Human and natural systems are influenced by climate variability and hazards, with the negative impacts most severely felt in developing countries. Increased climate variability is associated with climatic change, and climate change effects will intensify significantly in the future.
Adaptation occurs in physical, ecological and human systems. Adaptation to climate change takes place through reducing vulnerability or enhancing resilience in response to climate change.
The 16th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in 2010, agreed on the establishment of the Cancún Adaptation Framework, elevating adaptation to parity with climate change mitigation. This has raised the importance of adaptation globally.

The Cancun Framework Principles relate to transparency, stakeholder participation, gender sensitivity, consideration of vulnerable groups and ecosystems, use of indigenous knowledge and best available science, and the integration of adaptation into social, economic and environmental policies and plans. The priorities defined include national adaptation planning and implementation, assessments of vulnerability and adaptation, institutional capacity-building, enhancement of socio-economic and ecological resilience, disaster risk reduction, and technology transfer.
The term EbA refers to ‘the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change’, and was added at CBD COP10, Nagoya, 2010, with decision X/33 on Climate Change and Biodiversity. It stated that ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation may include sustainable management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems.

Since 2009, IUCN has promoted the use of EbA as a practical tool for climate change adaptation. They are intended for use by decision makers; by financial institutions; and in project and research design. While there is not full agreement on definitions related to ecosystem approaches to adaptation, the term EbA is used as this resonates with the CBD and embraces ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation as well as components of community based adaptation.