Dynamic adaptive policy pathways: a new method for crafting robust decisions for a deeply uncertain world

Marjolijn Haasnoot, Jan H. Kwakkel, Warren E. Walker, Judith ter Maat

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1026 Citations (Scopus)
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A new paradigm for planning under conditions of deep uncertainty has emerged in the literature. According to this paradigm, a planner should create a strategic vision of the future, commit to short-term actions, and establish a framework to guide future actions. A plan that embodies these ideas allows for its dynamic adaptation over time to meet changing circumstances. We propose a method for decisionmaking under uncertain global and regional changes called ‘Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways’. We base our approach on two complementary approaches for designing adaptive plans: ‘Adaptive Policymaking’ and ‘Adaptation Pathways’. Adaptive Policymaking is a theoretical approach describing a planning process with different types of actions (e.g. ‘mitigating actions’ and ‘hedging actions’) and signposts to monitor to see if adaptation is needed. In contrast, Adaptation Pathways provides an analytical approach for exploring and sequencing a set of possible actions based on alternative external developments over time. We illustrate the Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways approach by producing an adaptive plan for long-term water management of the Rhine Delta in the Netherlands that takes into account the deep uncertainties about the future arising from social, political, technological, economic, and climate changes. The results suggest that it is worthwhile to further test and use the approach
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-498
JournalGlobal environmental change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Uncertainty
  • Policymaking
  • Adaptation pathways
  • Adaptive policies
  • Water management
  • Rhine delta


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