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The REGILIENCE self-assessment tool to spot risks of maladaptation

What is an adaptation action? 

An adaptation action is a specific action or measure that is taken to adapt to certain effects of climate change. There can be different adaptation actions to choose from, which can be referred to as adaptation options. 

 What is maladaptation?  

Maladaptation refers to the process that an intentional adaptation action may lead to negative effects which increase vulnerability, diminish wellbeing or undermine sustainable development. This can happen the same or other regions, systems, sectors, or social groups than those targeted by the adaptation action.  

Many tools provide support to plan good climate adaptation but neglect the risk of maladaptation (see the definitions box). For this reason, the REGILIENCE self-assessment tool explicitly focuses on spotting potential risk factors for maladaptation as early as possible. Its objective is to help users (staff of the competent regional authority/ies for climate adaptation or of other departments and organisations e.g. consultants for the administrations, CSOs dealing with climate adaptation) to avoid or reduce maladaptation risks in the planning phase of adaptation actions.  

With this tool, users are guided through a checklist of 17 questions, each one focusing on one risk factor for maladaptation. By simply responding to the question by selecting yes/no/partially for each of the risk factors, the maladaptive potential of the planned adaptation action is checked.  

Quick overview: 

What? A checklist for users to self-assess the maladaptation potential of their planned adaptation actions, based on selected risk factors, and spot those factors where further action to avoid maladaptation is needed.  

Why? To avoid that adaptation actions cause increased vulnerability or harm to livelihoods, ecosystems, and the economy. 

Who? The tool is mainly designed for people or institutions who are in charge of planning and implementing regional adaptation actions. It can also be adopted to be used on a local, individual or national (by both public and private organisations) level. To minimize the risk of subjective judgements, we recommend that more than one person fills in the checklist to compare the results afterwards. This also helps to increase the awareness of maladaptation.  

When? During the planning phase of a climate adaptation action. Users can also familiarize themselves with the template up-front before starting the planning work, to anticipate potential risks and thereby avoid them even before the check is done. The final assessment should be completed before the adoption of the plan to allow for addressing any identified issues. 

How? The tool is designed to check a concrete adaptation action in the planning phase, you can write down which action you check in 

the box above the checklist. By going through the checklist of 17 questions and ticking ‘yes’ or ‘no’, the users will identify the potential risk factors for maladaptation. The “partially” box should be used when some progress on the aspect has been made, but not sufficiently. Finally, the comments field should be used for individual purposes. For example, to write down small reminders, keywords or to-dos. The comment field is not meant for justifying the responses to the checklist questions. 

How long? The time required to fill in the self-assessment tool will depend on the complexity of the planned adaptation action. A simple and well-known action can be assessed within less than one hour, while sometimes further consultation is needed. 

Next steps? As a general rule, the more questions of the checklist are answered with ‘no’ or ‘partially’, the higher is the maladaptation risk. Once the whole checklist has been completed, all questions marked with ‘no’ shall be further investigated, because they imply a potential risk of maladaptation. They mark specific issues where additional action is needed to minimise or mitigate the risk of negative outcomes. To do so, it is useful to consult the Climate-ADAPT Adaptation Support Tool and check the steps of the adaptation process specifically linked to potential maladaptation risks. 

Checklist: Identifying potential risks of maladaptation

By downloading the PDF you will be able to checkmark the table in two ways: (1) manually, if you print it or (2) with the “x” mark tool in your PDF reader app. For the second option, please remember to save your changes, not to lose your selection before closing the document. 

This tool (Version 1, January 2023) has been developed in the framework of the REGILIENCE Project. It is still under improvement, and we aim for a better connection with other adaptation tools and inserting case studies to illustrate challenges and solutions. If you use it, we would be grateful for your feedback, especially on the following questions:  

  • Is the tool useful and practically applicable?  
  • Is anything missing that would lead to omitting important maladaptation risks?  
  • Do you agree with the wording?  
  • Are the questions clear and fully understandable? 

For any questions, collaboration interests, or feedback please contact: Teresa Geidel (Fresh Thoughts Consulting GmbH), contact: teresa.geidel@fresh-thoughts.eu 

 Do you want to know more about the root and causes, risk factors for maladaptation, and recommendations on how to avoid it? Please download this infographic.

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