Water and Climate Change Adaptation

Policies to Navigate Uncharted Waters

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This report sets out the challenge for freshwater in a changing climate and provides policy guidance on how to navigate this new “waterscape”. It highlights the range of expected changes in the water cycle and the challenge of making practical, on-site adaptation decisions for water. It offers policymakers a risk-based approach to better “know”, “target” and “manage” water risks and proposes policy guidelines to prioritise action and improve the efficiency, timeliness and equity of adaptation responses.

The report also highlights general trends and good practices drawn from the OECD Survey of Policies on Water and Climate Change Adaptation, covering all 34 member countries and the European Commission. Individual country profiles are available, which provide a snapshot of the challenges posed by climate change for freshwater and the emerging policy responses (on-line only).

Finally, the report highlights the benefits of well-designed economic instruments (e.g. insurance schemes, water trading, water pricing), ecosystem-based approaches and ‘real options’ approaches to financing. These approaches can improve the flexibility of water policy and investment, reducing the cost of adjusting to changing conditions.

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Improving flexibility: Adaptive governance, policy options and financing approaches

An uncertain future for freshwater, the potentially rapid pace of change and the existence of possible irreversible tipping points increases the value of flexibility and calls for a dynamic, future-oriented approach to water governance and policy. This chapter highlights how adaptive water governance is gaining attention as a means to increase flexibility and deal with uncertainty related to long-term trends. It highlights how well-designed economic instruments can improve the efficiency and timeliness of adaptation responses by reducing baseline stress on water resources and providing flexibility to deal with increased variability, risks, and uncertainty. Based on a number of case studies it draws out lessons for adaptation on the use of insurance schemes, water trading, water pricing, and ecosystem-based approaches. Finally, the chapter examines some of the potential pitfalls in financing adaptation for water and looks at how a real options approach can be used to value flexibility in long-term investments.

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