Framework for adaptive policies

To identify specific examples of adaptive policy mechanisms, this project is conducting community-level case studies in Canada and India. Using historic climate variability as a backdrop and agriculture and water resources management as the context, the project identified public policies that facilitated short-term coping and long-term adaptation measures of farmers, and studied the adoptive mechanisms of these policies. A framework emerged mid-way through the four-year research project that found that some policies can indeed adapt better than others to both anticipated and to unanticipated conditions, and still fulfill their original goals effectively. Adaptive policies can adapt to anticipated and unanticipated conditions. Policies for anticipated conditions take a no-regrets approach to planning and possess three mechanisms: they automatically adjust based on triggers as circumstances change, they are developed with an integrated assessment of key impacts, causal factors, and scenario outlooks, and they involve multi-perspective deliberation. Policies for unanticipated conditions include a holistic understanding of the complexity, capacity, performance, and dynamics of institutions. They use four mechanisms: formal review and continuous learning, self-organization and networks, subsidiarity, and diversity through small-scale interventions.

Climate Related Risk

Not clearly identified

Form of Option


Country of Origin

Canada, India


Resource-dependent people (e.g. farmers, fishers, miners)



Institution / Legal Reach

Change in policy, laws or regulation