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National Adaptation Programmes of Action: Priorities to Policies



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Bubu Pateh Jallow Thomas Downing Bubu Pateh Jallow and Thomas Downing describe five challenges faced by the National Adaptation Programme of Action teams and by the international climate policy community.
Bubu Pateh Jallow is chair of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group. Thomas Downing is director of the Stockholm Environment Institute, Oxford, United Kingdom.

National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) were initiated with Decision 28/CP7 as part of the Marrakesh Accords of 2001. This lays out a complementary approach, building on existing development plans and programmes. So, what have we learned in over five years of the NAPA process? We suggest the NAPA teams and international climate policy community face five challenges.

Challenge 1: Identify a priority sector, region, population and climate threat

Some 45 of the 50 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have undertaken NAPA processes, and as of mid-September 2007, some 21 LDCs have submitted their NAPA reports to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The multidisciplinary NAPA teams used a variety of methods to capture current social, economic and environmental vulnerability to existing climatic stresses and future risks. Additional guidance material and support workshops introduced livelihood-based approaches, vulnerability screening, spatial analysis and participatory methods. All of the NAPAs have clearly identified priority risks. Given the mandate for NAPAs to identify urgent needs, this is not surprising.

The primary concern of NAPAs is current climatic risks and observed trends. Disaster risk reduction (for example, drought coping strategies), coastal erosion and storm protection, and early warning systems are common responses.

Beyond current climatic conditions and risks, climate change will bring wholly new climatic conditions in some places. For instance, sea-level rise will increase salinity in some coastal aquifers, and warmer conditions will allow crop cultivation at higher altitudes. Glacial lake outburst floods are a hazard that would not be serious in the absence of rapid glacial melting. These are conditions that have not been experienced in certain places before, although there is adaptation experience elsewhere.

Climate change might also lead to a jump to new climatic regimes. For instance, a prolonged period of desiccation, perhaps associated with a change in the El Niño Southern Oscillation, would render agricultural coping strategies ineffective and require a large-scale switch to non-farm economic activities or migration. Such regional catastrophic changes are difficult to anticipate.

A remaining challenge is the link between current climatic risks and longer-term climate change. To reduce climate vulnerability, urgent action is required and justified. Because the LDCs will experience additional climate burdens over the coming decades, further monitoring, assessment and development of robust strategies and policies is needed.

Challenge 2: Identify a priority project for funding by a donor

The NAPA projects typically identify several adaptation projects, in some cases more than ten. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has provided support to transform projects from this initial menu into fundable projects. Boni Biagini from the GEF discusses the process in a Tiempo interview. Translating the NAPA profile into a project document requires additional planning and assessment, notably when defining the project baseline and conforming to donor rules, such as providing matching funds.

Some ten countries have now submitted a priority project for funding by the GEF, as shown in Table 1 below. This process has taken longer than expected, in part because the GEF has had to mobilize funds and develop guidance, and in part due to the general nature of many of the NAPA profiles. In addition, other projects may have been submitted to bilateral donors for funding or may be seeking funding from national resources.

Table 1: Priority projects submitted for global environment facility funding
Country Project title Objective GEF (US$) Project total (US$)
Bangladesh Strengthening adaptive capacities to address climate change threats on sustainable development strategies for coastal communities in Bangladesh To improve resilience of coastal populations, settlements and ecosystems in areas exposed to coastal hazards 3,000,000 9,080,000
Bhutan Reducing climate change-induced risks and vulnerabilities from glacial lake outburst floods in the Punakha-Wangdi and Chamkhar Valleys To reduce climate change-induced risks and vulnerabilities from glacial lake outbursts in the Punakha-Wangdi Valley and Chamkhar Valley 3,987,555 7,723,779
Cambodia Building capacities to integrate water resources planning into agricultural development To enhance adaptive capacity, at the national, institutional and local levels, to climate change-induced changes in water resources availability for the agricultural sector in Cambodia 1,850,000 3,800,000
Djibouti Reducing impacts on and vulnerability of productive coastal systems in Djibouti To reduce Djibouti's vulnerability to climate change along its coastal zone. The project will strengthen Djibouti's capacity to promote sustainable development and climate-proof its integrated coastal zone management 2,000,000 3,950,000
Eritrea Integrating climate change risks into community- based livestock management in the northwestern lowlands of Eritrea To enhance the adaptive capacity of livestock production systems in the Kerkebet area 3,000,000 6,400,000
Malawi Climate Adaptation for Rural Livelihoods and Agriculture (CARLA) To improve resilience to current climate variability and future climate change by developing and implementing cost effective adaptation strategies, policies and measures that will improve agricultural production and rural livelihoods 3,000,000 27,305,000
Mauritania Reducing vulnerability of arid oasian zones to climate change and variability through improved watershed management To address urgent issues through improved environmental management and to show how climate change information and improved data on water can be used to enhance resource management and decision making at several levels, including technical, policy and community level demand side management. These issues will be replicable in other oasian environments, which are particularly fragile ecosystems. This is key to the country's development as Mauritania is perennially water deficient and mismanagement of water supplies will further hamper its development 1,630,000 3,030,000
Niger Implementing NAPA priority interventions to build the resilience and adaptive capacity of the agricultural sector to climate change in Niger To implement urgent and priority interventions that will promote enhanced adaptive capacity of the agricultural sector to address the additional risks posed by climate change 1,900,000 5,950,000
Samoa Integrated Climate Change Adaptation in Samoa (ICCAS) To increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of Samoa to the threat of climate change, through targeted adaptation interventions in four thematic areas: (i) health; (ii) agriculture and food security; (iii) ecosystem management; and (iv) early warning systems 2,000,000 4,000,000
Sudan Implementing NAPA priority interventions to build resilience in the agriculture and water sectors to the adverse impacts of climate change in Sudan To implement an urgent set of measures that will minimize and reverse the food insecurity and enhance the adaptive capacity of small-scale farmers and pastoralists resulting from climate change, including variability, through (i) water resources management, (ii) rain-fed agricultural production, and (iii) rangeland productivity. In addition, the project aims to promote the mainstreaming of short-term climate risks into policy and planning frameworks, enhance institutional capacity building, and implement a monitoring and evaluation system 3,000,000 6,000,000

Challenge 3: Learning by doing: implementing projects

The NAPA process is seen as an ongoing planning process that raises awareness amongst national and often local stakeholders. It is too early to assess the extent of learning from the NAPA process, or from initial adaptation projects. As yet, there has been no independent review of the NAPAs or of the outcomes of adaptation projects. Stocktaking in the NAPAs is ongoing, led by the LDC Expert Group. Interviews with NAPA teams have drawn some conclusions. The GEF project, Adaptation Learning Mechanism, seeks to accelerate adaptation experience. The website wikiADAPT intends to foster open community documentation of good practice and lessons learned.

A database of NAPA profiles suggests that few proposed projects are regional, focus on financial coping mechanisms (such as disaster insurance or micro-finance) or seek to reform poor institutional and regulatory management of natural resources or social and economic development. This is not surprising since the NAPA mandate is country-driven and stresses urgent needs. This has led mostly to sectoral or community-based actions.

Some agencies have suggested that other developing countries follow the NAPA example. But while adaptation planning is an essential complement to development practice, lessons learned in the NAPA process should be collected before assuming that guidance and approaches for LDCs readily translate to other countries. The international funding and context for adaptation has progressed and these developments should be taken on board.

Challenge 4: Mainstream climate adaptation through national policy and strategy

NAPAs are intended to build upon and become mainstreamed into and integrated with existing national development plans. Such plans include poverty reduction strategies (for example, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers), sustainable development strategies, national conservation strategies, disaster preparedness or management plans and sectoral plans (such as for agriculture, forestry and transport). In this context, ‘mainstreaming' refers to integration of the objectives, policies, strategies or measures outlined within a NAPA such that they become part of national and regional development policies, processes and budgets at all levels and at all stages. This should be done so that NAPA issues complement or advance the broader objectives of poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, sustainable development strategies, national conservation strategies and sectoral development plans are the most important plans for a country's development. Careful analysis of these documents will enable NAPA preparation teams to identify projects, programmes and measures that support the achievement, or overcome any deficiencies, of current national development goals. Such analysis can also ensure that activities recommended within a NAPA complement and do not duplicate plans already initiated.

Developing mechanisms, methods and examples of how national adaptation policies and strategies develop is necessary. Engaging stakeholders, bringing robust science to policy debates and strengthening institutional and legal capacities for ongoing assessment and adaptation planning are important challenges beyond the immediate urgent need to implement NAPA projects.

Mainstreaming NAPAs into national development processes requires that a variety of barriers, many of which also challenge efforts to engage in sustainable development, must be overcome. One way to overcome these barriers is to create an enabling environment to facilitate the integration of NAPAs and long-term climate change adaptation activities into national planning processes. Areas in which activities may be undertaken to facilitate the creation of this enabling environment include education and awareness raising, capacity development, and development of appropriate institutional structures and policy and planning frameworks.

Challenge 5: Address climate adaptation beyond national action

Some aspects of climate adaptation surpass national action. The most obvious case is transboundary water resources management, such as for the Nile and Niger rivers in Africa. Regional planning and foresight, such as the African Union's ClimDev programme, will be essential. Many adaptation actions have common elements, so learning from distant places faced with common stresses may promote solidarity and common purpose, as well as good practice. Sectoral and trade organizations should be encouraged to develop practical guidance, but also standards of acceptable planning and implementation of climate adaptation, supported by data sets, methods, working examples and audit procedures.

Finance is a clear case of international action. This can be for supporting disaster risk reduction, such as the purchase of drought insurance for Ethiopia by the World Food Programme, or for multi-scale activities extending from targeted vulnerable households to national and international risk pooling. These examples are all being tested, although none are fully operational on a widespread scale. All look forward to increased climate resilience beyond the initial 'learning by doing' of the NAPA projects.

Table 2: Report card of progress in meeting challenges for climate adaptation
Challenge Measure of success Progress
Identify urgent needs All LDCs submit high quality NAPA documents 75 per cent: most LDCs have started NAPAs and priorities in LDC that identify agreed vulnerabilities and are able to identify urgent needs countries
Identify priority projects for urgent action All LDCs that undertake a NAPA process submit high quality projects for implementation 25 per cent: some countries have developed projects from initial profiles and these are now in the GEF pipeline
Learning by doing: implementing adaptation projects All submitted projects are successfully implemented; reviews of good practice achieved 10 per cent: early stage of implementation; few if any independent reviews; substantial capacity is planned
Mainstream adaptation planning All countries have effective institutional mechanisms for developing climate adaptation policy and strategy and good practice in integrating climate adaptation into relevant planning processes 10 per cent: some 30 countries (not only LDCs) have established national programmes
Climate adaptation beyond local and national action Regional and international mechanisms through investment banks, transboundary resource management organizations, finance and risk management 10 per cent: high awareness at many levels, but not yet translated into institutional capacity

In conclusion, the NAPA process is increasingly recognized as a means of identifying urgent adaptation needs, building stakeholder awareness and supporting an initial round of adaptation projects. Lessons learned regarding the need for technical backstopping, supporting an ongoing planning process, and linking current to future climatic conditions are being documented. Some five years after the NAPA process was initiated, however, there is still a long way to go. The 'report card' of the above NAPA challenges in Table 2 benchmarks progress so far. Clearly, much remains to be done in terms of implementing adaptation projects, and constraints regarding funding, institutional development and broader strategies that help vulnerable communities to 'adapt well' to climate change are well-known.

Further information

Bubu Pateh Jallow, Department of Water Resources, 7 Marina Parade, Banjul, The Gambia. Fax: +220-225009. Email: bubujallow@hotmail.com.

Thomas E Downing, SEI-Oxford, Suite 193, 266 Banbury Rd, Oxford, OX2 7DL, United Kingdom. Fax: +44-1865-421898 Email: tom.downing@sei.se. Web: www.sei.se/index.php?page=oxford.

On the Web

The national NAPAs submitted to date are available for download.

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Tiempo Climate Newswatch
Updated: April 12th 2013