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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Prioritising Adaptation Investments

The development community has been stressing for years that vulnerability to climate change is a socially determined and highly contextual property of systems. Nevertheless, there appears to be support for the use of vulnerability indices to prioritise funding for adaptation policies and measures through the Least Developed Countries and Special Climate Change Funds of the Global Environment Facility.

While perhaps logical at first glance, using such indices to prioritise investment could prove highly problematic. Various researchers, for example, have warned against such applications of vulnerability metrics. Smit and Wandel (2006) caution that the goal of vulnerability assessment “is not to produce a score or rating of a particular community’s current or future vulnerability. Rather, the aim is to attain information on the nature of vulnerability and its components and determinates”. Similarly, Barnett et al. (2008) highlight some of the pitfalls associated with using a vulnerability metric to prioritise investments in sustainability.

Barnett, J., Lambert, S. and Fry, I. 2008. ‘The Hazards of Indicators: Insights from the Environmental Vulnerability Index’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 98(1): 102-119.
B. Smit and J. Wandel, Adaptation, adaptive capacity and vulnerability, Global Environmental Change 16 (2006) (3), pp. 282–292.

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