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Transformative adaptation: what it is, why it matters & what is needed

Publication date:
K. Lonsdale
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This report offers an overview of the literature on transformational adaptation for practictioners and researchers.

It summarises the findings of a short scoping exercise the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) undertook to understand transformational adaptation in more depth, compare how different people are framing it and consider what it might mean for a practice-focused organisation.

Drawing upon recent literature on transformation and climate adaptation and reflecting upon an intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conference (University of Oslo, 2013) and a workshop on transformational adaptation we organised in March 2015 for practitioners and academics, the report considers whether transformational adaptation is simply a means of categorising the nature of response to climate change risks, or has potential to provide practical tools for more effective adaptation. This paper is not a rigorous review but an attempt to draw out key themes from the literature, with a focus on the practice implications, as a starting point for exploring what is required to move transformation from an attractive concept to something more tangible and policy-relevant.

It suggests four key messages; including that transformation is not something that just happens ‘out there’, performed by someone else – it requires the research community to build its own reflexive awareness and set up opportunities to enquire into what needs changing, how to change it and learn throughout the process.