Can countries bankroll climate adaptation without undermining development?

Countries must integrate climate change adaptation into development plans. Photo: C. Schubert (CCAFS)
Agriculture is hard hit by climate change. Are countries doing what it takes to plan adaptation in this important sector?

Climate change threatens one of the most important sectors of countries’ economies: agriculture. In some parts of Africa, agriculture directly employs nearly 80 percent of the population. Most countries are aware of this and are taking steps to prepare themselves for climate change impacts.

Nevertheless, developing a plan for policy action and intervention measures across various economic sectors is a complex, multi-step process. It’s also a brand new process for most countries, with every country finding themselves at different stages and with varying levels of success. As with most things related to climate change, however, we’re all in it together – so shouldn’t we check in and see how everyone is doing?

In an attempt to take stock of the status National Adaptation Planning (NAP) process in the agricultural sector of developing countries in East Africa, West Africa and South Asia, a new report from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) brings together evidence from 12 countries in these regions. The report’s messages formed the centerpiece for a CCAFS-hosted side event at the 19th session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP19) on 15 November.

The report’s lead author, Gabrielle Kissinger explained “many countries are making progress to develop their National Adaptation Plans and address issues related to agriculture. This is especially important in light of the ongoing lack of action on agriculture in global climate policies

Learning from each other

The report and ensuing discussions at COP19 provide critical feedback on the state of the NAP process three years after its original inception by the UNFCCC.

The side event, in a kind of flesh-and-bone recreation of the evidence laid out in print, saw experts from Kenya, Pakistan, and Niger give testimony to their successes, trials and tribulations during the NAPs process as well as their progress to date. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to share the lessons they have learned during the process in an effort to inform and guide fellow countries that have yet to take the next step.

The side event built upon a recent  two-day workshop, where policy makers from different countries exchanged experiences and strategies for developing NAPs.  The idea was to outline the key challenges and next steps facing countries a varying stages in the NAPs process, taking into account the diversity and complexity of governance and finance when a range of actors are involved.

Stephen King'uyu from Kenya’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Water shared his country's experiences with climate adaptation plans.

King'uyu coordinates Kenya’s Climate Change Action Plan, a process that has involved not only policy makers, businesspeople and researchers, but also representatives from different government ministries. This latter fact is an important achievement because climate change affects all sectors of the economy, and also because ministries commonly compete for resources and influence.

Read more about Kenya’s national climate change adaptation process

A major challenge that participants pointed out was how to reconcile development plans with climate change adaptation.

Climate change represents a serious threat to all sector’s of Kenya’s economy, and “adaptation is a matter of survival,” said King'uyu. “Climatic shocks could take us back several steps of development. We need action now!” he told the session participants.

Indeed, a good NAP integrates climate change adaptation into development plans. “We must ensure development activities do not eat up our resilience,” King'uyu warned.

Who pays for adaptation?

While the long-term benefits of adaptation might be obvious, there is uncertainty about who will pay the upfront costs. Donor funding can be ‘fickle’ and slow. And while governments can often find money when disasters hit, these funds might be better used for preventive actions. A well-funded NAP means identifying international and domestic (and even local) sources of funding for adaptation activities. Countries that closely align adaptation with existing development processes, are more likely to gain political support and therefore have greater potential to tap into domestic budget allocations

But funding must be flexible. Ali Sheikh of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), and LEAD Pakistan  has been part of the adaptation planning process in Asia. He warned that rigidly funding certain adaptation activities could produce unintended results. “Something that was adaptation some years ago might be is maladaptation now,” he said.

No excuse for inaction

While farming communities have always been adapting to incremental changes in weather and climate, climate change threatens to bring new, unprecedented changes that will stretch their natural ability to adapt. “Institutions are not responding quickly enough,” said Sheikh.

Read more

The serious business of NAP-ing: report back from  CCAFS learning workshop “Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans”

Planning climate adaptation in agriculture (CCAFS Report No. 10)

New report highlights lessons from national adaptation planning

Read related posts on our blog:

Tackling climate change: Kenya holds first national planning meeting for agriculture

Agriculture in focus: Climate change planning in Kenya

With proper planning, farmers can thrive in a world of shifting climates

Vanessa Meadu is Communications Manager with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Caity Peterson is a visiting researcher based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia. This story was developed with input from Chase Sova, Oxford Environmental Change Institute and CIAT.  

The CCAFS team is reporting live from the UNFCCC climate talks in Warsaw, 11-22 November 2013. Click to read all of our coverage. For live updates from the Climate talks in Warsaw, follow us on twitter @cgiarclimate and @bcampbell_CGIAR. Join the conversation using #GLFCOP19