Climate adaptation approaches and key policy characteristics: Cases from South Asia

Sumit Vij*, Eddy Moors, Bashir Ahmad, Arfan Uzzaman, Suruchi Bhadwal, Robbert Biesbroek, Giovanna Gioli, Annemarie Groot, Dwijen Mallick, Bimal Regmi, Basharat Ahmed Saeed, Sultan Ishaq, Bhuwan Thapa, Saskia E. Werners, Philippus Wester

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper analyses and assesses how existing policies and approaches in South Asia consider long-term climate change adaptation. Presently, it is unclear what approaches are used in the existing policies to cope with the future climatic changes. Our research framework consists of two components. First, we identify and define key characteristics of adaptation policy approaches based on a review of scientific journal articles. The key characteristics identified are institutional flexibility, adaptive nature, scalability and reflexivity. Second, we analyse the presence of these characteristics in the climate change adaptation policies of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Our findings show that the four South Asian countries contribute to only 8% of the total journal articles on adaptation policy, with least papers representing Pakistan and Nepal. Reviewing the adaptation policies, we find that except for the Climate Change Policy of Nepal, none of the policies discusses transboundary scale adaptation approaches. The identified adaptation policies lack focus on shared transboundary resources between the countries, and instead focus at national or sub-national scale. This is reflected by relatively low scores for the scalability characteristic. All the countries show high scores for institutional flexibility, suggesting that changing roles and responsibilities between government agencies for adaptation planning and implementation is accepted in the four countries. We conclude that to prevent a loss of flexibility and to promote scalability of shared transboundary resources, policy approaches such as anticipatory governance, robust decision-making, and adaptation pathways can be useful for long-term climate change adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-65
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Long-term
  • Policy approaches
  • South Asia


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