Policy Responses to Climate Change

Everyone has a role to play in addressing climate change and everyone can make a difference. Governments have an important role to play in setting a national agenda and providing a framework for action by individuals, communities and the private sector and putting incentives, institutions and instruments in place to support adaptation and mitigation as well as ensuring that the right information is Some commercially valuable fish species will not survive increased sea temperatures, threatening fisherfolk livelihoods © Steve Freemenavailable to all.


It is important to have incentives in place that encourage appropriate early action, rather than promote remedial action. Some countries have set up disaster recovery funds, for example, and while this is essential, it is also important to have funds in place that support preventative action at all levels. The right incentives can also support physical planning regulations, encourage the uptake of technologies as part of an energy agenda, and encourage businesses and individuals to take action to reduce damage or losses from weather events.



Having the right institutions in place to promote and facilitate adaptation is important. The appropriate institutional arrangements will vary from territory to territory, but there are certain important conditions and characteristics:

  • There should be an institutional driver with a clear mandate to coordinate, implement and support appropriate climate change adaptation.
  • This institutional driver should be a part of key decision-making processes across sectors and mainstreamed into national economic planning with a role to play in the elaboration of national development plans, budget, sectoral plans, policies, regulations, codes of practice and programmes and projects (Bettencourt et al., 2006). When adaptation is mainstreamed or fully integrated into national planning processes and instruments, efforts (and money spent) are more effective than stand-alone ventures.
  • Effective adaptation needs a mix of ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ contributions, which makes it important to have in place mechanisms that make participation by citizens and their organisations, the private sector, and actors across the public sector possible. These could include provisions for participatory planning that bring all stakeholders (government, civil society and private sector) to agree on priorities and their roles in implementation. They could also include inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms, such as Inter-ministerial committees, as well as participatory budgetary processes (Bettencourt et al., 2006).


There are several instruments that can be used to support climate adaptation and mitigation. As in the case of institutional arrangements, each country needs to apply the mix of instruments best suited to its capacity, vulnerabilities and needs. The list below is by no means exhaustive.



  • Integration of disaster management and climate adaptation into national decision-making processes
  • Adjusted building codes to withstand stronger hurricanes and cyclones
  • Land use policy for development in the coastal zone
  • Preparation of land development control plans
  • Energy policy to diversify energy sources and decrease reliance on fossil fuels
  • Hazard disclosure laws for real estate purchases
  • Economic diversification
  • Agricultural diversification
  • Coastal zone settlement policy/relocation of vulnerable communities


Policies that affect the ability to cope with climate change
Policy area

Policies that take climate change

into account

Policies that ignore climate

change risks


Building on higher ground


Using natural ventilation to cool buildings


Encouraging the use of small-scale

renewable energy, e.g. small wind

turbines and solar water heaters

Building in low-lying or easily

flooded areas


Using air-conditioning


Encouraging longer stay visitors


Promoting eco-tourism through

investment in preservation of buffering ecosystems

Encouraging visitors to the

island on short stays/weekend breaks.


Promoting eco-tourism

through the exploitation of

natural resources

Energy Supporting individual use of solar panels and solar water heaters

Preventing use of solar

Panels or Solar water heaters


Promoting low-energy forms of transport, e.g. cycling, shared cars, hybrid cars, energy efficient cars


Developing public transport.

Encouraging use of large

energy-intensive vehicles,

e.g. Hummers, SUVs




Promoting and supporting local

production of agricultural goods

Increasing reliance on foods

imported from overseas

Water Supply  Encouraging water conservation, e.g. metering, public education Encouraging over-use of water (flat rate tariffs)
Infrastructure Ensuring roads have runoff/drainage systems Building roads that do not have runoff/drainage systems
  Source: Tompkins et al, 2005  





  • Introduction of early warning systems for hurricanes, floods and droughts and improved forecasting
  • Introduction of water-saving devices
  • Expanding the network of hydro-meteorological, oceanographic and marine instruments to monitor climate change
  • Improvements to man-made coastal and sea defences (sea walls, groins, etc)


Economic and fiscal incentives

  • Tax breaks for adoption of clean technologies
  • Reduced import duties on alternative energy technology


Information for decision-making

  • Regional climate modelling
  • Flood plain, storm surge, erosion or hazard mapping
  • Social vulnerability mapping
  • Resource inventories
  • Economic valuations of the impacts of climate change scenarios on economic sectors (tourism, fisheries, agriculture)
  • Capturing traditional knowledge from communities and key natural resource user groups, such as farmers and fishers
  • Weather hazard audit for infrastructure


Monitoring and management

  • Watershed management
  • Integration of climate change consideration into day-to-day management of all sectors
  • Water quality monitoring of fresh, saline and hyper-saline waters to track the vulnerability to sea level rise
  • Integrated coastal zone management
  • Monitoring systems for sea level rise and local wave climate
  • Shore line monitoring
  • Beach nourishment
  • Reduction of external stresses on coastal and marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, sea grass beds, salt marshes, and wetlands.
  • Post-disaster preparedness plans


Building capacity

  • Improvements to data management systems
  • Increasing local research and scientific capacity
  • Linking the local research community with communities



It is also important for decision makers, whatever the sector, to have adequate and appropriate information, not only about risks and vulnerability, but also about options for taking action.


It is not just decision-makers who need to understand climate risks; the public at large and the private sector do too. One of the implications of this is the need for early warning systems to include a strong communications component.


Widespread public awareness and education are necessary to any effort to get support for climate policy and adaptation. Not only do all groups need to understand potential risk and vulnerability, they also need to appreciate the benefits of adaptation and early action, particularly as they relate to their individual circumstances.

“Widespread public awareness and education are necessary to any effort to get support for climate policy and adaptation.”