What is climate change adaptation?

According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), adaptation to climate change is “the process of adjustment to the current or future climate and its consequences. It is about reducing the damaging effects of climate change while exploiting the beneficial effects”.

The objective of adaptation measures is to reduce the vulnerability of natural and socio-economic systems, and therefore cope with climate change at lower cost.

What are the differences between mitigation and adaptation?

Adaptation and mitigation both aim at combating climate change, but with different means. Mitigation addresses the causes of climate change by seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while adaptation addresses its consequences by targeting the reduction of social, ecological and economic vulnerability.

These two strategies are complementary and sometimes indivisible. They both participate at different scales in the fight against climate change: mitigation is long-term and global, while adaptation is short-term and local. In addition, adaptation measures must take into account a double uncertainty that is the future climate and its impacts.

Reactive adaptation vs anticipatory (or pro-active) adaptation

A measure is called reactive adaptation when it takes place in direct response to a major climatic event. The adaptation measure is called anticipatory (or pro-active) when it is implemented before the realization of climate risks, which makes it possible to manage risk over time by maintaining a politically and socially established level of risk.



Spontaneous adaptation vs planned adaptation

Spontaneous adaptation brings together adaptation actions that take place naturally, without specific coordination. Without planning, some of these actions may shift risk, generate other impacts or be the opposite of what is intended, hence the importance of planned adaptation measures.

Spontaneous and planned adaptation measures are closely linked, since spontaneous adaptation actions can often take place thanks to a pre-existing environment, the result of prior planning.

Adaptation projects within IOC projects

The Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles have implemented INDCs, instruments for emissions reduction and climate change adaptation, as part of each state’s climate change adaptation policy. The identified priority sectors are numerous, including health, agriculture, water resources, infrastructure and risk management, among others.


Here are some examples of projects developed in IOC member countries:

Access to drinking water is one of the main objectives defined by the Union of Comoros in its climate change adaptation plan. The country aims to provide 100% of the population with access to drinking water by 2030, through a water resources management system that adapts to the effects of climate change, and allows the preservation of ecosystems and water quality.

Health is a crucial topic in the scope of climate change effects. Health sector is one of the priority themes identified by Madagascar. The country wishes to set up early warning multi-hazard systems to detect acute diarrheal and respiratory diseases as well as malaria. An assessment of the links between climate change and the migration of these diseases is also being conducted.

The preservation of coastal areas on the islands is also a priority. In Mauritius, for example, the Climate Change Adaptation Program in the Coastal Zone of Mauritius (2012-2018) aims at increasing climate resilience of communities and means of subsistence in coastal areas of the country. The island has implemented actions, according to an Integrated Coastal Zone Management approach (ICZM), which constitutes an essential axis of development of its action plan.

Biodiversity is an important theme for all member countries. Seychelles, for instance, plans to put in place a Seychelles Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and a new biodiversity law. The implementation of this strategy and the action plan for the 2015-2020 period is fast and addresses issues such as sustainable tourism, river basin management, sustainable agriculture and fisheries, research and planning for disaster risk.

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