Adaptation pathways in planning for uncertain climate change: Applications in Portugal, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands

Mark Zandvoort*, Inês S. Campos, André Vizinho, Gil Penha-Lopes, Eliška Krkoška Lorencová, Rutger van der Brugge, Maarten J. van der Vlist, Adri van den Brink, Ad B.M. Jeuken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Adaptation pathways are developed to design adaptive policies to handle climate change uncertainty. Use of this tool varies across planning practices and adaptation challenges and adjusting the tool to particular practices can foster its adequate use. To gain insight into the use of adaptation pathways, we compared four initiatives (one each in Portugal and the Czech Republic and two in the Netherlands) with regard to design choices made. We found six design choices which need to be considered when adjusting adaptation pathways. Design choices about the geographic scale, inclusion of sectors, the generation and delineation of adaptation options, specification of possible pathways, the related performance metrics and the type of assessment are interdependent, but they are also influenced by contextual aspects. Analysis of the institutional diversity, planning culture and framing shows that the use of adaptation pathways is flexible enough to be adjusted for diverging planning practices. However, the tool is best suited to deliver local adaptation solutions, and adequate use depends on consensus about the adaptation problem, setting objective thresholds and determining uncertainty about future change. We conclude that understanding the customised use of tools for local planning practices is essential for adaptive policy design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-26
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Adaptation pathways
  • Climate adaptation
  • Design choices
  • Planning tools
  • Policy-making
  • Uncertainty


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