Climate change adaptation planning in agriculture: processes, experiences and lessons learned from early adapters

  • Livia Bizikova
  • Erica Crawford
  • Maria Nijnik
  • Rob Swart
Original Article


This paper explores the lessons learned by leaders in agricultural adaptation planning in order to assist other jurisdictions to develop adaptation strategies. It seeks to identify effective institutional, participatory and collaborative processes involved in designing agricultural adaptation strategies at the national and sub-national levels in Germany, Finland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Its methodology is based on review of agricultural adaptation policy documents, research initiatives, stakeholder engagement processes, and cross-sectoral collaborations as well as interviews with key informants such as leaders and actors in adaptation planning. The gathered data show that early adapters have an improved regional and national understanding of climatic impacts, and of the risks to agriculture before the initiation of the planning process. The results indicate that the interplay between bottom-up and top-down initiatives has been crucial in the development of adaptation strategies. The former has provided rich and robust participation in designing, implementing and monitoring adaptations, while the latter was important for prioritizing and legitimizing the development of strategy. It also provided access to high-level decision makers and funding. The results of the study suggest that fostering cross-sectoral collaborations—especially by focusing on broader questions such as the role of agriculture in society—has become an important part of adaptation planning. Finally, our results also stress that adaptation planning in agriculture could be enhanced by skills development and mutual learning across stakeholder groups, research and policy-makers, and through the ongoing interactive development of institutional capabilities.


Policy development Climate change adaptation Agriculture Science and policy interface Vertical and horizontal collaboration Participation 



We would like to thank all of the interviewees participating in this study. We are also grateful for support from Horizons (formerly Policy Research Initiative), the Institute for Forecasting at the Slovak Academy of Sciences project’s VEGA 2/0213/09 (1/2009–12/2012), from the Adaptation workstream of the Scottish Centre of Expertise on Climate Change, and for support provided by the Environment and Rural Affairs Department of the Scottish Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Livia Bizikova
    • 1
  • Erica Crawford
    • 2
  • Maria Nijnik
    • 3
  • Rob Swart
    • 4
  1. 1.International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)OttawaCanada
  2. 2.The School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP)The University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.The James Hutton InstituteAberdeenUK
  4. 4.Earth System Science and Climate Change Group/Alterra Wageningen University and Research CentreWageningenthe Netherlands

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