How do we tell whether climate change adaptation is making headway?

IIED and partners Garama 3C ltd and Adaptify are developing tailored frameworks to help developing countries evaluate their climate adaptation investments: not just the ‘outputs’ these produce, but the ‘outcomes’ they deliver.

Simon Anderson's picture
Insight by 
Simon Anderson
06 December 2012
Discussing climate resilience in Kinna, northern Kenya.

Discussing climate resilience in Kinna, northern Kenya. Photo: Copyright, James Pattison

Climate change adaptation is “a journey, not a destination”, as our sage Sudanese colleague Sumaya Zakieldeen (Least Developed Countries representative to the Adaptation Committee under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change Framework) puts it. But how do we check we’re making progress along the right channel? IIED and partners hope to provide an answer by developing the Tracking Adaptation and Measuring Development (TAMD) framework; and in introducing it I want to explain where we started from, where we’ve got to, and what lies ahead.

 TAMD ‘at the source’

TAMD’s origins spring from the need to know whether adaptation is actually working to keep development on course. Developing countries and their development partners are increasingly making very large investments in climate change adaptation. To plan, implement and track the interventions they are investing in, they need robust assessments, both of the expected and actual returns. They need to know whether adaptation is enabling development despite climate change effects, and whether climate adaptation costs and benefits are distributed equitably.

All sorts of people need frameworks for doing this — including developing country governments, their ministries, departments and agencies, international institutions, donors, and multilateral development banks. Climate funds such as the Adaptation Fund, the Pilot Programme on Climate Resilience, and bilateral funded programmes are beginning to develop results frameworks, but these focus largely on what ‘outputs’ a project produces from various ‘inputs’— almost a ‘money in products out’ model — often expressed as costs and benefits or as ‘efficiency’.

But what we really need to know about is ‘efficacy’— what happens as a result of the outputs, i.e. whether their downstream outcomes help adaptation. Our TAMD group agrees with the Independent Evaluation Group’s recent report on the World Bank’s experience in climate adaptation when it says that focusing on outputs risks “emphasizing spending over results”. The report recommended development workers “pilot approaches to better assess the costs, benefits, sustainability, and impact of activities with presumed resilience benefits”—and that’s what we are doing with TAMD.

Getting TAMD underway

IIED is working with climate change consultancies Adaptify and Garama 3C Ltd to develop and pilot the TAMD framework, with funding from the UK’s Department for International Development.

In late 2010 we convened a group of adaptation specialists from different parts of the world in Edinburgh to brainstorm how to track progress on adapting to climate change. The challenge was to see if we could identify a framework with a small number of indicators that would be useful across many different adaptation interventions and that could inform high-level decision-making on where to direct adaptation resources. We came up with a working paper and asked the adaptation community to comment via a consultation.

The overarching aim for TAMD is to help governments and climate finance providers better-assess how their adaptation programmes effect development. We’re developing (and road-testing) frameworks with developing country policymakers for the people actually implementing adaptation projects. The idea is to track climate adaptation at all levels and from all sources, and measure its effects on development. The eventual impact should be much stronger national management and accountability for adaptation investments.

Where is TAMD now?

We are working with policy and research partners in Pakistan, Nepal, Kenya, Mozambique and Ghana to see how TAMD can contribute to their national evaluation frameworks for climate adaptation. These countries are in the first cluster because they have adaptation investment that: is just starting, fits with DFID’s own adaptation investment portfolio; and comes from multi-lateral organisations. For Nepal and Mozambique, we are setting up collaborative arrangements with the World Bank-managed Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience.

We are identifying each country’s major adaptation investments and the strengths and weaknesses of development progress monitoring. We will use that analysis to test whether we can successfully tailor the TAMD prototype framework to each country’s specific needs.

Where is TAMD going?

We’re proposing an ‘open source’, rather than a proprietary, approach to developing TAMD. The purpose is to co-produce and promote an approach that will enable many actors, including developing country governments and their ministries, departments and agencies, to formulate, implement and evaluate climate change policies and actions.

TAMD evaluates adaptation by combining assessments of how well institutions manage the risks climate change poses to development (‘upstream’ indicators), with assessments of how successfully adaptation interventions reduce vulnerability and keep development ‘on course’ in the face of those risks (‘downstream’ indicators). The aim here is to provide a framework that defines indicators categories or ‘domains’ that can be tailored to specific contexts. For more on the stages of TAMD, see the IIED briefing “TAMD: A framework for assessing climate adaptation and development effects”.)

The approach combines indicators for capacity, for vulnerability and for successful development outcomes as climate change progresses. The approach will also let a wider constituency – citizens and people in government – assess the effectiveness of adaptation and will make adaptation managers more accountable to the climate vulnerable.

By looking at how authorities manage climate risk, and linking this with people’s vulnerability and the development outcomes they experience, the framework will show both whether and how marginalised groups’ adaptation needs are addressed, and what safeguards are in place to prevent ‘maladaptation’ — actions that inadvertently increase people’s vulnerability and/or undermine future adaptation.

Stages of the journey

The TAMD initiative will pass through several phases. By early 2013 we will have finished the scoping, appraisal and design phases. Next we will test the feasibility of the country prototypes and specific evaluative frameworks with each of our five partner countries. By early 2014 we expect to assess the results at national level, and later in the year to combine and promote learning from all five countries, so as to chart our course ahead. Along the route there will be waymarkers, including published outputs such as reports from the design and the prototype feasibility testing phases. We’ll be sharing these widely, including on the IIED website. 

Partners on this journey

The TAMD team is actively seeking partners from the focus countries. In each country we are talking with the parts of government responsible for climate change actions to see which ministry, department or agency will be the TAMD policy partner. And we are identifying research partners from national research organisations.

We need these strong partnerships to ensure that the useful parts of TAMD are absorbed into emerging national climate change response strategies. Like a river flowing into a lake, we want TAMD’s destination to be a contribution to the larger systems that countries use to support and manage climate adaptation.

For further information please contact Simon Anderson.