Adaptation Toolbox Diagram Step 1: Getting Started Step 2: How resilient am I to climate? Step 3: How will Climate Change affect me? Step 4: What should I do? Step 5: Keeping it real Resources Glossary

Step 4: What should I do?

Step 4 will help you identify options to act, bearing in mind that often decisions have to be made without perfect information. The key is to weigh up the likelihood, the effects, the costs and benefits of acting. Chances are that there will be some things you can do quickly at little or no cost while others will need further investigation.

Needing more information is not a reason to do nothing.

This will depend on your attitude to risk, other risks you already face, and options for managing the risk, for example through forward planning, insurance or investing in infrastructure. Some risks have a low probability but have significant outcomes, positive or negative, for example, a severe flood or winning a raffle. Any decision on managing climate risk will depend on your attitude and ways to manage that risk.

Task 4.1: Revisit tasks 3.5 and priorities in step 3.7. and ask yourself:

  • Is your attitude to risk the same?
  • Are you happy with the level of risk that you face?
  • Would you like to manage that risk to either minimise costs or maximise benefits?

If you are already experiencing problems with climate or weather, then acting now will reduce your current risk, as well as future risk from climate change. Even if you already manage climate and weather risk, checking that management practices will cope is a good investment to avoid future costs.

For long-lived decisions, such as plantation forestry, remodelling a production system, or an irrigation scheme, acting at the design stage may be cheaper and easier than introducing climate change later in the planning or building stages. Modifying regular maintenance to take climate change into account can also be cheaper than undertaking a major retrofit in the future.

In other cases, you will need to decide when to take action based on:

  • how soon (or how likely) you expect climate risks to exceed any critical thresholds, and
  • how long it will take to plan and implement solutions

Task 4.2: Write down when and why you need to act (or not act).

Adapting to climate change helps you manage your climate risk to an acceptable level, reduce costs and take advantage of opportunities. Managing a problem risk means either reducing the chance of an event occurring, or reducing the impact. For instance, upgrading water storage facilities and/or irrigation systems will reduce the impact of extended dry spells. For opportunities, managing risk is about improving the likelihood of an investment paying off or improving the size of the pay off. Examples include taking advantage of earlier spring drying to have lambs ready earlier for the works and using different commercial crops or cultivars to get better yields.

In broad terms, there are two main ways to adapt; you can react to events as they happen or plan ahead. Being reactive may reduce the risks of getting it wrong, because you know what you are reacting to. However, this may not be as cost effective with greater damages and costs, or losing other income streams as a result. Planning ahead can save time, money and stress; especially for long lived decisions, capital assets or other large investments.

Acting now to manage climate change risk can reduce costs now and help you respond better in the future. Not everything has to be done at once. You can begin by getting more information or taking practical steps on:

  • Avoiding or reducing exposure to climate risks (e.g. experiment with drought resistant crop species or flood proof your production system)
  • Off-setting losses by sharing or spreading the risks or losses (e.g. through insurance, infrastructure or alternative supply arrangements)
  • Exploiting new opportunities (e.g. diversify or change practices to take advantage of changing climatic conditions)
  • Accepting the impacts, and bearing the losses that result from those risks (e.g. accept periods of lower productivity or crop yields)

Rather than using one type of measure, it is likely that you will use a range of measures to manage climate risks in a range of ways. Think widely at this stage, don't limit your options.

You can adapt to climate change by building on your

  • current production systems and practices
  • your farm/forestry/arable plans
  • contingency plans for storms, droughts, floods etc
  • financial plans
  • scheme reviews
  • training that you undertake or provide for employees

Task 4.3: Compile a full list of possible ways you could adapt to the climate change risks you identified in Step 3. Try working with others in your area or industry to identify as many options as possible.

Having listed possible ways to adapt, you now need to evaluate and select the most suitable options. The options you choose will depend on why you are using the tool box, your priority risks, your attitude to risk, financial situation and other risks.

Try using the following criteria to evaluate and select options:

  • No-regrets options will deliver benefits that exceed their costs, whatever the extent of climate change. These should always be implemented where they exist. For instance, if you are already experiencing weather-related problems, then cost-effective actions to deal with them should be no regret options. No regret options are particularly suitable for the near term as they can deliver obvious and immediate benefits, and can provide experience on which to build further actions. Improving your ability to deal with droughts and floods are good examples of no-regrets options.
  • Low-regrets options have relatively low costs and seek to maximise the return on investment when certainty of the associated risks is low. When maintaining or improving infrastructure, ensuring that any changing rainfall patterns are taken into account early in the process is an example of a low regrets option.
  • Win-win options enhance your ability to adapt by reducing problem risks and exploiting opportunities, as well as having additional benefits. This could mean using new or different breeds or cultivars or changing farm practice to manage climate risk but also improve waste management or water quality.
  • Flexible or adaptive management options take small steps over time, responding to new information and adjusting management over time, rather acting in one step. Monitoring is an important part of these approaches and they are good for handling uncertainty, as management is adjusted over time.
  • A decision to delay can buy time for further information gathering, helping you to make a better informed decision. Delaying action may be appropriate for more significant impacts where there is no obvious option, or where other changes are more significant. Nominating a time to review your decision will help manage any potential costs of delay.
  • A conscious decision to do nothing should only be reached after considering climate risks and options. Although the most basic response, it may be appropriate for low priority impacts or where climate risks are outweighed by other risks.

Task 4.4: Classify your list of options as no regrets, low regrets, win-win, or delay etc. Some options may not fall into these categories.

To assess your adaptation options, compare the benefits of adaptation (including avoided costs) with the costs of each option to choose the highest net benefit. Keep in mind any information gaps or uncertainties you noted in earlier steps. For a rough order of costs, look at your financial accounts over past years to see how weather events and/or dry, warm or wet years have affected your income.

How much should you adapt? General trends in climate change are certain but how these trends translate into local effects is less certain, making it difficult to know the exact level of adaptation to aim for. Generally:

  • Where the costs of acting (including planning) are low and the climate risk is high there is a clear case for action
  • Where the costs of acting are low and the climate risk is low then there is little to lose from acting
  • Where the costs of acting are high and the climate risk is high, the case for action needs to be thought through carefully. Think about the levels of uncertainty, other options, the cost of finance (if required), timelines and impacts on other areas of business (positive and negative). It might help to find out more information and what has worked in similar situations
  • Where the costs of acting are high and the climate risk is low, you need to think whether the cost will deliver sufficient benefits

Whatever you decide, you need to find a balance between doing too much and not doing enough. If you underestimate climate risk and don't act then your business will be exposed to the effects of climate change and potentially greater costs. On the other hand, if you overestimate the risk then you may over-adapt leading to over spending or wasting resources. Keeping up to date with information, monitoring your risk and reviewing decisions will help steer a course between these two extremes.

Costs can be minimised by incorporating climate change:

  • to the early steps of planning new developments or investments
  • when infrastructure is being upgraded or retrofitted
  • when routine maintenance is being conducted
  • when plans come up naturally for review
  • before you are forced to act by a sudden event or mounting maintenance costs (costs of emergency repairs are typically much higher than the cost of routine maintenance).
Task 4.5: Compare the costs of acting with the impacts you avoid (or the income you might realise) to estimate the benefits of acting. Think about the level of adaptation you want, as well as the potential for under or over-adapting. Note down ways to minimise costs.

Having worked through the Toolbox to this point, you should have identified key climate risks and identified ways to make your business is resilient to climate change. Now you have to decide what the best way forward is. You probably already have a good idea of actions and priorities for your business and this step will help ensure that nothing has been missed.

The good news is that if you are now reached this point you have now completed your first adaptation action. Your next actions will be influenced by how you run your business and outside influences such as regulations, industry targets, resource consents or agreements with neighbours.

Key things to think about

  • how preferred actions could or should be implemented
  • what resources (staff, facilities, capital) will be required to take action
  • what support will be required, including any support from other land managers, neighbours, community, government or other organisations;
  • when, and over how long, actions should be implemented;
  • potential barriers to adaptation and how they could be overcome
  • monitoring your actions and knowing when an action is successful

Use step 1.3 to help you identify options to increase your ability to adapt, for instance research or training, as well as adaptation actions, for instance, changing land use practices.

You can integrate adaptation options into your existing plans and processes, or develop a strategy document or action plan. Your written answers and decision-making at each step provides a good foundation for a plan, strategy or checklist. A checklist of all the relevant climate change risks is helpful if you decide to integrate actions into business as usual.

Having the information in one place means there is a record for new staff, managers or future partners and owners. Involving family, friends, consultants or council staff to look at and provide comments on your list or plan will help further refine and prioritise your actions. A good record will also allow you to easily review your information and conclusions and modify actions where appropriate (Step 5).

Task 4.6: Use your responses from the taskpad to develop your climate change adaptation response. Think about:

  • the level of adaptation you want to achieve
  • your risk and the costs of acting and not acting
  • how you can incorporate your actions into everyday activities

Task 4.7: Look for ways to integrate climate adaptation into your business as usual activities now or over the next 12 months.

Include farm planning, crop scheduling, maintenance, financial plans, changing management practices, new buildings, new products, training, disaster recovery, or any other management plans.

Task 4.8: Develop a set of actions to adapt to climate change or an implementation plan.

If you have reached this point it means you want to better understand your priority climate risks. You can do this assessment at the same time as you act on the other risks you have identified.

Do this step, if you are considering a large investment, a major business or financial strategy or making a decision with long-term consequences.

The Toolbox cannot tell you how to do a more detailed assessment, instead key questions are provided to help you consider your risks, as well as the information, tools and resources available at each step.

Generally a risk assessment goes through a number of steps:

  • identify the effects of climate change and the risks to your business
  • assess the risks, including the likelihood and impact
  • identify ways to manage the risk
  • monitor the risk and adjust management, if or when needed

In addition, any risk above and beyond what is managed should be identified. This is called the residual risk. For instance, a stopbank manages the risk of flooding up to a certain level, after which there is a risk of flooding in areas that are protected by the stopbanks. It pays to have a back up plan on what you would do if this happens, for instance evacuate stock to higher ground.

Risk management is often repetitive, with steps being revisited as more information is found or your understanding is increased. This is normal and should be expected. Few people get it right first time, often this process is ongoing. Further information will; also become available as the results of research are published and more information becomes available.

Task 4.9: Analyse your key climate risks in detail and get expert help, if needed.

Breaking your work into the key areas may help further understand your risks. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where are the key uncertainties in the work you have done - is it the
    • effects of climate change in your area
    • impacts on your production system
    • ways to manage the impacts
    • costs or
    • priorities?

Use the resources and tools in each step to focus your efforts and if necessary get expert help in the specific areas to reduce uncertainty.

  • What are the costs and benefits?

Compare the costs of changing your management with the costs of not acting, as well as any new financial opportunities. Use the criteria in step 4.4 to help maximise benefits and 4.5 to minimise costs. Find out how long the pay back will be for larger investments, and any savings in costs or increases in production that might occur as a result of acting.

  • Are other people affected in your area or sector?

Contact neighbours, sector, catchment groups or councils to see if any work has been done that could help you. Think about working together to get more information and develop solutions.

  • Who else could be affected by your decisions?

Family, business partners, investment advisors, and banks all have an interest in your future and can provide help on major investment decisions.


Step 4 Checklist

Congratulations! If you have completed this Step you should have:

  • Decided what you want to do, based on the information you have.
  • Determined the level of adaptation you want
  • Identified possible adaptation measures, costed these (if possible) and selected priority climate risks
  • Considered the consequences of over- or under-adapting and how to minimise the costs
  • Your response should set out:
    • things you can do now to adapt to climate change
    • longer-term actions to ensure you are resilient to climate change
    • possible barriers to action and how to overcome them
    • how you are going implement your actions and the resources needed.

Step 4 Tasks

Task 4.1: Revisit task 3.5 and priorities in step 3.6.

Task 4.2: Write down when and why you need to act (or not act).

Task 4.3: Compile a full list of possible ways you could adapt to the climate change risks you identified in Step 3. Try working with others in your area or industry to identify as many options as possible.

Task 4.4: Classify your list of options as no regrets, low regrets, win-win, or delay etc. Some options may not fall into these categories.

Task 4.5: Compare the costs of acting with the impacts you avoid (or the income you might realise) to estimate the benefits of acting. Think about the level of adaptation you want, as well as the potential for under or over-adapting. Note down ways to minimise costs.

Task 4.6: Use your responses from the task pad to develop your climate change adaptation response.

Task 4.7: Look for ways to integrate climate adaptation into your business as usual activities now or over the next 12 months.

Task 4.8: Develop a set of actions to adapt to climate change or an implementation plan.

Task 4.9: Analyse your key climate risks in detail and get expert help, if needed.

 

Last Updated: 29 January 2013

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