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The Social Dimension of Ecosystem-Based Adaptation


The Social Dimension of Ecosystem-Based Adaptation


Naumann, Sandra , McKenna Davis et al. 2013: The Social Dimension of Ecosystem-based Adaptation. UNEP Policy Series-Ecosystem Management. Ecologic Institute, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Cornell University.

This policy brief is part of the UNEP Policy Series on Ecosystem Management and represents a collaborative project between Ecologic Institute, UNEP and Cornell University. The brief seeks to address and raise awareness of the social dimension of ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) to climate change, laying particular emphasis on the social impacts of EbA on the global, national, regional and local levels as well as on social considerations in designing and implementing EbA. The authors highlight appropriate methods and measures and provide policy recommendations to facilitate successful EbA implementation and, through it, therewith the delivery of expected benefits for local communities. The policy brief is available for download.

While EbA can target specific social or environmental impacts, one of its strengths is in its ability to maximize synergies between multiple environmental, economic and social goals simultaneously.

Reducing poverty and hunger and improving equality

Social benefits include improved food security, risk reduction via the maintenance and improved delivery of ecosystem services, and local actor empowerment (e.g. through capacity building and social learning). Moreover, EbA can contribute to the MDGs, SDGs and a green economy by enhancing sustainable socio-economic development (via the generation of employment and alternative livelihood opportunities), reducing extreme poverty and hunger and improving gender equality and human health.

Balanced representation and involvement of the local population

Successful implementation, however, necessitates the creation of a socially-conscious, enabling framework. This can be achieved by having a balanced representation of the local population and their needs in political processes, a high level of stakeholder involvement and conducting a local needs analysis, capacity building and awareness raising exercises. Additional policy actions are also necessary, such as the need to strengthen integrated adaptive planning, promote small-scale solutions, evaluate ecosystem services and engage local stakeholders. Implementing such an EbA approach in a supportive local environment has the potential to achieve the desired synergies between climate change adaptation and other economic and social goals.

The policy brief [pdf, 1 MB, English] is available on this website for download and can be also found on the UNEP website.

Ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change is a promising path for addressing current economic, social and environmental challenges.


Sandra Naumann
Richard Munang, UNEP
Jesica Andrews, UNEP
Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP
Keith Alverson, UNEP
Musonda Mumba, UNEP
Levis Kavagi, UNEP
Zhen Han, Cornell University
Published in
Series: UNEP Policy Series: Ecosystem Management, Vol. 12
16 pp.
Table of contents
ecosystem-based adaptation, climate change, adaptation, social impacts, SDGs, MDGs, green economy, EU, UNEP