New tool helps communities from Outer Hebrides to Southern Africa to adapt to climate change

Press release, 10 August 2022
A new framework to help organisations and communities around the world find out what will help and what can act as barriers to adapting to climate change is being launched today (10 August 2022).

The Traction framework is designed to be universally applicable and has been piloted in very different locations around the world; from Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, which are vulnerable to increased frequency of storm events and changes to rainfall and temperature, to Malawi in Southern Africa where climate change threatens to increase both droughts and flooding.

Funded by the Scottish government, the framework has been developed by sustainability charity Sniffer and IIED with input from The Open University (OU) in Scotland.

Simon Anderson, a senior fellow at IIED, said: “The searing heat in the United Kingdom and across much of Europe recently shows that nowhere is immune from the effects of climate change and we will all need to adapt.”

Ruth Wolstenholme, managing director of Sniffer, said: “Climate change is a global issue, we need to learn from each other about how we can respond in ways that are fair, meaningful and replicable. The Traction Framework provides a mechanism for collating and sharing insights so that we can address the systems change that is needed.”

Leslie Mabon, lecturer in environmental systems at the OU, said: “It is critical that climate change adaptation actions are considered carefully, in order to avoid maladaptation that may put people at even greater risk in future.

"This new tool supports comprehensive adaptation actions by guiding organisations and communities step-by-step through the things they need to consider to become more resilient to the effects of climate change in their specific environment, and ultimately protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”

The framework focuses on five key areas to allow communities and organisations to understand what is helping and hindering them from making progress on adapting to climate change in a way that is positive and just across society. They include looking at policies and leadership, governance, having the right evidence and data, collaborating with public, private and third sector groups and taking ethical and justice considerations into account.

The tool can be used at the national, regional or local scale anywhere in the world. Sniffer, IIED and OU Scotland worked with partners in the countries where the framework was piloted, bringing together groups working on adaptation in the global North, global South, academia and a range of other groups.

In the Outer Hebrides, for example, the Climate Change Working Group of the islands’ Community Planning Partnership used the framework to design questions and hold focus group discussions to enable group members to explore progress in improving resilience to climate impacts, based on their local context and vulnerabilities.

As a result, they have a shared understanding of their climate challenge, locally identified vulnerabilities and urgency to act in the Outer Hebrides, and were better able to explore issues around governance and representation, all of which can help identify which actions to prioritise. The kinds of actions that are envisaged include: 

  • Ensuring access to services that might be impacted, especially for the elderly and those experiencing extreme poverty
  • Protecting natural assets from climate impacts
  • Targeting infrastructure resilience to the right places and people at the right time, and
  • Planning ahead to reduce social and economic impacts from storms and flooding

Using the Traction framework also helped the group to better understand what is required to deliver these actions, such as cooperation between different organisations and partners, links to local planning processes and additional resources.

The Traction framework has been made free to access online. Users can access guidance for how to implement the framework, as well as examples of its use globally. Over time, it is hoped that the Traction website can serve as a library of case studies to support mutual learning globally on comprehensive adaptation action.

Media enquiries

For more information, please contact Ruth Wolstenholme at ruth@sniffer.org.uk or +44 771 289 6934.

Notes to editors

  • The Traction Framework is available online, and is supported by case studies and practical tools to help users.
  • Traction is funded by the Scottish government.