Action to impact: IIED annual review 2022

Snapshots of activity and impact from our 50th year
Text to follow

Madhya Pradesh, India: community members in Puddar village piloting new climate-resilience technology co-created by IIED (Photo: H&K Communications)

IIED executive director Tom Mitchell reflects on 2022 and suggests new ways of working for 2023

Spiralling inequality was just one obstacle blocking action on climate, nature and development in 2022. Uneven COVID-19 recovery, rising sea levels, conflict, catastrophic flooding in Pakistan – every blow struck the least powerful communities hardest. Meanwhile, global summits offered uncertain spaces for change. But in this complex landscape, IIED can bring its best assets to bear.

In our 50th year, our locally rooted evidence supported movement on entrenched issues, including loss and damage. We were powerful advocates for local leadership and funding, an agenda reflected in COP15 outcomes. Our drive for innovation supported community climate action in India and set a course for inclusive cities. And we kept evolving, welcoming a new executive director and taking further action on diversity and inclusion.

All this has been made possible by IIED’s global network of 120 partners in more than 80 countries, by our connection to movements ranging from the high-powered to the unheard, and by our funders and supporters. Thank you. As the stories in this review are just a snapshot of our work in 2022, they are chosen to illustrate how we work with others to bridge knowledge gaps, influence stubborn debates and make critical connections that unlock progress.

Tackling the big issues

The ‘super year for climate and nature’ that ran into 2022 demanded action on thorny issues. We delivered evidence-based ways forward on two huge roadblocks facing the Majority World: climate-driven loss and damage, and national debt. With our network of partners, from grassroots to government, we challenged hesitation to act by presenting lived realities, emerging priorities and viable solutions.

Having collaborated closely with climate vulnerable countries on loss and damage for decades, IIED was one of the first organisations to connect stakeholders in the global South with Northern policymakers. We remain strongly positioned to do this: throughout 2022, we supported lobbying on loss and damage by the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group and others. Together we were heard: COP27 delivered a loss and damage fund that, while imperfect, was a breakthrough.

This is the first time in many years that our nations do not come out of a COP empty-handed... The decision [to establish a fund for loss and damage] responds to one of our group’s biggest demands over the past decades.

– Madeleine Diouf Sarr, chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group

Ahead of the UNFCCC summit, we had amplified the LDC Group’s priorities, arranging a press briefing for chair Madeleine Diouf Sarr to address the New York Times, Sky News and others. We reiterated LDC priorities with European media and policymakers: principal researcher Ritu Bharadwaj appeared on BBC’s Newsnight; senior fellow Simon Anderson was influential in dialogues with the Scottish government which culminated in a commitment for a further £5m for loss and damage.

Our evidence-based study on the risks, solutions and costs of loss and damage launched in July. This major contribution to the global knowledge base was downloaded nearly 1,000 times by the end of the year. It drew on deliberative dialogues, interviews and community consultations to bring lived experience into policy spaces. A new animation also captured the realities being felt in Nepal: co-created with climate justice activist Shreya K.C., retweeted by Greta Thunberg to five million followers. This completed a series of four powerful loss and damage animations, collectively viewed over 105,000 times.

The climate crisis is hitting my beautiful homeland, pushing us beyond our ability to cope… World leaders must recognise the loss and damage hitting the Least Developed Countries and take increased action by providing finance and technical support.

– Shreya K.C., youth climate change champion, Nepal

A moving animation on the impacts of loss and damage helped draw attention to this urgent issue

After COP27, we again moved the debate forward. We drew attention to the under-reported non-economic impacts of loss and damage – including loss of culture, and damage to mental and physical wellbeing – via two studies co-written with Bangladesh’s International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). We are continuing this work in 2023, proposing an ambitious new research observatory approach to accelerate effective action.

Developing country debt is another deep-rooted barrier to low-carbon development that we are taking on, working with governments, development agencies and the private sector to promote debt swaps for climate and nature. This innovative approach helps redirect repayments towards action on sustainable development, with a particular focus on gender equality. In 2022, we saw this enthusiastically received idea becoming a reality.

Throughout the year, IIED analysis exposed the scale of debt and the potential for action: as the World Bank held its Spring meeting, we revealed that half of the ten countries most in danger of climate disasters were already in or at high risk of ‘debt distress’. Then, ahead of COP27, we proved that the most climate-vulnerable countries can borrow less than 15% of the funds they need to adapt before hitting debt distress.

Our arguments won over major financial bodies: a flagship report by the African Development Bank quoted a 'how to guide' to debt swaps created by IIED, Potomac Group LLC, UNECA, UNESCWA and UNDP; and the IMF cited our research. Government interest also grew: we organised an event at Africa Climate Week alongside UNEP, the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub and the government of Eswatini; IIED chief economist Paul Steele gave evidence to the UK International Development Committee; and Lao PDR, Jordan, Egypt, Kenya and Gabon all expressed interest. Theory became practice in January 2023, when the governments of Cabo Verde and Portugal announced a groundbreaking debt restructure to create an environment and climate fund – an agreement that IIED helped facilitate.

Lenders’ warm reception to innovative, scalable solutions spurred on another project: biocredits for nature conservation and poverty reduction. In 2022, with ECOTRUST and UNDP, we brought together public and private actors and published a report on emerging lessons shortly before our biocredits-themed COP15 side event. It was downloaded over 800 times in just one week and reported on by Bloomberg, the Financial Times and Reuters. We saw results when Target 19 of the global framework on biodiversity specifically recognised biocredits’ potential. This work will continue in 2023.

Championing what works

The threats to climate and nature leave us no time for half-measures. Our research shows that local leadership is a gamechanger, but also that getting money to this level – where it really matters – needs more evidence of impact and practical tools. IIED is developing both. Last year, we further proved the criteria for effective action on climate and nature: tackle these crises together, jointly funded, directed by local experts. Our message reached critical policy spaces including the long-awaited UN biodiversity summit.

Our seven-year ecosystem-based adaptation action-research project closed in 2022, having proven that locally-led initiatives to harness biodiversity and ecosystem services can also provide cost-effective climate adaptation. To achieve this, IIED, UNEP-WCMC and IUCN engaged hundreds of stakeholders across 12 countries; shared over 200 tools and methods; and provided evidence to support the preparation of Nationally Determined Contributions from Peru, Uganda and South Africa. This impressive research base is unequivocal: local agency is critical in setting a course and allocating funds.

We took this message to the changemakers. For June’s Stockholm+50 meeting, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency asked IIED to publish recommendations for driving locally-led change for people, nature and climate for governments, development banks, funders and intermediaries. In the same month, as negotiators, community representatives and INGOs gathered to discuss the global biodiversity framework, a ‘roundtable’ organised by IIED and the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity resulted in three lessons. Two of them – on enhancing transparency and ensuring finance can be more easily accessed – were reflected in the final framework.

Direct access is only important, or it only matters, when it’s about money going to the ground.

– Mandy Barnett, chief director of the Adaptation Policy and Resourcing division at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)

A spur to action – getting money to the local level for nature and climate: Make Change Happen podcast episode 19

In October, the case for getting climate money where it matters was heard by the highest FAO Forestry statutory body: the Committee on Forestry. Representing the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) partnership, IIED’s Duncan McQueen outlined how big climate funds often impose barriers that limit access to finance for local organisations of Indigenous People and forest and farm producers, despite plentiful evidence that small producer organisations, associated and federated over enormous scales, are highly effective agents of climate and development action. FFF achieves large-scale impact by directly supporting hundreds of small producer organisations to improve their livelihoods and make landscapes climate-resilient. As FFF’s knowledge generation partner, IIED will compile and share further evidence in 2023.

We also provided the tools for others to take action, sharing an interactive map profiling funding mechanisms that support local leadership. Each case study on the map exemplifies the widely-adopted principles for locally led adaptation: guidelines that IIED helped define and which Sonam P. Wangdi, former LDC Group chair, described as “a serious and meaningful response to the LDCs’ ask of the international community”. And our good climate finance guide for investing in locally led adaptation highlights 13 investment-ready delivery mechanisms to inspire funders, governments, NGOs and civil society.

Challenging injustice

Last year, our lifelong commitment to equality and justice became more necessary than ever: a sobering IIED study confirmed that the world is becoming more unequal. We worked with partners across a spectrum of concerns and from multiple vantage points; one exciting new initiative is exploring how the development sector can be more inclusive of and learn from LGBTQI+ individuals and communities.

Our growth towards actively anti-racist practice advanced with the completion of an anti-racism audit and a review of how far IIED communications acknowledge, omit or feed racism and coloniality. We will seek external input as we continue to appraise our narratives and their impact in 2023. In July, principal researcher Tracy Kajumba began work on strengthening our partnership approach, exploring how intersectional inequalities can be routed out. Continuing to share our findings and learning will be part of IIED’s contributions towards challenging the power dynamics pervading the development sector.

Women from Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities experience mutually reinforcing structural forms of discrimination… Despite this, they make invaluable contributions to climate change mitigation and adaptation… These systemic barriers must be addressed.

– Omaira Bolaños, director of Latin America and Gender Justice Programs at the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), speaking at the 16th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA16)

In pursuit of equity, we also challenged unmet promises by powerful actors. We highlighted wealthy nations’ poor progress toward the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal on climate finance – a position that supported the LDC Group at COP27. Our ‘fair share’ analysis showed that, on current trajectories, rich countries and multilateral organisations will provide barely half the money promised for climate adaptation in the hardest hit countries. This was in stark contrast to another IIED analysis – inspired by the LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR) – which revealed that by 2050 the world’s most vulnerable people will get just US$11 per person per year to adapt to climate change.

01020304050LDCs projected share of the US$40bnCost of DCF and extending social protection to all living in extreme poverty in LDCs Annual cost of implementing INDCs in LDCs60708090100DCFSocial protectionINDCsAdaptation financeLDCsUS$ billion

LDCs will receive US$12.8 billion of adaptation finance by 2025 if the $40 billion target is met, nowhere near meeting the need

Injustice also stalks rural landscapes, threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions. In 2022, our investigation into what prevents female smallholder farmers from fully participating in global value chains saw land rights emerge as a major issue. We supported the development of an informed community of practice, able to take action on land rights issues, by working with Namati and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment to provide a searchable knowledge hub. We also shared perspectives on a range of land rights issues from six countries in Africa via a blog series created with The Land Portal.

Land rights arose again just before COP15 as IIED and the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples made an evidence-based call for protections to be embedded in the global framework on biodiversity. After a two-year advocacy campaign focused on securing a framework that works for people as well as nature, we were excited to see greater equity and participation reflected in the final text. IIED executive director Tom Mitchell, in Montreal for the summit, said: “The agreement rightly places the needs, rights, interests, cultural values and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities at its heart.”

Making opportunities for action

In the face of evolving threats, IIED is designing and delivering inventive solutions which build on existing structures and frameworks. Our aim: faster, scalable, more cost-effective ways to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people. To introduce environment and development concerns into established systems, we work with diverse partners, harness technology and look not just at what works but at what will work in the future.

In 2022, we further progressed our efforts to embed climate justice in India’s nationwide social protection programme, sharing critical lessons from a pilot project in Madhya Pradesh which is supercharging farmers’ traditional knowledge and practices. As part of the UK government’s Infrastructure for Climate Resilient Growth programme, we worked with the Madhya Pradesh Council of Science and Technology to develop an online tool which is now supporting communities to predict extreme weather, share data and identify mutual plans for resilience infrastructure.

With [this] tool we are all technical experts… We choose the land and where and what type of structure to build. We are no longer dependent on outsiders. This is better because we know what is best for us.

– Sardar Singh Barela, resident of Bisanjpur Tandi, an approximately 300-household village in Narsullaganj Block, Madhya Pradesh

Delivering the mobile-accessible technology through an established infrastructure took it straight to the heart of rural communities – as captured in the image at the top of this page – and helped ensure women and marginalised and Indigenous groups also gained access. The government of India intends to share the tool more widely in 2023, a move which will interest other countries keen to secure rural livelihoods and reduce climate-induced migration.

Another inventive idea tested in 2022 focused on compensating farmers faced with crop damage caused by wildlife – a growing problem as man and nature compete for resources on land and at sea. Where cumbersome government-run schemes faltered, we introduced an actor with the tools and skills for rapid remedy: the private insurance sector. Pilot schemes with the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka and AB Consultants in Kenya (where this was the first project of its kind) inspired interest from other countries and we are now working with partners in Malaysia. The project also attracted press attention: a Thomson Reuters Foundation article was reproduced in the Mail Online (UK), Business Live (South Africa) and other media.

In this short film, farmers, insurers and IIED partners explain why we need this approach to human-wildlife conflict

As home to half the world, urban areas are arguably where the struggle for climate justice and intersectional equality will be decided. At June’s World Urban Forum, we argued that better cities are possible – as long as we embed transformative ambition for social justice and climate resilience in every aspect of city planning. Alongside naming four areas for urgent action – including housing justice that advances climate justice – we identified the systems and resources needed to effectively evolve planning processes: better data, local leadership and nimble finance.

Bringing unheard perspectives into city planning is also part of our ground-breaking large-scale study comparing displaced people’s wellbeing, livelihoods and opportunities in camps with urban areas. Working with eight local and international partners in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Jordan and Kenya, we’ve analysed data from around 4,500 women and men and brought together municipal authorities, refugee-led organisations and service providers. In 2023, we will publish our compelling findings, continue to rethink what funding can achieve and advocate for all residents to be part of creating fairer, more sustainable cities.

Global challenges are moving at a dizzying rate. And as the initiatives above show, where national governments may be slow to adapt, there is documenting growing evidence that local governments, working with communities, may hold the key to timely action. In 2022, we worked with United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) and others to document hundreds of actions taken by cities, local government and communities to reduce inequalities. We launched our report at the UCLG 7th World Congress and Summit of Local and Regional Leaders – the world’s largest gathering of local and regional leaders – and once again brought powerful local solutions to global attention.


Get connected

With fresh thinking on strategy and direction from executive director Tom Mitchell and the launch of major research by IIED Europe, 2023 is an exciting time to connect with us – as a partner, funder or concerned citizen.

Contact one of our experts: IIED has around 150 team members working in the UK and around the world.

Join us on social media: search ‘IIED’ to discover a growing international community of more than 155,000 people.

Sign up to receive the IIED newsletter or to hear from us about particular topics.

An overhead view of a group of fisherman standing in shallow water holding and pulling their fanned-out nets to catch fish

West Bengal, India: small-scale fishermen in Kolkata haul in their catch (Photo: Shibasish Saha/Climate Visuals)

Download a PDF (2KB) with a summary of this content from our Publications Library

You can use the social links below to share our videos and add your comments and feedback.