Articles | Volume 15, issue 11
Research article
18 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 18 Nov 2015

Climate change adaptation frameworks: an evaluation of plans for coastal Suffolk, UK

J. Armstrong, R. Wilby, and R. J. Nicholls

Abstract. This paper asserts that three principal frameworks for climate change adaptation can be recognised in the literature: scenario-led (SL), vulnerability-led (VL) and decision-centric (DC) frameworks. A criterion is developed to differentiate these frameworks in recent adaptation projects. The criterion features six key hallmarks as follows: (1) use of climate model information; (2) analysis of metrics/units; (3) socio-economic knowledge; (4) stakeholder engagement; (5) adaptation of implementation mechanisms; (6) tier of adaptation implementation. The paper then tests the validity of this approach using adaptation projects on the Suffolk coast, UK. Fourteen adaptation plans were identified in an online survey. They were analysed in relation to the hallmarks outlined above and assigned to an adaptation framework.

The results show that while some adaptation plans are primarily SL, VL or DC, the majority are hybrid, showing a mixture of DC/VL and DC/SL characteristics. Interestingly, the SL/VL combination is not observed, perhaps because the DC framework is intermediate and attempts to overcome weaknesses of both SL and VL approaches. The majority (57 %) of adaptation projects generated a risk assessment or advice notes. Further development of this type of framework analysis would allow better guidance on approaches for organisations when implementing climate change adaptation initiatives, and other similar proactive long-term planning.

Short summary
A criterion to categorise climate change adaptation frameworks is presented denoting characteristics of three key frameworks established in the literature: scenario–led, decision-centric and vulnerability–led. Applying the criterion, the usability of frameworks is examined in coastal Suffolk. Results indicate adaptation frameworks established in the literature are not utilised in isolation in everyday practice. In reality, hybrid approaches are utilised to overcome aspects of framework weakness.
Final-revised paper