Knowledge, attitudes and practices of climate adaptation actors towards resilience and transformation in a 1.5°C world

The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement signifies the commitment of the international community to limit global temperature rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels and further to 1.5°C. To prepare for increasing temperatures, climate adaptation actors are prioritizing climate resilience- and transformation-based activities. There is, however, limited understanding of actors’ knowledge of and attitudes and practices towards these global temperature targets and concepts. Using the case of Caribbean small island developing states, we qualitatively analyze in-depth interviews with 35 climate change donors and project implementers. We find that most actors are aware of the 2°C and 1.5°C targets but that all are pessimistic about their achievement. Project implementers do not have a clear way to incorporate these targets into their adaptation projects. We also find that there is no uniform understanding of ‘resilience’ and ‘transformation’, though actors commonly define ‘resilience’ as the ability to ‘bounce back’ from extreme events and note ‘transformation’ as requiring the disruption of current socio-economic and political systems. Actors are further pessimistic about achieving resilience goals within short programming and funding cycles. Our study highlights the need for the global temperature targets to be urgently translated into the design and implementation of adaptation projects. We also highlight that the concepts of resilience and transformation are top-down and donor-driven, and that there is a need for donors to facilitate the creation of a shared vision of these concepts across all stakeholders.