Insights in Resilience: International Adaptation

We asked our Director of Advisory Services Yoon Kim, about her work on international adaptation and for insights from her recent trip to the 2016 Adaptation Futures Conference in Rotterdam Netherlands.

1. Tell us about your work supporting the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) national adaptation planning efforts and your recent publication on this topic.

In the international arena, we’re currently seeing a shift from a focus on immediate adaptation needs to a more strategic, longer-term approach to adaptation planning. Working closely with USAID’s Adaptation Team, I facilitated the mainstreaming of adaptation into planning and decision-making in developing countries through the implementation of high-level, cross-sectoral stakeholder workshops. These workshops sought to catalyze the development of national adaptation plans (NAPs) as described under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by demonstrating USAID’s approach to climate-resilient development, building broad buy-in and support for the NAP process, and identifying opportunities for cross-sectoral coordination and collaboration. To capture and share lessons learned from USAID’s experience implementing NAP stakeholder processes in Jamaica, Tanzania, and 11 coastal countries in West Africa, I led the development of a paper on USAID’s experience facilitating NAP processes, which was published in Climate and Development earlier this year.

2. What are some of the lessons learned from early NAP processes in developing countries?

Climate change does not respect sectoral or geographic boundaries. So, it is critical to engage key sectors as well as ministries, departments and agencies, including more powerful entities, such as the finance ministry, from the outset. Early and continuous engagement helps to promote ownership and buy-in for the adaptation process and facilitates coordination. The support of a powerful entity such as the Prime Minister’s or Vice President’s Office can also help to build support and motivate action.

Mainstreaming also tends to be more effective when one starts with an existing planning process and considers how climate change may affect it. For instance, in Jamaica, linking adaptation efforts to the country’s long-term development plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica, helped to make adaptation relevant to sectoral stakeholders and to demonstrate how adaptation planning could complement existing planning efforts.

3. You were just at the 2015 Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands. What was your key takeaway?

I was heartened by the range of adaptation efforts taking place in key sectors such as health, urban resilience, and disaster risk reduction. However, I also saw a couple of key gaps regarding financing and the private sector. As more jurisdictions move from vulnerability assessments to adaptation planning, it becomes increasingly urgent for them to identify a set of appropriate funding sources and mechanisms and to understand how best to apply them. While there is important work being done by a number of donors, research institutes, and non-governmental organizations on these issues, there is still a need to map financing options, both in terms of sources and potential mechanisms (e.g., bonds, taxes), and to link them to demonstrate sectoral and location-specific applications. Doing this successfully will require dialogue across international, national, and subnational levels and consideration from the outset of how funding will be accessed and utilized.

Regarding the private sector, we often refer to them as an undifferentiated block. However, to engage them effectively, we need to unpack this term and develop a more nuanced understanding of who we mean by the “private sector” in a given context. Four Twenty Seven has found in its work with different private sector entities that the needs and concerns of financial institutions differ significantly from those of manufacturing companies which in turn differ from healthcare providers. This differentiated understanding is critical for being able to identify entry points for engagement that not only speak to what these entities care about but also opportunities to leverage competitive advantage to develop solutions.