Policy Brief: How can foresight help to reduce vulnerability to climate-related hazards?

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Our policy brief highlights how foresight – combining participatory futures thinking with strategic analysis – can support the integration of Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

Foresight can be defined as a forward-looking approach to help decision-makers explore and prepare for a range of possible future scenarios, and influence and shape those futures. Foresight typically involves systematic and participatory intelligence gathering, and medium- to long-term vision-building processes to uncover a range of alternative future ideas. See FLIS Interest Group.

A foresight approach uses a range of methods, tools and formats with a high degree of participation and stakeholder engagement, examining future developments and integrating them into today’s decision-making. See JRC, 2001.

Elements of foresight science, policy and practice can strengthen CCA and DRR, link with international mechanisms such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and explore the implications of the global agreements (Paris and Sendai) for European, national and local action.

What are the barriers to using foresight in CCA and DRR?

• DRR is participatory and mainly based in the past and present: CCA is forward-looking, but uses methods dominated by quantitative scenario analysis and gradual change with limited relevance for local action.

• Summaries of foresight methods exist, but case-studies where foresight is applied to CCA or DRR are not widely available.

• The European foresight platform that could have been useful is no longer active.

How could foresight support CCA and DRR?

• CCA and DRR both emphasise the importance of participatory approaches in engaging different actors at different levels and sectors – the broad menu of qualitative and quantitative foresight methods offers opportunities to help with these activities.

• CCA increasingly focuses attention on changes in weather extremes, while DRR addresses longer-term concerns in enhancing resilience – a multi-method foresight approach using tools such as analysis of megatrends, wildcards and disruptors will add to the scenario approach common in climate change analysis.

• Foresight tools can help to encourage strategic thinking and prioritisation. The goal of a foresight exercise for CCA and / or DRR should be clearly defined.

• A foresight toolbox has multiple purposes, so the choice of methods should be open-minded and focused on the specific target, objective and time-horizon of a particular problem. The range of methods includes foresight-specific options as well as cross-disciplinary – several can be combined.