Adaptation planning vital in helping countries weather change
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season across the Caribbean was one of the most destructive on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Extreme weather killed several hundred people, impacted the lives of millions, and will likely require years for the worst hit Caribbean islands to recover. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, declared the island of Barbuda“barely habitable,” amid forecasts reconstruction could total hundreds of millions of dollars.
The damaging effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident. In addition to the immediately apparent devastation of hurricanes, climate effects also come in more slow-moving but equally destructive forms. Drought threatens billions of people living on farmland that is deteriorating and producing less food, according to a recent UN-backed report.
The effects on agriculture and people’s wellbeing are already evident today. Conflicts and climate disasters, particularly drought, drove the number of people facing crisis levels of hunger up by about 15 percent last year, another report warns. UN research released last year says global health risks related to climate change are already rising, while nearly all members of the C40 group of megacities addressing climate change report extreme weather events that are “off all the scale of previous experience.”
While the destructive impacts of climate change come in many manifestations, they do share one aspect – the resultant need to take preventative action. Recognising this, during the past few years, adaptation has become recognised as equally important as mitigation activities reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016, enshrined this equally weighted approach to climate change. It recognises that even with efforts to keep global temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius, we already need to adapt to adverse climate impacts.
The equal priority of these two climate action goals is mirrored in GCF’s mandate to deliver a 50:50 balance between mitigation and adaptation allocations in the financial support it provides developing countries. Also, reflecting the need to help those most in need of financial assistance, GCF ensures at least 50 percent of adaptation funding goes to particularly vulnerable countries, including Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and African States.
Adaptation sometimes requires a rethinking of development pathways. Taking effective action requires countries to work out what kinds of adaptation measures will be effective, and how to prioritise them. For example, should countries and regions facing incursion from rising sea levels build walls, or bolster natural defences? Or in extreme cases, should populations be moved to higher ground?
That is why in figuring out how to adapt to climate change, and how it should be financed, planning is paramount. And that is why the formulation of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and/or other planning processes are so important, and why GCF is such a strong backer of these efforts. GCF is supporting developing countries plan and attract larger scale finance for more resilient futures by strengthening their own adaptation planning processes. These planning processes represent key building blocks of countries’ ongoing efforts to bolster national adaptive capacities, attract investment in adaptation from a diversity of sources, and help to galvanise public and private sector-led actions to make societies more resilient to climate change.
Adaptation planning processes are intended to catalyse action and finance to address high priority climate impacts and vulnerabilities. GCFs support for adaptation planning is designed to be country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent.
The idea of National Adaptation Planning and other adaptation planning processes was advanced by climate change negotiators within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Adaptation planning is part of the Cancun Agreements signed at the 16th UNFCCC Conferences of Parties (COP) held in Mexico in 2010. The 16th COP represented a milestone in global climate cooperation as it established the place of adaptation as being equally important as mitigation.
GCF assistance for adaptation planning comes under its Readiness Programme, which is aimed at providing financial resources to developing countries, and implemented with the support of Readiness Delivery Partners selected by the countries’ National Designated Authorities. The GCF Readiness Programme assists developing countries by providing a one-time allocation of up to USD 3 million to formulate NAPS and/or other adaptation planning processes.
Developing countries and Direct Access Entities can request Readiness assistance to fund the formulation of adaptation planning processes through their National Designated Authorities (NDAs) or focal points, which represent governments’ main conduits of interaction with the Fund. GCF support is based on reducing vulnerability and building climate resilience, while taking into account the urgent and immediate needs of those developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Liberia kicks off its adaptation planning process
GCF adaptation specialist Jason Spensley suggests NAPs and other adaptation planning processes should be viewed as opportunities to catalyse continued, and increasing, adaptation-focused investment across societies, including from public and private sector sources.
“NAPs and any scale of planning for adaptation is all about sparking catalytic action for adaptation, and developing an evidence base to attract urgently needed investment,” he says. “Adaptation planning provides countries with a focus to integrate adaptation in long-term planning, which then also provides facts and strategies for businesses and communities to invest in for their well-being.”
The approach to NAPs is not prescriptive, and varies according to developing countries’ diverse needs in dealing wih climate change, adds Mr Spensley. Countries’ adaptation solutions range from climate proofing coastal infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels, developing more drought-resistant crops, and enhancing the ability to predict and prepare for weather disasters.
In the latter area, GCF has been moving to increasingly support developing countries bolster their early warning systems. WMO found that accurate forecasts and warnings about wind, storm surge and flooding hazards, and coordination between meteorological services and disaster management, helped prevent the casualty toll from the Caribbean hurricanes from being even higher.
Mr Spensley highlights adaptation plans as being useful tools that empower countries and businesses deal with a more uncertain future. “They make the real threat of climate change less daunting and costly, as they help countries take proactive actions to make infrastructure and societies more resilient to future change,” he says.
GCF has already approved assistance to support the formulation of national or other scale adaptation planning processes in twelve countries, including Argentina and Liberia. While the effects of climate change differ, they share the potential to undermine national development and people’s livelihoods. Floods and droughts in Argentina’s low-lying Pampas region during the past few years pose threats to national economic recovery. This is important in a country like Argentina where agriculture was estimated to have contributed to 46 percent of national exports in 2016, while Argentina has been ranked as the third biggest exporter of corn and soybean.
NAPs can be particularly important in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) like Liberia where climate effects on farming are highly disruptive. This is because 70 percent of this West African nation’s people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. While Liberia has won international recognition for its peaceful election in October last year, following two civil wars between 1989 and 2003, the UN Security Council has warned about the adverse effects of climate change across the whole of West Africa.
Anyaa Vohiri, former Executive Director of Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency, said Liberia’s NAP is a national priority as climate change represents “a clear present and future threat” because of the country’s reliance on agriculture and natural resources, tied to a high poverty level.
While adaptation planning can help steer countries on resilient development paths, it also has an important part to play on the global climate scene. NAPs and other adaptation planning processes have become enmeshed in international efforts to deal with climate change under the Paris Agreement. They provide clear plans of adaptive action for countries to describe what they are doing to deal with climate change under their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which lie at the heart of the agreement.
While GCF does not specify which particular activities it supports in countries’ adaptation planning, it does offer some guidelines. These include ensuing that adaptation planning:
- grounds the adaptation proposal within a national vision
- addresses specific vulnerabilities and climate impacts
- establishes a financing strategy for adaptation investment
- avoids duplication of efforts
- engages stakeholders.
More details about GCF guidelines on national adaptation support are available on pages 17 to 22 of the GCF Readiness Guidebook.
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- GCF has approved 37 adaptation projects amounting to USD 1.08 billion and 18 cross-cutting projects amounting to USD 1.05 billion
- GCF has received 47 proposals for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans and/or adaptation planning processes under the GCF readiness programmeOf these, GCF has approved 12 proposals, with 8 more in the final stages of approval completion