No Regrets Charter

Click here for a downloadable document of the No Regrets Charter


  1. Acknowledging that climate change is complex, with its precise future patterns and impact relatively uncertain.
  2. Recognizing that, as testified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, changes in climate over the coming decades will probably have a profound effect on the planet.
  3. Affirming that, as United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP) process has agreed, climate change adaptation and mitigation are bound up with each other.
  4. Affirming that the present charter builds upon the terms of the 2011 Durban Adaptation Charter.
  5. Agreeing that the carbonn Climate Registry (ICLEI) works as a common global reporting platform for enhancing the credibility of urban climate action activities.
  6. Recognizing that ‘no regrets’ strategies are based on concepts and measures that can begin to be enacted now without being certain about all dimensions of future climate change.

We the signatories to this No Regrets Charter now underline the importance of the following steps beyond existing charters and agreements:

  • To work together to establish general principles for urban climate change adaptation through ‘no regrets’ measures (See ‘Basic Principles’ below); and
  • To develop negotiable and adaptable guidelines for the implementation of adaptation strategies oriented towards the precepts of sustainability, resilience and liveability (See the ‘Principles in Practice’ page).

Basic Principles

We, the signatories to this No Regrets Charter, agree to the following basic principles:

Principle 1. Climate adaptation needs to start here and now

Adaptation requires time. Adaptation to climate change involves long-term goals, and its success may only be able to be perceived a generation hence. Responses need to be monitored in an ongoing way that extends over longer time-spans than electoral periods. This means that we need to begin now to make changes relevant to long-term adaptation. For this, strong political leadership, commitment and accountability are indispensable.

Principle 2. Climate adaptation needs a ‘no regrets’ or precautionary approach

The discrepancy between the necessity of pursuing long-term objectives and meeting short-term political purposes can be overcome by ‘no regrets’ measures. Having no regrets does not mean business as usual, but rather taking a precautionary principle to future risks. ‘No regrets’ measures are steps that include improving the quality of life today in relation to long-term adaptation to climate change. In this way we can counter uncertainty about how serious climate change will be, and heighten acceptance for the measures that need to be taken.

Measures are taken and strategies are thus adopted in a precautionary sense with the aim of responding to possible negative impacts before they intensify. Such measures are advisable for future generations, but also relevant to enhancing the living conditions of people in the present. With a ‘no regrets’ strategy, the benefit of these measures to society therefore continues even with the mitigation of the worst anticipated consequences of climate change.

Principle 3. Climate adaptation needs an integrated and collaborative approach.

Climate change will impact in a changing way on all fields of urban life and environment. Planning strategies should therefore, as a matter of principle, be constructed in such a way that they take into account possible future effects of climate change and leave the way open for integrating adaptation measures into changing policy parameters.

Climate adaptation also requires a collaborative approach. Adaptation policies require close co-operation between differing disciplines and planning fields, overcoming unproductive tensions between them. What is at issue is not the shuffling of responsibility, but on the contrary involving others in responsibility. This partnership approach requires that all the relevant players need to be included: municipalities, civil society and business. This partnership includes close co-operation between a city and its hinterland in order to avoid setbacks and counter-productive results.

An integrated and collaborative approach to adaptation needs the following attributes:

  • An over-arching strategy and clear objectives;
  • An intensive communication process (inside and outside public authorities);
  • An agreed conferral of political responsibility and leadership; and
  • A significant level of co-operation with higher-level territorial entities (regional and national governments).

Principle 4. Climate adaptation needs a holistic sustainability approach.

In adapting actively to climate change, cities should consider action across all domains of social life based on a precautionary or ‘no regrets’ principle based on an ethics of care:

  1. Ecology: As well as choosing technical responses that enhance climate change adaptation, cities should seek to generate deeper and more integrated relationships with nature, both inside the city and beyond urban boundaries. This is to move to an understanding of our embeddedness within nature and away from dominion over it.
  2. Politics: In adapting to climate change, cities should begin now to develop a clear vision and an integrated adaptation plan through a dialogue between expert deliberation and committed municipal and civic involvement. The agreed adaptation strategy should be embedded in all policy-making.
  3. Economics: Urban development should be based on an economy organized around negotiated social needs over and above conventional production-driven economics.
  4. Culture: In developing climate adaptation responses, cities should treat the process as one of deep cultural engagement involving broad cultural issues of social learning, symbolism, visualization, aesthetics, and well-being. This includes recognizing that urban citizens live in natural-cultural regions, not in ‘built islands’.

(For an elaboration of these principles, see the ‘Principles in Practice’ page)

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