In its recently-released Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the interdependent nature of climate change risks and solutions.

It said that in addressing these challenges, a greater focus on adaptation and an awareness of the risks of getting that adaptation wrong, would be key to effective climate resilient development in a narrowing window for action.

The cost of urban mitigation and infrastructure adaptation is set to rise alongside global temperatures, likely to be exacerbated by urbanisation, particularly in coastal cities. Although there is a narrowing window to address these issues, the majority of funding available globally has been allocated to mitigating rather than adapting to climate change effects.

The report signals a need for attention on both issues, especially as it becomes clearer that entirely escaping impacts isn’t feasible.

The authors point to past development decisions as well as current and future emissions as constraining factors for climate resilience, while highlighting that effective development can be enabled by inclusive governance and adequate and appropriate resourcing and technological development. The authors say the current focus on grey infrastructure development, without sufficient integration of social and ecological approaches, risks missed adaptation opportunities and ultimately not doing enough.

The report champions flexible, multisectoral, inclusive and long-term focussed planning and implementation. Failure to adjust adequately compounds risk and has the potential to lock us into adaptation measures that prioritise short-term risk reduction at the cost of transformative, systems-focussed, and effective measures. The authors also underscore the highly unequal impact of insufficient action for marginalised and low-income communities.

The report emphasises the need to move away from siloed approaches to addressing climate change risks, and towards integrated and flexible adaptation initiatives.

Planning by itself, however, won’t be enough. Effective monitoring and evaluation frameworks that prioritise coordination and accountability will be key to adapting to the effects of climate change that are already lapping at our shores.

As we move towards COP 27 in November, which will focus on adaptation, considering how we might move beyond plans to implementation of effective and equitable countermeasures will be crucial.