Currently, mitigation and adaptation measures are handled separately, due to differences in priorities for the measures and segregated planning and implementation policies at international and national levels. There is a growing argument that synergistic approaches to adaptation and mitigation could bring substantial benefits at multiple scales in the land use sector. Nonetheless, efforts to implement synergies between adaptation and mitigation measures are rare due to the weak conceptual framing of the approach and constraining policy issues. In this paper, we explore the attributes of synergy and the necessary enabling conditions and discuss, as an example, experience with the Ngitili system in Tanzania that serves both adaptation and mitigation functions. An in-depth look into the current practices suggests that more emphasis is laid on complementarity—i.e., mitigation projects providing adaptation co-benefits and vice versa rather than on synergy. Unlike complementarity, synergy should emphasize functionally sustainable landscape systems in which adaptation and mitigation are optimized as part of multiple functions. We argue that the current practice of seeking co-benefits (complementarity) is a necessary but insufficient step toward addressing synergy. Moving forward from complementarity will require a paradigm shift from current compartmentalization between mitigation and adaptation to systems thinking at landscape scale. However, enabling policy, institutional, and investment conditions need to be developed at global, national, and local levels to achieve synergistic goals
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