductive (Barker,
2008; O’Hara, 2009; Scrieciu et al., 2013))
Agricultural and industrial practices
Water and solid waste management
A movement toward greater efficiency in resource use including
An emphasis on energy efficiency, progressing toward renewable
energy as an alternative to non-renewable fossil fuel resources (Frey
and Linke, 2002).
In this context, global discourse and practice have helped to establish
principles and aspirational plans. Examples include Agenda 21, which
is a comprehensive plan of action adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit
by more than 178 governments (Sitarz, 1994) and the 2012 “Rio+20”
conference, which issued a statement urging countries to renew their
commitment to sustainable development. Improved understandings of
the short- and long-term implications of climate change and extreme
events (IPCC FAR, SAR, TAR, AR4, Special Report on Managing the Risks
of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation
(SREX)) have influenced conceptualizations of sustainable development
and related objectives such as poverty reduction, health, livelihood and
food security, and other aspects of human welfare related to the idea
of “climate-resilient development. These discussions occurred against
an emerging understanding of “rights to development” (e.g., UNFCCC
Article 2), juxtaposed with the lack of consensus about justifiable
patterns of consumption and a recognition that development processes
have altered global environmental systems, including climates (Crutzen
and Stoermer, 2000; IPCC, 2007a, 2012; Oliver-Smith et al., 2012).
However, in practice some national authorities interpret sustainable
development as pursuing current economic development (Beg et al.,
2002; Swart et al., 2003; Arndt et al., 2012; Yohe, 2012), as many
countries aspire to carbon-intensive development models akin to the
systems in place in most industrialized countries—from food production,
trade, and transport to household consumption (Grist, 2008; Brown,
2011; Sanwal, 2012).
In contrast, to many observers, carbon-intensive development models
in industrialized and developing countries appear broadly inconsistent
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
ith objectives such as poverty reduction, improving human health, and
securing food and livelihoods associated with the idea of sustainable
development (Ehrenfeld, 2008; Grist, 2008; Marston, 2012; see also
Victor and Rosenbluth, 2007; Victor, 2008) and with efforts to define
and establish “safe operating spaces” for humanity (Röckstrom et al.,
2009; Preston et al., 2013). While diverse interpretations of the concept
are used, the literature suggests that many indicators of human welfare
are already being compromised to some degree and at different scales
by climate-related stressors (see Section
One way that sustainable development pathways can contribute to
climate resilience is by pursuing consumption patterns that ensure social
and economic development while reducing use of natural resources and
maintaining ecosystem services. It is possible that the desired objectives
of consumption might be met in ways that require fewer resources and
produce fewer emissions (Kates, 2000b; see also Leiserowitz et al., 2005).
Ideas about equity and values play a role in sustainable development and
how policy makers perceive trade-offs in aims to improve human well-
being. In many cases, growth in consumption that raises human well-
being (such as food and health services), especially among populations
with incomes rising from low levels, is a catalyst for economic and social
development (Clark et al., 2008; Deaton, 2008). In contrast, for populations
already at high consumption levels, increasing material consumption
does not necessarily translate into higher well-being (Easterlin, 1974,
2001; Adger, 2010; see also WGIII AR5 Chapter 4). This observation is
reflected in research on subjective human happiness, satisfaction, and
material comfort (Huesemann, 2006; Dolan and White, 2007; Fleurbaey,
2009; Cafaro, 2010; DeLeire and Kalil, 2010). Risks and Threats Posed by Climate Change,
Interacting with Other Factors and Driving Forces
As the implications of climate change and their extent become better
understood (Chapter 18) and as particular reasons for concern have begun
to come into focus (Chapter 19), climate change has been increasingly
seen as an issue for sustainable development—with the potential either
to aid or impede its successful implementation (e.g., Halsnaes et al.,
2008; Munasinghe, 2010).
The links between sustainable development and climate adaptation and
mitigation are cross-cutting and complex. First, the impacts of climate
change, and ill-designed responses to these impacts, may derail current
sustainable development policy and potentially offset already achieved
gains. These impacts are expected to affect numerous sectors such as
agriculture, forestry, and energy; threaten coastal zones and other
vulnerable areas; and pose critical challenges to governance and
political systems (World Bank, 2010, pp. 39-69; Adger et al., 2011; IPCC,
2012; see also Box 20-2 and Chapters 18, 19). Examples include poverty
and livelihoods (Chapter 13), food security (Chapter 7), human security
(Chapter 12), rural and urban areas (Chapters 8, 9), and economic sectors
(Chapters 10, 17). For instance, effects of climate change on key
ecological resources and systems can jeopardize sustainable development
in systems closely dependent on natural capital. Moreover, although
impacts will affect both developed and developing regions, the latter
are considered especially problematic owing to lower adaptive capacity
(World Bank, 2010, Chapter 13; Lemos et al., 2013). Second, mitigation
has the potential to keep these threats at a moderate rather than extreme
level, and adaptation will enhance the ability of different systems to
cope with the remaining impacts, therefore modulating negative effects
on sustainable development (IPCC, 2007a).
Third, many of the conditions that define vulnerability to climate
impacts and the ability to mitigate and adapt to them are firmly rooted
in development processes (e.g., structural deficits and available assets
and entitlements) (Brooks et al., 2005; Lemos et al., 2013; see also
Section 15.2.1). Indeed, climate change will act as a threat multiplier
and will create new poor in low-income countries and middle- to high-
income countries (Chapter 13). Fourth, sustainable development intersects
with many of the drivers of climate change, especially regarding
energy production and consumption and the ability to mitigate emissions
(IPCC, 2011; see also Chapter 9). Fifth, because several of the desirable
characteristics of climate responses and sustainable development may
overlap (e.g., implementation of no-regrets options, equitable distribution
of resources, increased adaptive capacity and livelihood capitals,
functioning ecosystems and maintained biodiversity), systems that
prioritize sustainable development may be better at designing and
implementing successful mitigation and adaptation (Forsyth, 2007;
Brown, 2011).
Finally, climate mitigation and adaptation, if planned and integrated
well, have the potential to create opportunities to foster sustainable
development (see Section 20.3.3). Under the threat of climate change,
Box 20-2 | Key Reasons for Concern about
Climate Change Effects on
Sustainable Development
Chapter 19 identifies a number of “Key Risks, Key
Vulnerabilities, and Reasons for Concern” (see especially
Section 19.6.3 and Table 19-4). Emergent risks from climate
change related to sustainable development include losses
of ecosystem services, challenges to land and water
management, effects on human health, particular risks of
severe harm and loss in certain vulnerable areas, increasing
prices of food commodities on the global market,
consequences for migration flows at particular times and
places, increasing risks of flooding, risks of food insecurity,
systemic risks to infrastructures from extreme events, loss
of biodiversity, and risks for rural livelihoods. These risks
differ according to the magnitude of climate change and
both regional and socioeconomic differences in vulnerability.
Some unique and threatened systems are at risk at current
temperatures, with risks increasing at even relatively small
increases in global mean temperature. Risks grow if the
magnitude of warming increases.
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
ustainable development depends on changes in social awareness
and values that lead to innovative actions and practices, including
increased attention to both disaster risk management and climate
change adaptation in anticipation of (and in response to) changes in
climate extremes (IPCC, 2012). Understanding how to enhance positive
feedbacks between mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development
(e.g., win-win and triple-win interventions) while minimizing potential
trade-offs between them (see Section 20.3.3) is an essential part of
planning for and pursuing climate-resilient pathways. In the following
paragraphs, we discuss these links in light of empirical research and
specific examples (Box 20-2; also see discussions of Representative
Concentration Pathways (RCPs) and Shared Socioeconomic Pathways
(SSPs) in Chapter 1). While some of the links described above have been
contemplated in the scholarly literature, there remain considerable gaps
in our knowledge base to inform climate-resilient pathways.
The relationship between climatic change and development policy has
often been theorized as essentially twofold. On the one hand, climate
change will affect development policy as needs to respond to negative,
and perhaps positive, impacts arise (Burton et al., 2002; Halsnaes and
Verhagen, 2007; IPCC, 2007a; Schipper, 2007). On the other hand,
development policy critically shapes carbon emission paths, the ability
to develop sustainable adaptation and mitigation options, and to build
overall adaptive capacity (Bizikova et al., 2007; Metz and Kok, 2008; Garg
et al., 2009; Lemos et al., 2013). Because of the recognized relationship
between development and climate change drivers and responses, some
authors have called for a “political economy of climate change” that
takes into consideration ideas, power, and resources at different scales
from the local to the global (e.g., Tanner and Allouche, 2011).
Enhancing resilience to respond to effects of climate change includes
adopting good development practices that are consonant with building
sustainable livelihoods and, in some cases, challenging current models
of development (Boyd et al., 2008; McSweeny and Coomes, 2011).
Moreover, promoting development pathways that are both equitable and
sustainable is also a key to addressing climate change (Wilbanks, 2003;
Nelson et al., 2007). In this sense, integrating sustainable development
and overall climate change policy can be all the more relevant if “cross-
linkages between poverty, the use of natural capital and environmental
degradation” are recognized (Veeman and Politylo, 2003, p. 317; see also
Matthew and Hammill, 2009). Especially in less developed regions, the
relationship between vulnerability to climate impacts and development
is often very close and mutually dependent, as such realities as low
per capita income and inequitable distribution of resources; lack of
education, health care, and safety; and weak institutions and unequal
power relations fundamentally shape sensitivity, exposure, and adaptive
capacity to climate impact (Kates, 2000a; Adger et al., 2003; Garg et al.,
2009; McSweeny and Coomes, 2011; Lemos et al., 2013). In these
regions, reducing risks that affect resource-dependent communities is
increasingly viewed as a necessary but insufficient way to tackle the
myriad problems associated with climate change impacts (Jerneck and
Olsson, 2008). Building the capacity of individuals, communities, and
governance systems to adapt to climate impacts is both a function of
dealing with developmental deficits (e.g., poverty alleviation, reducing
risks related to famine and food insecurity, enabling/implementing public
health and mass education and literacy programs) and of improving
risk management (e.g., alert systems, disaster relief, crop insurance,
seasonal climate forecasts, risk insurance) (Mirza, 2003; Schipper and
Pelling, 2006; IPCC, 2012; Warner et al., 2012a; see also Chapters 12, 13).
Hence, it is important to understand not only the relative importance
of different kinds of interventions (climate and non-climate) in building
adaptive capacity but also the potential positive and negative synergies
between them (Lemos et al., 2013).
While research increasingly highlights the intersection between
vulnerability, adaptive capacity, and developmental structural deficits (see
Chapter 13 for a detailed discussion), there is also growing recognition
that the intractability of many of these problems may inhibit the
development of climate-resilient pathways. For example, in northeast
Brazil, the fact that local traditional politics relied on patron-client
relationships with drought-affected households to maintain power
suggests that there was little incentive for policies that dramatically
decreased their level of vulnerability (Tompkins et al., 2008). Omolo
(2010) argues that in northwestern Kenya, in pastoralist societies of
Turkana, in spite of increasing numbers of women-headed households,
participation of women in key decisions such as investment, resource
allocation, and planning on where to move or settle in the aftermath
of drought and floods is still quite low. A serious concern is that our
inability to readily address these kinds of structural problems may limit
options for future generations of marginalized social groups to be active
agents of a climate-resilient future. In this sense, it is critical to understand
how existing path-dependent trajectories (e.g., socio-technical, behavioral,
institutional) that form the contextual basis for climate change action
at different scales (Burch, 2010) may inhibit (or help) the realization of
future climate-resilient pathways.
A number of studies recognize that not every possible response to climate
change is consistent with sustainable development, as some strategies
and actions may have negative impacts on the well-being of others and
of future generations (Gardiner et al., 2010; Eriksen et al., 2011; see
also Section For example, some mitigation interventions such
as the subsidization of the ethanol industry in the USA might compromise
long-term resilience through both undesirable ecological effects (e.g.,
loss of crop diversity, soil erosion, and aquifer depletion) and social
effects (e.g., reduction of flexibility for alternative fuel development,
potential for food insecurity; Adger et al., 2011). Likewise, in central
Vietnam some responses to climate change impact, such as building
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 20.3 | Why are climate-resilient
pathways needed for
sustainable development?
Sustainable development requires managing many
threats and risks, including climate change. Because
climate change is a growing threat to development,
sustainability will be more difficult to achieve for
many locations, systems, and populations unless
development pathways are pursued that are
resilient to effects of climate change.
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
ams to prevent flooding and saltwater intrusion and to generate
power, threaten the livelihood of poor communities. First, the relocation
of communities and the inundation of forestland to build dams limit
households’ access to land and forest products. Second, a government
focus on irrigated rice agriculture can reduce poor households’ ability
to diversify their income portfolio, decreasing their long-term adaptive
capacity (Beckman, 2011). Indeed, the consequences of responses to
climate change, whether related to mitigation or adaptation, can
negatively influence future vulnerability, unless there is awareness of
and response to these interactions (Eriksen et al., 2011). Here, the role
of values in responding to climate change becomes important from a
variety of perspectives, including intergenerational, particularly when
those currently in positions of power and authority assume that their
prioritized values will be shared by future generations (O’Brien, 2009;
Eriksen et al., 2011). Acknowledging the importance of intergenerational
equity, it has been argued that participatory processes and “deliberative
democracy” can include the concerns, values, and perceptions of a wide
range of stakeholders, raising some of the ethical impacts attached to
climate-related risks (Backstrand, 2003; see also Deere-Birebeck, 2009).
Such an approach could have a bearing on the way risks are assessed
and addressed at the science-policy interface, with significant implications
for sustainable development. For example, research by Wolf et al. (2009)
on climate change responses in western Canada shows that individual
quests to minimize their environmental impact and sense of responsibility
(normatively defined as ecological citizenship) play an important role
in the identification and implementation of sustainable responses to
water scarcity. In contrast, inequitable distribution of power among
those affected by climate impact can suppress innovative decisions
about the future by limiting participation in designing solutions. In light
of the complex interactions among climate change responses and
sustainable development, there is a need for more holistic responses
that place human well-being and security at the forefront, while
building on existing strengths and capacities (Tompkins and Adger,
2004; O’Brien et al., 2010). This entails integrating multiple objectives
and policy goals in order to promote responses to climate change that
contribute to resilience and that are sustainable as social and policy
conditions change (Meadowcroft, 2000; Tompkins and Adger, 2004;
Pintér et al., 2011).
A reality in many countries may be that development in its many forms
(economic, human, and sustainable) can enhance the capacity to adapt
(Lemos et al., 2013), while at the same time adding to greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions. Yet, the World Development Report 2010 suggests
that climate change responses have the potential to contribute to
sustainable development as, for example, in the case of financial
assistance with transition to low-carbon growth paths (World Bank,
2010) or in the case of mitigation policies that could increase income
and/or enhance the quality of growth in vulnerable groups such as
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in
Developing Countries (REDD+). And while vulnerable sectors such as
agriculture give us particular reasons for concern (see Box 20-2), they
may offer opportunities in some instances to reduce climate-related
risks and threats by integrating both adaptation and mitigation strategies
as a lever for reducing poverty and promoting climate-resilient pathways.
Particularly necessary is addressing institutional and social capacities
for responding to both climate change impacts and mitigation responses.
For example, Chhatre and Agrawal (2009) show that climate change
itigation can benefit livelihoods if ownership of forest commons is
transferred to local communities.
Some interventions related to climate change responses aim to combine
goals of sustainable development, climate change adaptation, and
climate change mitigation into “win-win” or “triple-win” approaches
that highlight overlaps between these goals. Examples include
mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and
Joint Implementation (JI) (e.g., Millar et al., 2007), which may seek to
offset carbon emissions, build adaptive capacities of local communities,
and provide sustainable development dividends despite mixed results
in terms of accomplishing these goals in practice (Corbera and Brown,
2008). Specifically in the case of the CDM, robust empirical research
shows overwhelming negative results in win-win terms—while the goal
of offsetting carbon emissions has fared better, generating sustainable
development dividend has been difficult. For example, after examining
16 existing CDM projects around the world, Sutter and Parreno (2007)
found that whereas they could meet 72% of their emissions reduction
goals, fewer than 1% might actually contribute significantly to sustainable
development in the host country. Furthermore, their research suggests
that there might be an actual trade-off between the goals of efficient
generation of certified emissions reduction (CERs) and the broader
generation of the sustainable development dividend (see also
Winkelman and Moore, 2011). Even when relatively successful, triple-
win interventions may result in unequal distribution of benefits across
mitigation, adaptation, and sustainable development (Bryan et al.,
2013). Because relationships among the three goals can lead to both
positive and negative consequences, it is important to unravel
conditions that lead to desirable outcomes (Chhartre and Agrawal,
2009) (see Section 20.3.3). Moreover, the fact that currently available
institutional arrangements that attempt to combine mitigation and
sustainable development (such as CDM) are not achieving win-win
goals indicates the need for rapidly developing means for evaluating,
changing, and improving current policy instruments and mechanisms
(Dovers and Hezri, 2010).
Given these connections, there is growing consensus in the literature
about a need to integrate development and climate policies; however,
the means to achieve this integration differ and are not without
controversy (see, e.g., Seballos and Kreft, 2011). An approach often
described in the literature is mainstreaming, where governments
incorporate climate-related concerns into existing policy (Dovers and
Hezri, 2010). A major factor constraining the “mainstreaming” of climate
adaptation into development is the disconnect between access to
globally available adaptation funds and developing countriesown
development agendas (Hardee and Mutunga, 2009; Seballos and Kreft,
2011). This disconnect can potentially inhibit the development of robust
local organizations and institutions that effectively integrate or
mainstream climate change considerations into development priorities.
In particular, research focusing on the National Adaptation Programmes
of Action (NAPAs) and the Strategic Programmes for Climate Resilience
(SPCRs), designed to support least developed countries to mainstream
adaptation, shows that lack of coordination between government
sectors, lack of technical capacity, and discrepancies between long-term
development goals and short-term adaptation interventions still
constrain mainstreaming efforts (Saito, 2013; see also Section 15.2).
Even where climate-related initiatives and programs are reasonably well
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
oordinated, bureaucratic complexities can cause communities to be
overlooked (Chukwumerije and Schroeder, 2009). For example, in
Mexico, despite the governmental discourse supporting climate change
policy, actual implementation of mitigation and adaptation actions have
been constrained by lack of resources and institutional coordination
and limited societal involvement (Sosa-Rodriguez, 2013). Other factors
such as lack of financial and human resources, unclear distribution of
costs and benefits, fragmented management, mismatches in scale of
governance and implementation, lack and unequal distribution of
climate information, lack of institutional memory, and trade-offs with
other priorities—may also limit the smooth mainstreaming of climate
adaptation action into development (Eakin and Lemos, 2006; Bizikova
et al., 2007; Agrawala and van Aalst, 2008; Kok et al., 2008; Metz and
Kok, 2008, Sietz et al., 2011). Finally, empirical evidence suggests that
the relationship between development variables and climate change
responses can be a mixture of positives and negatives, if development
variables are not managed well (Garg et al., 2009). For example, in a
study of the relationship between malaria incidence, development, and
climate variables in India, Garg et al. (2009) found that while some
development interventions such as building irrigation canals and dams
can, in some cases, increase the incidence of malaria and water-borne
diseases (when they exacerbate potential breeding grounds for malarial
parasites), others such as higher per capita income can reduce negative
health impacts of climate change significantly—although the distribution
of benefits can differ between types of interventions (also see Campbell-
Landrum and Woodruff, 2006). Understanding how development
variables intersect with climate responses is especially important because
governments and other actors rarely make decisions in isolation; rather,
they respond to multiple stressors both in rural and urban environments
(Eakin, 2005; Agrawal, 2010; Wilbanks and Kates, 2010; Lemos et al.,
2013). Moreover, some evidence suggests that, in practice, decision
makers (from heads of households to policy makers) often do not place
climate change at the top of their priority list of critical issues to address
(Garg et al., 2007; Kok et al., 2008), although this situation seems to
be changing. Moreover, the increasing importance of climatic change
in shaping social and governmental policy agendas has resulted in a
growing number of examples of specific interventions to respond to
climate change, both in developed and developing regions (Ayers and
Huq, 2009; Burch, 2010; Bierbaum et al., 2013; for examples of
adaptation planning see Chapter 15, especially Section 15.2, and
Chapter 14, especially Section 14.3).
20.2.2. Climate-Resilient Pathways Framing Climate-Resilient Pathways
Climate-resilient pathways integrate current and evolving understandings
of climate change consequences and conventional and alternative
development pathways to meet the goals of sustainable development (see
WGIII AR5 Chapter 4). They can be seen as development trajectories that
include both mitigation and adaptation, as well as effective development
institutions. Climate-resilient pathways represent iterative processes
for managing change within complex systems, where unintended
consequences are common owing to feedbacks, teleconnections, cross-
scale linkages, thresholds, and nonlinear effects (Folke et al., 2002; Scheffer
et al., 2009; Lenton, 2011a). Climate-resilient pathways recognize that
ncreasing atmospheric concentrations of GHGs can lead to impacts
that have long-term implications for sustainable development. The
observed and projected impacts of climate change on poverty and
livelihoods, food and water security, health, and human security are
well documented in this report (see Chapters 11, 12, 13).
The pursuit of climate-resilient pathways involves identifying vulnerabilities
to climate change impacts; assessing opportunities for reducing risks;
and taking actions that are consistent with the goals of sustainable
development. These actions may involve a combination of incremental
and transformative responses that take into account (1) current and
anticipated changes in both climate averages and extremes; (2) the
dynamic development context that influences social vulnerability, risk
perception, conflict resolution, and resilience; and (3) recognition of
human agency and capacity to influence the future. This last point is
significant, as humans have the capacity to manage risk and to decrease
vulnerability through both mitigation and adaptation, as well as
through choices of development goals and strategies (IPCC, 2012).
Climate-resilient pathways call for decisions and actions that take into
account both short- and long-term time horizons. In the short term,
society will have to adapt to changes in the climate that are linked to
past emissions, and both incremental and transformative adaptation may
thus be significant. Mitigation responses taken in the short term will
have a strong influence on climate-resilient pathways for sustainable
development in the future, shaping needs for transformative adaptation
over a long time horizon. Considering the potential for nonlinear impacts
associated with increasing global temperatures, the threats to sustainable
development are likely to become greater over time (Wilbanks et al.,
2007; Stafford et al., 2010; see also Chapter 12). Discussions of climate-
resilient pathways thus cannot be separated from levels of climate
change. Elements of Climate-Resilient Pathways
If climate change continues on its current path toward relatively
significant impacts (National Research Council, 2010b), climate-resilient
pathways will become increasingly challenging, requiring explicit
attention to responses in virtually all regions, sectors, and systems to
avoid disruptions of development processes. Climate-resilient pathways
include two overarching attributes: (1) actions to reduce climate change
and its impacts, including both mitigation and adaptation, and (2)
actions to ensure that effective risk management institutions, strategies,
and choices can be identified, implemented, and sustained as an
integrated part of development processes (Edenhofer et al., 2012).
Box 20-3 draws on material throughout the chapter to list a number of
attributes of climate-resilient pathways categorized into awareness and
capacity, resources, and practices. Each of the items is amenable to
strategy development in appropriate national, regional, and local contexts.
For example, in many cases effective response to extreme events can
benefit both from iterative problem-solving and bottom-up engagement
in risk management, and from human development to enhance capacities
for risk management and adaptive behavior (Tompkins et al., 2008).
Folke (2006) characterizes resilience as a process of innovation and
development. Pathways should therefore be continuously moving
toward a more adapted and less vulnerable state; in some instances,
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
there may be stages of slow development followed by periods where
progress increases speed. Further, the nonlinearity, variability, and
uncertainty of climate impacts necessitate a system that allows for the
flexibility to adapt to unexpected and even extreme events (Holling,
1973). This is especially true in light of political, economic, or resource
constraints, where pathways at the local level will need to be not only
flexible but also practical and feasible in both the short term and long
term. One of the most challenging aspects of climate-resilient pathways
is that they exist in distinctive local contexts, where they are shaped by
external linkages that connect them across geographic scales and time.
For example, resilience cannot be achieved in a few privileged places if
it is not achieved in other connected places, because instabilities in
adversely impacted situations will spill over to other situations through
such effects as resource supply constraints, conflict, migration, or disease
transmission (Wilbanks, 2009; IPCC, 2012, Chapter 7).
Climate-resilient pathways are in fact a process, not an outcome
(Manyena, 2006), involving both incremental and transformational
changes. The pathways therefore need to be built on a foundation of
constantly advancing knowledge, where information is adjusted based
on changing scientific knowledge on climate parameters and altering
social, economic, and natural resource situations (Berkes, 2007). While
some measures will be reactive, the main elements of a pathway are
intentional and proactive: anticipating future change and developing
appropriate plans and responses. Although payoffs from specific long-
term pathways may be unknown, strategies and actions can be pursued
now that will contribute significantly to moving toward climate-resilient
pathways while helping improve human livelihoods, social and economic
well-being, and responsible environmental management (Section 20.6.2).
20.3. Contributions to Resilience
through Climate Change Responses
Climate change responses include mitigation, adaptation, and integrated
mitigation and adaptation strategies. Related to these responses but
generally considered a separate response issue is “geoengineering”
(see Box 20-4).
20.3.1. Mitigation
In IPCC’s assessment reports, mitigation is the subject of WGIII, to which
readers are referred for comprehensive information about options and
strategies for reducing GHG emissions and increasing GHG uptakes by
the Earth system. For this chapter, the issue is how climate change
Box 20-3 | Selected Elements of Climate-Resilient Pathways
Awareness and capacity
A high level of social awareness of climate change risks
A demonstrated commitment to contribute appropriately to reducing net greenhouse gas emissions, integrated with national
development strategies
Institutional change for more effective resource management through collective action
Human capital development to improve risk management and adaptive capacities
Leadership for sustainability that effectively responds to complex challenges
Access to scientific and technological expertise and options for problem solving, including effective mechanisms for providing
climate information, services, and standards
Access to financing for appropriate climate change response strategies and actions
Information linkages in order to learn from experiences of others with mitigation and adaptation
Continuing development and evaluation of institutionalized vulnerability assessments and risk management strategy
development, and refinement based on emerging information and experience
Monitoring of emerging climate change impacts and contingency planning for responding to them, including possible needs for
transformational responses
Policy, regulatory, and legal frameworks that encourage and support distributed voluntary actions for climate change risk
Effective programs to assist the most vulnerable populations and systems in coping with impacts of climate change
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
mitigation relates to sustainable development, which was addressed
by WGII AR4 Chapter 12 (IPCC, 2007a) and is also the focus of WGIII
AR5 Chapter 4, including attention to equity issues.
In general terms, mitigation is recognized to be important for sustainable
development in two ways (Riahi, 2000). First, it reduces the rate and
magnitude of climate change, which reduces climate-related stresses
on sustainable development, including effects of extreme weather and
climate events (Washington et al., 2009; Lenton, 2011b; IPCC, 2012; see
also Section 20.2; Box 20-1). But recent observations of the rate of
increase in global carbon dioxide emissions (e.g., Peters et al., 2013)
suggest that the challenge of stabilizing concentrations is growing (for
further information about international accords, national pledges and
inventory reports, and continuing negotiations, along with summaries
of current and projected progress with mitigation, see WGIII AR5).
Second, trajectories for technological and institutional change to reduce
net GHG emissions interact with development pathways. In some cases,
national pledges to achieve mitigation targets (e.g., Figure 20-1) may be
congruent with sustainable development in urban settings, such as green
growth strategies that reduce local and regional air pollution, enhancing
prospects for multilevel governance and integrated management of
resources, and encouraging broader participation in development
processes (Lebel, 2005; Seto et al., 2010). In other cases, such effects as
higher energy prices associated with transitions from fossil fuels to
renewable energy sources have the potential to have adverse effects
on local and regional economic and social development (IPCC, 2011,
Chapter 9).
The challenge for climate-resilient pathways is to identify and implement
mixes of technological and governance options that reduce net carbon
emissions and at the same time support sustainable economic and
social growth in a context where rising demands for economic and social
development need to be combined with technology transitions without
disrupting the development process. For example, strategies such as
increasing carbon uptakes and decreasing carbon losses in the soil
Box 20-4 | Considering Geoengineering Responses
If climate change mitigation is not sufficiently successful, policymakers may be faced with demands to find further ways to reduce
climate change and its effects.
Such options include intentional large-scale interventions in the Earth system either to reduce the amount of absorbed solar energy
in the climate system or to increase the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO
) from the atmosphere (see Glossary). An example of the
former is to inject sulfates into the stratosphere. Examples of the latter include facilities to scrub CO
from the air and chemical
interventions to increase uptakes by oceans, soil, or biomass (UK Royal Society, 2009; WGIII AR5 Chapter 6; WGI AR5 Chapters 6, 7;
see also Chapter 19).
Discussions of geoengineering have only recently become an active area of discourse in science, despite a longer history of efforts to
modify climate (Schneider, 1996, 2008; Keith, 2000; Crutzen, 2006). Many of the possible options are known to be technically feasible,
but their costs, effectiveness, and side effects are exceedingly poorly understood (National Research Council, 2010b; Goes et al.,
2011; MacCracken, 2011; Vaughan and Lenten, 2011). For example, some interventions in the atmosphere might not be unacceptably
expensive in terms of direct costs, but they might affect the behavior of such Earth system processes as the Asian monsoons (Robock
et al., 2008; Brovkin et al., 2009). Some interventions to increase carbon uptakes, such as scrubbing CO
from the Earth’s atmosphere,
might be socially acceptable but economically very expensive. Moreover, it is possible that optimism about geoengineering options
might invite complacency regarding mitigation efforts.
In any case, implications for sustainable development are largely unknown. Even though some views have been expressed that
geoengineering is needed now to avoid irreversible impact such as the loss of biodiversity (while many governments have not begun
to consider it at all), several countries consider it a research priority rather than a current decision-making option (National Research
Council, 2010b). The challenge is to understand what geoengineering options would do to moderate global climate change and also
to understand what their ancillary effects and risks might be. This would allow policymakers in the future to respond if severe
disruptions appear and, as a result, there is a need to consider rather dramatic technology alternatives. Some observers propose that
research efforts should include limited experiments with geoengineering options, but agreement has not been reached about criteria
for determining what experiments are appropriate or ethical (Chapter 19.5.4; WGIII AR5 Chapter 3.3.7; Blackstock and Long, 2010;
Gardiner, 2010).
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
hrough better agricultural management practices—which can reduce
net emissions—can improve soil water storage capacity. Practices such
as conservation tillage can also increase water retention in drought
conditions and help to sequester carbon in soils (Halsnaes et al., 2008).
In many cases, however, this challenge remains very difficult to meet.
Mitigation and development also interact in a third way in that different
groups and countriesabilities to implement mitigation critically depends
on their mitigative capacity(Yohe, 2001): their “ability to reduce
anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions or enhance natural sinks” and
the “skills, competencies, fitness, and proficiencies that a country has
attained which can contribute to GHG emissions mitigation” (Winkler
et al., 2007). Here, many of the determinants of mitigative capacity are
fundamentally shaped by different countries’ levels of development,
including their current level of emissions; their stock of human, financial,
and technological capital, such as the ability to pay for mitigation; the
magnitude and cost of available abatement opportunities; the regulatory
effectiveness and market rules; the education and skills base; the suite
of mitigation technologies available; the ability to absorb new
technologies; and the level of infrastructure development (Box 20-4).
20.3.2. Adaptation
Adaptation is the subject of four chapters of this WGII AR5 (Chapters
14 to 17), to which readers are referred for comprehensive descriptions
of concepts, options, strategies, and examples of adaptation practices.
For this section, we focus on the intersection between adaptation and
ustainable development. Overall, climate adaptation and sustainable
development are linked in several ways: first, many of the determinants
of adaptive capacity to respond to climate impact and indicators of
sustainable development overlap; second, adaptive capacity building
may critically contribute to the well-being of both social and ecological
systems; and third, building adaptive capacity within a sustainable
development framework may require transformational changes (Dovers
and Hezri, 2010; Kates et al., 2012; Lemos et al., 2013).
Around the globe, the ability of communities and individuals to respond
to climate change is predicated on a number of capacities (e.g., human
capital, information and technology, material resources and infrastructure,
organizational and social capital, political capital, wealth and financial
capital, institutions and entitlements) that typically overlap with
indicators of development (Smit and Pilifozofa, 2001; Yohe and Tol, 2002;
Eakin and Lemos, 2006). However, building these capacities both in
developed and less developed regions has implications for sustainable
development because it might increase the consumption of materials
and create potential negative effects on ecosystems (e.g., building of
new infrastructure and increasing consumption). In terms of governance,
climate change adaptation and sustainable development share many
characteristics (e.g., issues of spatial and temporal scales, uncertainty,
poorly defined jurisdictions; Dovers and Hezri, 2010), and designing
and implementing successful interventions require different kinds of
capacities, including political and administrative structures (Eakin and
Lemos, 2006; Wilbanks et al., 2007). Building adaptive capacity may
critically contribute to the improvement of the well-being of both social
and ecological systems by bettering livelihoods and reducing pressure
Pledged emission reduction from
projected business-as-usual emissions
Pledged emission reduction
No actionOpen action
Pledged emission intensity
reduction target
Figure 20-1 | Pledges by Annex 1 and Annex 2 countries in response to the Copenhagen Accord (see http://unfccc.int/meetings/copenhagen_dec_2009/items/5264.php,
http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_15/copenhagen_accord/items5265.php). Refer to Table SM21-1 for groupings of countries and territories of the world of relevance for
international climate change policy making.
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
on the environment, especially in less developed regions (see Section
20.4.3). Regarding social systems, it is important to consider not only the
factors that enable the building of different capacities (e.g., institutions
and governance) but also how to guarantee that those who need it the
most have access to them (Nelson et al., 2007; Gupta et al., 2010). It is
also vital to understand how different capacities influence each other,
positively and negatively (Lemos et al., 2013), and how they may affect
the long-term resilience of social-ecological systems (Adger et al., 2011;
Box 20-5). Indeed, adaptation can be important in reducing stresses on
development processes, especially in vulnerable areas where it can help
to promote and support sustainable development. For example, where
adaptation planning stimulates participatory social processes, including
equity and legitimacy, as well as discussions regarding different
adaptation options, it can encourage communities to think more clearly
about broader sustainable development goals and pathways (National
Research Council, 2010a).
Given recent trends in GHG emissions and projections of climate futures
that suggest impacts of climate change will be serious and widespread
(e.g., Auerswald et al., 2011; Smith et al., 2011), adaptation may require
considering transformational changes, in which potentially impacted
systems move to fundamentally new patterns, dynamics, and/or locations
(Schipper, 2007; Kates et al., 2012; Marshall et al., 2012; Park et al.,
2012). Desirable adaptation strategies may vary according to specific
kinds of climate change threat, location, impacted system, the
geographical scale of attention, and the time frame of strategic risk
management planning (Thomalla et al., 2006; Heltberg et al., 2009;
National Research Council, 2010a). Transformational adaptation policy at
different scales needs to take into consideration the goals of sustainable
development, both by fostering positive synergies and by avoiding
negative feedbacks between them. This is especially important because
some adaptation options might lead to inequitable and unsustainable
outcomes, and some adaptations at one scale may negatively affect
vulnerability in another (Thomas and Twyman, 2005; Eriksen et al., 2011;
Eriksen and Brown, 2011; see also Sections 20.3.3, 20.4.4 and Chapter
14 for a more detailed discussion). For example, in the USA, building
adaptive capacity for water management through drought preparedness
plans at one scale (the state level) may constrain the flexibility of
managers at lower scales (community water systems) to respond
successfully to drought (Engle, 2013).
Indeed, adaptation pathways can foster food and water security, human
health, and air and water quality and natural resource management,
while promoting gender equality and other desirable outcomes consistent
with sustainable development goals. However, creating the conditions
for the emergence of such outcomes will require better integration in
the implementation of policies and programs at all scales. By selecting
materials not harmful to the environment, promoting the conservation
Box 20-5 | Case Studies from China
Water-saving irrigation has enhanced climate change adaptation capacity, improved ecosystem services, and promoted regional
sustainable development in China:
Water-saving irrigation measures in cropland adaptation to climate change. Water-saving irrigation is one effective measure to
deal with the water scarcity and food security issues caused by climate change (Hanjra and Qureshi, 2010; Tejero et al., 2011).
Given an increase in non-agricultural water consumption, China’s agriculture could be faced with a severe shortage of water
resources (Xiong et al., 2010). Through water-saving irrigation practices, water saved from 2007 to 2009 added up to a total of
61.82–129.66 10
, which accounted for 5.6–11.8%
of the national total water consumption; total energy
saved was equal to 9.59–20.85 Mt of standard coal;
and total CO
emissions were reduced by 21.83–47.48
Mt of CO
. Therefore, water saving irrigation has had
a positive effect in dealing with climate change and
sustainable development (Zou et al., 2012).
Water-saving irrigation measures in alpine grassland for adapting to climate change. In recent years, the rise in precipitation and
temperature has led to the melting of glaciers and expansion to inland high mountain lakes, contributing to alpine grassland
degradation in northern Tibet (Gao et al., 2010). Among many grassland protection measures, alpine grassland water-saving
irrigation measures could be effective in redistributing and making full use of increased precipitation and lake water in the dry
period, which would reduce the negative effects of climate change and make full use of favorable conditions (Editorial Board of
National Climate Change Assessment, 2011; Gao et al., 2012). A 3-year demonstration of alpine grassland water-saving irrigation
measures showed that alpine grassland primary productivity nearly doubled while the number of plant species increased from
19 to 29, helping to protect and restore the alpine grassland ecosystem and ecosystem services and to promote regional
socioeconomic sustainable development in Northern Tibet (Gao et al., 2012).
2007 2008 2009
Water saved (10
) 1 9 . 3 7 4 0 . 8 6 1 9 . 8 6 41.55 22.58 47.25
Energy saved (Mt of standard coal) 2.92 6.39 3.08 6.72 3 . 5 8 7 . 7 3
emission reduction (Mt of CO
6.66 14.58 7.02 15.31 8.15 17.59
Table 20-1 | Water and energy savings and CO
emission reductions from water-
saving irrigation measures in cropland.
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
f energy, water, and other resources, promoting reuse and recycling,
minimizing waste generation, protecting habitat, and addressing needs
of marginalized groups, adaptation can contribute to win-win and triple-
win options that can support a diverse array of development goals
(Bizikova et al., 2007; Seto et al., 2010; see also Sections 15.3.1, 20.3.3
and UNFCCC, 2011).
20.3.3. Integrating Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
for Sustainable Risk Management
Because both adaptation and mitigation are parts of climate-resilient
pathways, and because each benefits from progress with the other (e.g.,
Section 20.2), integrating the two kinds of climate change responses
within the broader context of sustainable development has been
suggested as an aspirational goal (Wilbanks et al., 2007; Bizikova et al.,
2010), especially when policy attention and financial commitments to
climate change responses must consider the pursuit of both adaptation
and mitigation. In practice, however, mitigation and adaptation tend to
involve different time frames, communities of interest, and decision-
making responsibilities (IPCC, 2007a; Wilbanks et al., 2007).
Integration of climate change responses with development processes is
a further aspirational goal. Recent research suggests that mitigation and
adaptation are likely to be more effective when they are designed and
implemented in the context of other interventions within the broader
context of sustainability and resilience (Wilbanks and Kates, 2010; ADB
and ADBI, 2012). Moreover, studies focusing on the intersection
between sustainable development and climate policy point out that
integration between the two is a desirable although complex path
(Section; Beg et al., 2002; Robinson et al., 2006; Swart and
Raes, 2007; Wilson and McDaniels, 2007; Halsnaes et al., 2008; Ayers
and Huq, 2009). Wilson and McDaniels suggest three reasons to
integrate across adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development:
(1) many dimensions of the values that are important for decision making
are common to all three decision contexts; (2) impacts from any one of
the three decision contexts may have important consequences for the
others; and (3) the choice among alternatives in one context can be a
means for achieving the underlying values important in the others.
A key factor in integrating climate change adaptation and mitigation
into sustainable risk management is to understand the processes of
decision making at different scales. The distribution of costs and benefits
of mitigation and adaptation differ; for example, mitigation benefits are
more global, adaptation benefits are often more localized, the research
and policy discourses are often unrelated, and the constituencies and
decision makers are often different (mitigation may involve powerful
industrial stakeholders from the energy sector concentrated at higher
levels of decision making, while adaptation may involve more dispersed
stakeholders at the local level across sectors) (Wilbanks et al., 2007).
To significantly reduce total global emissions, mitigation decisions must
be taken either by major emitters, or by groups of countries. At the
national and international level, direct responsibilities to curb the main
drivers of global climate change are dispersed across countries (Banerjee,
2012). In contrast, adaptation often falls to practitioners where local
responsibility is clearer, although it often depends on support from
national and global scale (Tanner and Allouche, 2011).
n many cases, the challenge of fostering synergies while avoiding
negative feedbacks often comes into focus in place-based discussions of
climate change responses and development objectives such as localities
and small regions (Dang et al., 2003; Wilbanks, 2003; Bulkeley and
Schroeder, 2012). Globally, a particular hurdle is the practice of applying
available mitigation resources only for reducing emissions beyond that
which would have occurred without those resources (“additionality”),
when access to resources for adaptation efforts should take into account
the critical role of co-benefits in supporting development in other ways
while at the same time reducing vulnerabilities to climate change
impacts (National Research Council, 2010a; see also Section 20.4.1).
Choices in integrating adaptation and mitigation will vary according to
the circumstances of each country and each locality (Wilbanks, 2003;
De Boer et al., 2010). In highly vulnerable countries, adaptation may be
seen as the highest priority because there are immediate benefits to be
obtained by reducing vulnerabilities to current climate variability and
extremes as well as future climate changes. In the case of developed
countries, adaptation initiatives have often been seen as a lower priority
because it is perceived that there is abundant adaptive capacity (Naess
et al., 2005). Yet major losses and damages in some industrialized
countries related to climatic variability and extremes challenge this
perception (e.g., Hurricane Sandy, tornadoes, and drought in the USA
in 2011 and 2012). Mitigation may be seen as more acute political
question—involving well-organized stakeholders concerned about
costs—in countries that contribute a large proportion of GHG emissions
(e.g., National Research Council, 2011), and it may be seen as an
investment opportunity for the domestic private sector.
As indicated above, one emerging strategy to integrate climate and
development policies is the design of win-win” and “triple-win”
interventions that seek to achieve an appropriate mix of mitigation and
adaptation within the context of sustainable development (Pyke et al.,
2007; Swart and Raes, 2007). Swart and Raes suggest a number of factors
that should be taken into consideration when evaluating combined
adaptation and mitigation policy designs, including (1) avoiding trade-
offs, when designing policies for mitigation or adaptation; (2) identifying
synergies; (3) enhancing response capacity; (4) developing institutional
links between adaptation and mitigation, for example, in national
institutions and in international negotiations; and (5) mainstreaming
adaptation and mitigation considerations into broader sustainable
development policies. Box 20-5 provides a case study of an initiative in
China that has been a winner for both climate change responses and
regional sustainable development. The potential for climate-resilient
pathways may already be limited, however, in part because of path
dependency stemming from choices on mitigation, adaptation, and
political interpretations and subsequent choices around “sustainable”
development (Swart et al., 2003; Barker, 2008); and, in many cases,
interventions have not delivered win-win results, which raises questions
about the actual attainability of win-win strategies given legal, political,
economic, and/or institutional obstacles (Warner et al., 2012b; see also
In synthesizing evidence from a series of empirical articles focusing on
the intersection between mitigation and adaptation (M&A), Wilbanks
and Sathaye (2007) argue that M&A pathways might be alternatives in
reducing costs, complementary to and reinforcing each other (e.g.,
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
mprovements in building energy efficiency), or competitive and
mutually contradictory (e.g., coastal protection vs. reductions in sea level
rise). In Bangladesh, for example, waste-to-compost projects contribute
to mitigation through reducing methane emissions; to adaptation
through soil improvement in drought-prone areas; and to sustainable
development through the preservation of ecosystem services (Ayers
and Huq, 2009; also see Vergara et al., 2012, regarding possible
development benefits of mitigation and adaptation in Latin America
and the Caribbean). Land management and forestry activities contribute
to ecosystem-based mitigation, for example, through the reduction of
emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and adaptation,
for example, through the conservation of hydrological services provided
to people facing water problems, as well as renewable energy (see
several cases of ecosystem-based adaptation in Pramova et al., 2012).
However, trade-offs are also possible, for example, if ecosystem
management for mitigation purposes reduces the livelihood opportunities
and the adaptive capacity of local people (Locatelli et al., 2011). The
scale of these examples is often local, however, and longer term success
of these pathways will depend on the broader context of mitigation
and facilitation of adaptation options (Metz et al., 2002).
When integrating across the goal of finding climate-resilient pathways
(and win-win solutions), decision makers often need to address issues
of scale, along with trade-offs in values such as economic profitability
versus stability of food and livelihood security (e.g., in agricultural policy),
relationships between development ends and means, uncertainty and
path dependencies, and institutional complexity (Tol, 2004; Klein et al.,
2005; Wilson and McDaniels, 2007). They also need to consider the
possibility of ancillary co-benefits, complementarities and potential
contradictions, opportunity costs, and unknown negative and positive
feedbacks (e.g., interactions among options and paybacks (Rosenzweig
and Tubiello, 2007; Swart and Raes, 2007; Wilbanks and Sathaye, 2007;
Kok et al., 2008; IPCC, 2007a, Chapter 18; National Research Council,
2010a)). Current research is examining trade-offs and complementarities
between mitigation and adaptation in different sectors. In the energy
sector, for instance, Kopytko and Perkins (2011) have examined to
what extent the siting of nuclear power plants might constrain future
adaptation to sea level rise. Others ask about such issues as adaptation
implications of the production of biofuels (La Rovere et al., 2009);
agriculture and water (Rosenzweig and Tubiello, 2007; Shah, 2009;
Falloon and Betts, 2010; Rounsevell et al., 2010; Turner et al., 2010);
conservation (Rounsevell et al., 2010; Turner et al., 2010); use of
mitigation programs to finance adaptation (Hof et al., 2009); and the
urban environment (Biesbroek et al., 2009; Hamin and Gurran, 2009;
Roy, 2009; Romero-Lankao and Wilbanks, 2011; Viguié and Hallegatte,
20.4. Contributions to Resilience
through Sustainable Development
Strategies and Choices
Although climate change responses can contribute significantly to
climate-resilient development pathways, some of the key elements of
resilience lie in sustainable development implementation, which can
make resilience either more or less achievable. Examples of ways that
development strategies and choices can contribute to climate resilience
nclude being capable of resolving trade-offs among economic and
environmental goals (e.g., Bamuri and Opeschoor, 2007), ensuring
effective institutions in developing, implementing, and sustaining resilient
strategies, and enhancing the range of choices through innovation (e.g.,
Folke et al., 2002; Chuku, 2009; Hallegatte, 2009).
0.4.1. Resolving Trade-offs between
Economic and Environmental Goals
Sustainable development pathways will be more climate resilient if
they develop and utilize socioeconomic and institutional structures
that are effective in resolving trade-offs among social, economic, and
environmental goals—a central tenet of sustainable development
(Section As climate change poses risks to goals such as poverty
reduction, food and livelihood security, human health, and economic
prosperity (Chapter 19), societies face the task of defining how to
manage these risks and what levels of risk without compromising what
they value most and what defines their societies. The management of
risk—and the weighting of various categories of risk—depends on
social definitions of what consequences are acceptable, tolerable, or
intolerable (Chapter 16).
There is a long-standing assumption that economic growth is in conflict
with environmental management (Victor and Rosenbluth, 2007; Hueting,
2010). Much of this thinking can be traced back to Malthus and his
assertions that population growth (and associated consumption) would
expand at an increasing rate until the limits of the Earth’s capacity were
reached (Malthus, 1798). The very idea of sustainable development itself
springs from a need to respond to such Malthusian ideas. The views
expounded in the Brundtland Report, for example, are that development
should not be unconstrained but should rather be modified into a
“sustainable” form (WCED, 1987). Views about relationships between
economic growth and environmental protection range widely from
arguments that sustainable development is inconsistent with continued
economic growth (e.g., Robinson, 2004) to arguments that economic
growth and associated technological innovation can enhance options
for environmental management (Lovins and Cohen, 2011). Relationships
between affluence and environmental protection are complex, as poverty
can lead to land degradation and affluence can afford support for nature
preservation, while economic growth is built on levels of resource
extraction and use that require significant changes in environments.
Sustainable development cannot escape continuing tensions between
economic growth and environmental management goals, where
strongly held views across society often differ so fundamentally that
conflict results unless social processes and institutional mechanisms are
effective in resolving a host of trade-offs (Boyd et al., 2008), with both
values and processes varying according to development context.
Examples of frameworks of thought often related to addressing trade-
offs are multi-metric valuation and co-benefits (see also Ness et al.,
2007, regarding tools for sustainability assessment; Bizikova et al., 2008,
Appendix 1; Gulledge et al., 2010):
Multi-metric valuation. In evaluating development pathways, there
are often needs to combine a number of dimensions associated
with different valuation metrics and information requirements, such
as monetary measures of returns and non-monetary metrics of risk.
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
ields ranging from aquatic ecology to risk assessment and financial
management have developed tools for such complex valuations,
including graphical mapping (e.g., Sheppard and Meitner, 2005;
Rose, 2010; Moed and Plume, 2011; UNFCCC, 2011) and the
construction of multi-metric indexes (e.g., Johnston et al., 2011).
Multi-metric indicators have been widely studied and critiqued, and
they are an active topic of research (e.g., Drouineau et al., 2012;
Schoolmaster, 2013). A key challenge is weighting different valuations
being combined quantitatively, which may be addressed in part by
constructing multiple indices. More commonly in collective decision
making, however, analytical-deliberative group processes are used
to evaluate, weight, and combine different dimensions and metrics
qualitatively (National Research Council, 1996).
Co-benefits. An issue in both climate and development policy,
related in some cases to access to financial support (e.g., Miller,
2008), is the fact that a specific resilience-enhancing action may
have benefits for both development and for addressing concerns
about climate change. International funding for mitigation projects
has often adopted the concept of “additionality,” which takes the
position that financial support should be limited to those climate
change response benefits that are in addition to what would be
happening in development processes otherwise (e.g., Muller, 2009).
This general concept (e.g., “incremental” costs and benefits) has
been applied in financial support for adaptation as well. A co-
benefits approach, on the other hand, takes the position that actions
that benefit both development and climate change responses
simultaneously should be encouraged and that a combination of both
kinds of benefits should increase the attractiveness of a proposed
action (Section 20.3.3). Co-benefits of mitigation actions, such as
health benefits, have been extensively analyzed (e.g., Younger et
al., 2008; Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2009;
WHO, 2011; EPA, 2012), and they are being actively explored for
adaptation as well (e.g., National Research Council, 2010a; UNFCCC,
As an example of co-benefits, mechanisms such as REDD+ have the
potential to achieve both carbon emissions reduction and to benefit
livelihoods of those living in forested areas, as well as supporting
benefits to social equity (Anglesen et al., 2009; UNEP, 2013). As one
instance, the government of Ethiopia has recognized the multiple
benefits that can be derived and has incorporated a REDD+ initiative in
critical sectors of the economy to develop an environmentally sustainable
growth path in Ethiopia (FDRE, 2011). Tools for analyzing such issues
are associated with research on “externalities (e.g., Baumol and Oates,
1988; Klenow and Rodriguez-Clare, 2005; also see Chapter 17 and multi-
metric valuations above), but participative planning and decision making
usually incorporate a co-benefits perspective as a matter of course.
In practice, trade-offs between different development goals (Stoorvogel
et al., 2004) may or not be resolved in coherent ways (Metz et al., 2002).
In many cases, resolutions emerge through untidy social processes of
evolution and attrition, reflecting dynamics of values, power, control,
and surprises, rather than through formal analysis (Bizikova et al., 2008).
In some cases, trade-offs are addressed with the assistance of scenario
development, the creation of descriptive narratives, and other projections
of future contingencies (IPCC, 2012, Chapter 8), along with participative
vulnerability assessments (National Research Council, 2010a).
20.4.2. Ensuring Effective Institutions in Developing,
Implementing, and Sustaining Resilient Strategies
Climate-resilient pathways will benefit from institutions that are effective
and flexible in the face of a wider range of challenges, of which climate
change is only one (Gupta et al., 2010). Governance systems, including
public and private organizations, will need resources (e.g., human, financial,
political, technological) to enable vulnerable societies that are sensitive
to the impacts of climate change to transform their lives. Effective
management of natural capital and ecosystem goods and services can
be accomplished only where there are strong institutions as stewards and
a regulatory force to ensure that vulnerable communities are protected
from climate shocks and stresses and that growth from climate change
is inclusive (Mitchell and Tanner, 2006). Moderating the impacts of climate
change will also require strong a foundation in science and technology;
but the deployment of science and relevant technologies cannot take
place in a vacuum. It will need effective institutional arrangements to
bolster both adaptation and mitigation demands and to combine
technology options with local knowledge (Section 20.4.3).
“Institutions” refer not only to formal structures and processes but also
to the rules of the game and the norms and cultures that underpin
environmental values and belief systems (see Glossary). Ostrom (1986)
defines institutions as the rules, norms, and practices defining social
behavior in a particular context—the action arena. Institutions define
roles and provide social context for action and structure social interactions
(Hodgson, 2003). Definitions of sustainability are shaped largely by
institutional values, cultures, and norms. Institutions also critically influence
our ability to govern and manage the resources and systems that shape
adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development. Fostering climate-
resilient pathways requires strong institutions that are able to create
an enabling environment through which adaptive and mitigative
capacities can be built (IPCC, 2007a, Chapter 20; Gupta et al., 2010).
Implicit in institutional resilience is the capacity of the exposed unit and
the players within an action arena to devise rules that allows them to
recover from environmental shocks, and equally ones that provide
incentives and benefits that equitably distribute resources across social
groups (Handmer and Dovers, 1996; McSweeny and Coomes, 2011).
Hence, the trajectory to a climate-resilient pathway requires institutional
arrangements that foster innovation, monitoring, and evaluation of
strategies for managing climate impacts and reducing risks.
Transformative action within a framework of climate-resilient pathways
is rooted in strong and viable institutions and in an institutional context
that adaptively manages the allocation of resources and processes of
change. Institutions at different levels are the object of societal pressures
and challenges relating to environmental change. Local institutions
are particularly adroit in coping with multiple changes. These changes
often force local actors and organizations to rethink their institutional
arrangements and make adjustments that will allow them to cope with
multiple vulnerabilities (McSweeny and Coomes, 2011), and their bottom-
up initiatives are critically important to climate-resilient pathways.
Organizational mechanisms are central to building linkages between
local level adaptation action and national level planning. In six case
studies in West Africa and Latin America, Agrawal et al. (2011) found
that these connections are missing in all the countries studied. However,
in these countries external policy support catalyzed adaptation actions
Chapter 20 Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development
hrough three types of intervention mechanisms: information, incentives,
and institutions.
Local institutions crucially influence the ability of communities to adapt
and benefit from adaptation and mitigation programs in rural and urban
settings (Corbera and Brown, 2008; Chhartre and Agrawal, 2009; Agrawal,
2010). For instance, institutions tend to play an influential role in shaping
farmers’ decisions and helping them make strategic choices with several
implications for livelihoods and sustainable development (Agrawal,
2010). In rural areas, current socioeconomic dynamics, rapid population
growth, commercialized agriculture, new agricultural trends, and
technological advancements in agriculture have meant that local
organizations and actors have seen a change in their role managing
environmental resources; local institutions are themselves in a state
of flux as they are subjected to uncertainties in climatic condition
(Senaratne and Wickramasinghe, 2010). However, in developing countries,
particularly in Africa, where traditional knowledge could potentially
moderate this uncertainty, it is often not recognized as a reference point
for managing climate risks and emerging threats. In Kenya, the importance
of indigenous knowledge, given increased uncertainty and climate-
related risks, has compelled national agencies such as the Kenyan
Meteorological Agencies and vulnerable groups such as the indigenous
communities commonly known as rainmakers to form strategic reciprocal
links. By working closely together to calibrate their forecasts and test
the efficacy of the results against climate change impacts on agricultural
productivity, the two groups have been able to demonstrate the benefits
of Western science and traditional knowledge systems to increase
effectiveness (Ziervogel and Opere, 2010). In integrating different kinds
of knowledge, participatory processes, which call for a deliberative form
of decision making among stakeholders, are well suited to the governance
culture necessary for effective adaptation and mitigation. However,
findings in the literature regarding the effectiveness of participatory
processes are mixed. For example, though some scholars have argued
that deliberative democracy methods can bring diverse stakeholders
and kinds of knowledge (e.g., lay, expert, and indigenous) together thus
putting in place a more communicative model of science delivery (Benn
et al., 2009), empirical research shows that stakeholder participation
does not always lead to consensus (Rowe and Frewer, 2004; Bell et al.,
2011; also see Salter et al., 2010).
In addition, better institutions are needed to handle the large flows of
funds and other resources that are associated with managing and
improving the delivery systems that will allow people and organizations
to take advantage of opportunities that will trigger a set of actions to
combat the negative impacts of climate change. The complexity of
different resource flows and distributional effects related to adaptation
and mitigation is at the heart of the sustainable development debate,
with numerous implications for equity and justice (O’Brien and Leichenko,
2003; Roberts and Parks, 2006). The nature and dynamics of climate
change call for flexibility to “allow society to modify its institutions at
a rate commensurate with the rapid rate of environmental change”
(Gupta et al., 2008). Here, institutional “renewal is essential to achieve
a degree of social cohesion and transformation.
An institutional response to climate change is even more fundamental in
common pool property resources such as freshwater, especially because
in a changing climate, many river basins are subjected to increased
recipitation or water scarcity that affects both their ecosystems and
the resources that support the livelihoods of those communities
dependent on them. The quality and performance of the organizations
and mechanisms created to manage these resources are largely shaped
by the rules they follow and the suitability of these rules to the social
ecological system in which they are embedded (Bisaro et al., 2010).
Indeed, a climate-resilient pathway is one that will not only manage
biophysical changes, but also address inherent institutional asymmetries
that can further reinforce current inequalities in the way common pool
resources are managed. In this context, the monitoring and mediation
capacities and the degree to which resource management organizations
are embedded at different scales across the governance regime will largely
shape its adaptive capacity and sustainability. Thus, the vulnerability of
large river basins will largely depend not only on the changing biophysical
conditions, but also on institutional architecture that is put in place to
manage risks and build resilience. For example, Schlager and Heikkila
(2011) argue that compacts that have fixed allocation rules tend to
exhibit greater vulnerability to climate change mainly because the
system is far too rigid and does not allow for much flexibility in dealing
with the changing hydrologic regime. States such as Colorado in the
USA have dealt with water scarcity more efficiently mainly because
users of the basin have access to venues that allow them to design and
review current rules (Schlager and Heikkila, 2011).
Common problems with institutional arrangements for adaptively
managing natural resources include a frequent incompatibility of current
governance structures with many of those that may be necessary for
promoting social and ecological resilience. For example, some major
tenets of traditional management styles have “in many cases operated
through exclusion of users and the top-down application of scientific
knowledge in rigid programmes” (Tompkins and Adger, 2004, p. 10).
20.4.3. Enhancing the Range of Choices
through Innovation
Finally, climate resilience will in most cases depend on innovation,
developing new ideas and options or adapting robust familiar ideas and
options to meet emerging new needs and to respond to surprises (see
also WGIII AR5 Chapter 6). As indicated in the previous section,
integrated strategies for climate resilience can benefit from considering
possibilities to develop new options through social, institutional, and
technological innovation. For example, if a climate-resilient pathway for
a particular region calls for coping with greater water scarcity, innovations
might consider changes in water rights practices, improving the
understanding of groundwater dynamics and recharge, improving
technologies and policies for water use efficiency improvements, and
in coastal areas the development of more affordable technologies for
desalination (Lebel, 2005; National Research Council, 2010a). One key
issue for risk management, therefore, is assessing needs for and possible
benefits from targeting innovation efforts on critical vulnerabilities.
Innovations can include both technological and social changes, which
in many cases are closely related (Rohracher, 2008; Raven et al., 2010),
as technology and society evolve together (Kemp, 1994). An important
characteristic of such socio-technical transitions are the interactions
and conflicts between new, emerging systems and established regimes,
Climate-Resilient Pathways: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Sustainable Development Chapter 20
ith strong actors defending business-as-usual (Kemp, 1994; Perez,
2002; IPCC, 2012).
Effective use of innovations depends on more than idea and/or
technology development alone. Unless the innovations, the skills required
to use them, and the institutional approaches appropriate to deploy
them are effectively transferred from providers to users, effects of
innovations—however promising—are minimized (IPCC, 2012).
Challenges in putting science and technology to use for sustainable
development have received considerable attention (e.g., Nelson and
Winter, 1982; Patel and Pavit, 1995; National Research Council, 1999;
International Council for Science, 2002; Kristjanson et al., 2009). These
studies emphasize the wide range of contexts that shape both barriers
and potentials and the importance of “co-production” of knowledge,
integrating general scientific knowledge with other forms of knowledge
(e.g., local, indigenous, practical knowledge, experience, and expertise).
If obstacles related to intellectual property rights can be overcome,
however, the growing power of the information technology revolution
could accelerate the transfer of technologies and other innovations
(linked with local knowledge) in ways that would be very promising for
strengthening local resilience (Wilbanks and Wilbanks, 2010).
New technologies have the potential to allow a number of developing
countries to benefit from knowledge in ways that will give them
considerable advantage in building the relevant social and institutional
infrastructure to sustain a climate-resilient pathway. Advances in mobile
technologies in developing countries, for example, have increased the
accessibility of farmers to critical information such as disease surveillance,
information related to agricultural inputs, and market prices for crops
(Hazell et al., 2010; Juma, 2011). Biotechnology applications in biological
systems have the potential to lead to increased food security and
sustainable forestry practices, as well as improving health in developing
countries by enhancing food nutrition.
20.5. Determinants of Resilience
in the Face of Serious Threats
Climate change is not the only type of change occurring in the 21st
century. Many households, communities, organizations, countries, and
regions are confronting a confluence of economic, political, demographic,
social, cultural, and environmental changes. Issues such as poverty,
economic crisis, increasing inequality, and violent conflict often draw
attention away from concerns about climate change, the loss of
biodiversity and ecosystem services, and other global environmental