Adaptation is broadly understood as any adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects (IPCC, 2007). Integrated governance refers to the inclusion of climate risks into other policy areas, such as conflict or health, across domestic and global levels.

To what extent, where, and why has climate change adaptation been dealt with in global governance? In 2018 and 2019, the research team conducted a series of surveys. We asked scientists, policymakers, and other stakeholders to find out more about how international organizations have integrated climate change adaptation in their governance approaches. The results of these surveys have now been published, and we would like to share several key insights.

The key results are:

  1. Climate risks have been integrated into nine different issue areas in 30 international organizations (IOs), including the Arctic Council, European Union, United Nations, and World Health Organization: development, development banks, disaster risk reduction, energy, food, health, humanitarian assistance, migration, and security (and multi-issue). Yet scholarly and practical debates remain siloed (Kural, Dellmuth and Gustafsson 2021).

  2. A study of select 14 IOs shows that there are three main and interrelated factors influencing international governance responses: problem complexity, institutional fragmentation, and fiscal pressures (Dellmuth, Gustafsson and Kural 2020).

  3. We have examined adaptation mainstreaming practices in 23 IOs with core mandates in areas other than development and environmental affairs, as these are the two issue areas at the global level in which adaptation have traditionally been extensively integrated. Adaptation has been mainstreamed in the procedures and outputs of IOs across the nine policy areas mentioned earlier (under 1.), while there is also evidence of issue-specific variation. Mainstreaming adaptation has advanced most in IOs in the areas of food and development and least in the domains of migration and security (Dellmuth and Gustafsson 2021).

  4. There is variation across mainstreaming practices in the sense that discursive mainstreaming is most common, whereas more concrete collaboration, policy change affecting projects and programs, and budget allocations are less common, regardless of the issue area (Dellmuth and Gustafsson 2021).


List of international organizations studied


Links to relevant outreach seminars were the survey results are discussed:

Mistra Geopolitics seminar: How climate security risks shape international cooperation

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket): Global Adaptation Governance beyond UNFCCC/UN Climate Change

Contact: Associate Professor Dr. Lisa Dellmuth, PhD & Associate Senior Lecturer Maria-Therese Gustafsson, PhD