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An assessment of community-based adaptation initiatives in the Pacific Islands


For the Pacific Islands, community-based adaptation activities are crucial, and yet it remains uncertain whether they are effectively promoting long-term adaptive capacity. Here we evaluate the performance of 32 community-based adaptation initiatives across 20 rural communities in the Pacific. We find that initiative appropriateness was a strength while sustainability was a consistent issue, locally funded initiatives and those implemented by non-governmental organizations were more likely to perform better, and climate awareness-raising initiatives and those integrated with ecosystem-based adaptation performed best. We also identify four multidimensional and interdependent optimization points for future community-based adaptation initiatives: local approval and ownership, shared access to and benefit from initiatives, integration of local realities, and systems-thinking and forward planning. Our analysis suggests the need for a praxis shift whereby adaptation is locally led, communities drive their own agendas, and donors and implementers become facilitators that resource the diverse capacities of communities and help achieve local objectives equitably.

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Fig. 1: Groups of evaluated initiatives along a scale from high performance (white) to low performance (black).

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The data that support the findings of this study are not publicly available due to them containing information that would compromise research participant confidentiality and anonymity.


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We are very grateful to the 415 participants for providing such valuable, important and meaningful insights in this study. Without you, this study would not have been possible. We also thank and acknowledge the various local gatekeepers who were instrumental in helping with fieldwork logistics, introductions and access to communities, and translation. This research was funded through an Australian Research Council Linkage grant (number LP160100941).

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Authors and Affiliations



K.E.M., P.D.N., A.P.-M., R.C., F.N., F.A., E.J. and O.W. conceived and designed the research. K.E.M., R.C., R.W., A.P.-M., R.K., T.C. and P.D.N. collected data. R.C., K.E.M., R.W., A.P.-M., R.K. and P.D.N. analysed the data. R.C., K.E.M., R.W., A.P.-M., R.K. and P.D.N. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Karen E. McNamara.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks James Ford, Carola Kloeck and E. Lisa F. Schipper for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Ranking of initiatives and performance under each evaluation component.

White is high performance, light grey is neutral performance (that is no perceived effect), dark grey is medium performance (that is with high and low performance aspects) and black is low performance.

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McNamara, K.E., Clissold, R., Westoby, R. et al. An assessment of community-based adaptation initiatives in the Pacific Islands. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 628–639 (2020).

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