Adaptation is the process of adjusting to the impacts of the changing climate, seeking to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities 60 . This module explains how countries can implement the adaptation component of their NDCs. For many countries, adaptation is the priority in their NDCs because they are already experiencing devastating climate impacts. This is particularly the case for small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs).
Adapting to climate change is a long-term and cyclical process, and countries need to be flexible in order to respond to new evidence on vulnerability and their experiences of the impacts of a changing climate. Many countries have highlighted in their INDCs that international support will be needed to enable adaptation goals to be achieved, including finance, capacity-building and technology transfer for specific sectors.
Given the inherent synergies between adaptation and other development goals, NDC implementation can contribute to nearly all of the SDGs, especially those on health and well-being (SDG 3), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and ecosystems and biodiversity (SDG 15) 61 . Gendered approaches to adaptation can redress inequalities and ensure that women are engaged at all levels.
Box 4. Adaptation and the Paris Agreement
“Parties hereby establish the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the temperature goal referred to in Article 2.”– Article 7.1, Paris Agreement
Article 7 of the Paris Agreement sets out a global goal and recognises the varying scales of adaptation, from global to local (Article 7.2). It further states that adaptation plans (Article 7.9), with prioritised adaptation actions (Article 7.9.c), should be communicated periodically by parties (Articles 7.10, 7.11 and 7.12). The co-benefits of mitigation and adaptation actions are also acknowledged (Article 4.7).
The UNFCCC’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process 62 provides a country-driven, comprehensive approach to adaptation planning and implementation (see Box 5). This is an appropriate process for achieving the adaptation goals contained in countries’ NDCs (see Figure 5).
If a country’s NDC sets out what adaptation outcomes it is aiming for, then the National Adaptation Plan process details how to achieve these through the iterative planning, mainstreaming and stakeholder engagement processes required for effective adaptation. This module presents the key activities needed, which align with the technical guidelines for the National Adaptation Plan process, produced by the UNFCCC’s LDC Expert Group.
Some countries drew directly on their experience of developing a National Adaptation Plan when developing their INDCs, using the INDC to communicate the National Adaptation Plan’s central goals, priorities, and activities. Other countries may not be so far along in the National Adaptation Plan process, and their INDC experience – identifying and communicating goals, priorities and activities – can be used to frame and catalyse this. Wherever a country may be in the process, the National Adaptation Plan technical guidelines 63 provide the key resource for implementing the adaptation efforts outlined in the NDCs.
In addition, countries may find it useful to refer to other modules in this reference manual: the finance module will help countries consider the financing of their National Adaptation Plan; the mitigation module will help countries to consider mitigation–adaptation synergies; the MRV module offers guidance on the international reporting requirements of the Paris Agreement, and on tracking the implementation and effectiveness of adaptation actions; and the governance module will help countries build the institutional structures and processes needed to deliver adaptation actions.
Box 5. The UNFCCC’s National Adaptation Plan process
The UNFCCC’s National Adaptation Plan process 64 can be used by countries to implement the adaptation component of their NDCs. The process has the following objectives:
- to reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, by building adaptive capacity and resilience
- to facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation into relevant new and existing policies, programmes and activities (in particular development planning processes and strategies) for all relevant sectors and at different levels.
The National Adaptation Plan process Technical Guidelines were drawn up by the UNFCCC’s Least Developed Countries Expert Group. The guidelines describe four elements of the process:
- Lay the groundwork and address gaps
- Preparatory elements
- Implementation strategies
- Reporting, monitoring and review
An accompanying report sets out country experiences as best practices 65 and lessons learned in addressing adaptation in LDCs.
The guidelines are clear that “the [National Adaptation Plan] process is designed to be flexible and non-prescriptive, hence countries may apply the suggested steps based on their circumstances, choosing those steps that add value to their planning process and sequencing [National Adaptation Plan] activities based on their needs to support their decision-making on adaptation”. In addition, “the individual activities are not intended to be followed consecutively or completely.”
Given that each country is starting from a different point in the National Adaptation Plan process, and that countries have linked their NDCs and National Adaptation Plans in different ways, the following activities provide a guide from which countries can select the most relevant and necessary activities for their own circumstances. The technical guidelines for the National Adaptation Plan process state that it is “designed to be flexible and non-prescriptive, hence countries may apply the suggested steps based on their circumstances, choosing those steps that add value to their planning process and sequencing … activities based on their needs to support their decision-making on adaptation”.
In keeping with this, the activities outlined here are flexible and non-prescriptive, and countries should choose those that add value to their existing processes. In addition, countries can sequence these activities so as to best support their decision-making on adaptation.
The activities are not expected to be followed consecutively or completely, but countries that have not yet started a National Adaptation Plan process may find that the activities provide a logical sequence. Those countries already well under way in the process may find some helpful suggestions on how to fill gaps or capitalise on opportunities to link the National Adaptation Plan process with NDC implementation.
Key activity 1: Review the current adaptation policy landscape
1a. Review the NDC
- Identify whether the NDC proposes any additional adaptation activities compared to existing adaptation strategies or plans (e.g. National Adaptation Plans, climate change action plans).
1b. Review the existing adaptation policy landscape
- Identify whether a National Adaptation Plan process is already underway, and what actions are proposed or already in place, including:
- the level at which each action will be implemented (national, regional, city)
- The sectors which are covered by each action
- the relative contributions of these actions to improving resilience, if known
- the direct and indirect implications of these actions for delivering on SDG goals and targets.
- Consider the Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction Framework 2015–2030, which comprises seven targets and four priorities for action to increase resilience to disasters, strengthen adaptation measures and improve capability 66 .
Key activity 2: Undertake groundwork and governance
2a. Apply Element A of the National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines
- This helps to ‘lay the groundwork and address gaps’
and describes how to:
- initiate and launch the NAP process
- carry out a stocktake to identify available information on climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation and assess gaps and needs of the enabling environment for the National Adaptation Plan process.
- address capacity gaps and weaknesses in undertaking the National Adaptation Plan process
- comprehensively and iteratively assess development needs and climate vulnerabilities.
2b. Incorporate additional or enhanced activities into the National Adaptation Plan process to make the link with the NDC, as appropriate
- Establish the appropriate institutional arrangements for coordinating adaptation actions for the NDC (see activity 3 in the governance module for more details on setting up institutional arrangements).
- If a National Adaptation Plan process is already underway, review whether the mandate established for this already includes – or could be extended to include – the implementation of the adaptation component of the NDC.
- Review the robustness of the complete national evidence base for adaptation in the context of the NDC, to ensure that NDC implementation builds on all the available evidence, and to identify the gaps that need to be addressed to support progress with NDC priorities.
- Review capacity-building needs across sectors and levels through the stocktake sub-element of the National Adaptation Plan process. Capacity needs might include:
- understanding of, and familiarity with, the UNFCCC National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines and other sources of guidance and best practice on national adaptation planning
- understanding of the definitions of vulnerability and how to undertake vulnerability assessments in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, 68 including equity and gender dimensions
- technical expertise on the climate impacts that affect the most vulnerable sectors, regions, themes and groups
- economic and adaptation appraisal expertise to develop costed and prioritised adaptation plans, including consideration of co-benefits such as economic development and job creation, environmental quality and mitigation
- capacity across government ministries to address climate uncertainties and integrate climate change adaptation planning into other policies, including sustainable development and gender
- technical, logistical and engineering expertise to develop implementation plans for specific individual adaptation projects, ensuring equal access for women to training and skills-development programmes.
Key activity 3: Undertake preparatory work for adaptation plans
3a. Apply Element B of the National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines 69
- This covers ‘Preparatory elements’ which describe how to:
- analyse current and future climate change scenarios
- assess climate vulnerabilities and identify adaptation options at sector, subnational, national and other appropriate levels
- review and appraise adaptation options, including costing
- compile and communicate National Adaptation Plans
- integrate climate change adaptation into national and subnational development and sectoral planning.
3b. Incorporate additional or enhanced activities into the National Adaptation Plan process to make the link with the NDC, as appropriate
- Assess if existing or planned preparatory work or adaptation plans need to be extended or enhanced, in order to implement the adaptation component of the NDC across all relevant sectors and levels. The scope of adaptation planning needs to include current climate variability and extremes, as well as future climate change impacts.
- Extend or enhance the national evidence base underpinning the adaptation commitments in the NDC, through more detailed impact, vulnerability and adaptation assessments. This will support identified key climate vulnerable sectors, regions, themes and groups, and provides the rationale for targeted adaptation action. It is important to note that:
- evidence can come from scientific data and stakeholder engagement
- vulnerability assessments should align with commonly agreed definitions of vulnerability 70
- assessments should ensure that social and ecological dimensions are included, for example, noting that women traditionally have less influence on decision-making and less economic resources to help them cope with shocks and stresses
- assessments might include an economic impact assessment of projected climate change impacts (e.g. temperature increases or projected increases in extreme events) to inform climate change adaptation planning and implementation, and resource allocation at the sector level.
- Ensure that the appraisal and prioritisation of adaptation options includes criteria that relate to mitigation and development co-benefits, to ensure that win–win–win themes are explicitly identified. It is important to note that:
- methods for the systematic identification, appraisal and costing of the options available to address adaptation priorities should embrace uncertainties, so that all likely futures are considered; this could be through a scenario-based analysis
- cost–benefit analysis tools can help with prioritisation
- appraisals should be conducted in close consultation with key country stakeholders and have input and participation from women’s organisations.
- Identify how adaptation is being, or will be, integrated into wider economic and development actions and capacity-building. This will ensure that the implementation of the NDC demonstrates its impact and contribution to core developmental goals and targets, as enshrined in the SDGs.
- Involve all stakeholders when preparing adaptation plans that build on and can be integrated with sectoral, subnational and national plans and strategies. Coordinate where appropriate with engagement mechanisms serving the whole of the NDC (see activity 2 in the governance module for details of stakeholder engagement, and activity 3 in the governance module for details about ensuring integration with existing processes across ministries, agencies and subnational authorities).
Key activity 4: Access financing for adaptation actions
See the finance module for more details: activity 3 for compiling overall costings; activity 4 for identifying the level and type of support needed; and activity 5 for assessing financing options. Note that the National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines do not provide detailed or recent guidance on accessing finance for adaptation.
Key activity 5: Implement policies, projects and programmes
5a. Apply Element C of the National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines 71
- This covers ‘Implementation strategies’, which describes how to:
- prioritise climate change adaptation in national planning
- develop a long-term national adaptation implementation strategy
- enhance capacity for planning and implementing adaptation
- promote coordination and synergy at the regional level, and with other multilateral environmental agreements.
5b. Incorporate additional or enhanced activities into the National Adaptation Plan process, to make the link with the NDC, as appropriate
- Enhance existing strategies and/or design new ones to achieve the adaptation activities set out in the NDC, efficiently and effectively.
- Adaptation outcomes can be delivered through the integration of resilience across national planning, and coordinating with development programming.
- Some specific adaptation measures will require new projects and programmes.
- Strategies should achieve stakeholder buy-in – both horizontally (i.e. to mainstream adaptation in sectoral and development planning) and vertically (i.e. to integrate national planning down to subnational, city and community levels, and with implementation partners).
- Assign timelines and owners to key activities in sectoral strategies and action plans, indicating short-, medium- and long-term actions, and making explicit links with wider NDC governance.
- Combined adaptation–mitigation action plans can help to achieve co-benefits and avoid conflicting outcomes in the implementation of the NDC.
- Promote gender sensitivity and gender transformational outcomes in the implementation of national adaptation policies and programmes (e.g. non-discriminatory access to, and use of, land resources, equitable participation in decision-making processes in the context of food security).
- Ensure that adaptation projects demonstrate their contribution to core developmental targets as enshrined in the SDGs, and that development projects show how they are bridging adaptation deficits and enhancing the adaptive capacity of communities.
- Consider using macroeconomic impact assessments of adaptation policies, using computable general equilibrium modelling or other tools. This will assess their impact on economic growth, the distribution of income, poverty, government revenues, trade balances, and investment, among other issues.
Key activity 6: Monitor and report on progress and the effectiveness of adaptation actions
6a. Apply Element D of the National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines 72
- The ‘Reporting, monitoring and review’ section of the guidelines recommend collecting information on the National Adaptation Plan process, assessing it through a national M&E system and providing outputs for reporting on progress to the UNFCCC. It provides guidance on:
- monitoring the process
- reviewing the process to assess progress, effectiveness and gaps
- iteratively updating the National Adaptation Plan
- outreach on the process and reporting on progress and effectiveness.
6b. Incorporate additional or enhanced activities into the National Adaptation Plan process to make the link with the NDC, as appropriate
- Countries may consider some activities and considerations that are additional to the National Adaptation Plan process, including:
- a review of current processes for international reporting on adaptation via National Communications
- considering how to integrate new requirements for the Adaptation Communication 73 under the Paris Agreement with existing adaptation monitoring and reporting systems
- clarifying the objectives for monitoring to guide the selection of indicators and methodologies that are most appropriate to each country’s circumstance.
- Ensure that monitoring activities are implemented throughout the National Adaptation Plan process, ideally starting with the design and launch of the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system for adaptation actions alongside the launch of the National Adaptation Plan process.
Learning from others
Case study 12. State of Palestine: handling uncertainty in the development of the National Adaptation Plan
Palestine faced a challenge when developing its National Adaptation Plan due to a lack of data. It overcame this challenge by involving stakeholders in a systematic and comprehensive vulnerability assessment and adaptation appraisal.
Dealing with uncertainties: The process was innovative in using the definitions of terms from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, most notably in relation to vulnerability. This allowed Palestine to identify vulnerabilities in relation to current existing climate sensitivities and adaptive capacities, and to consider future scenarios only in connection with appraising adaptation options. At that stage, rather than develop expensive downscaled climate models, projections from the Fifth Assessment Report were used to define three scenarios spanning the full range of likely futures. This meant that uncertainty in future climate was dealt with in a manageable way.
Working with limited data availability: The process was supported by a toolkit that systematically facilitated the application of available published evidence and stakeholders’ provision of expert inputs. This was particularly important due to the lack of quantitative data.
Costings: Stakeholder inputs enabled the development of a credible breakdown of costs for each selected adaptation option, with a total price tag for the next 10 years of US$3.54 bn.
Forging common understanding and commitment: Stakeholder input ensured common understanding and commitment, and ministerial approval and commitment to delivering the final plan was secured across all themes and sectors. This will be of immediate importance in encouraging a subsequent review of strategies and policies, to ensure that they are aligned with the National Adaptation Plan and thereby help to integrate and mainstream climate change adaptation.
Another important aspect was building stakeholders’ understanding of adaptation concepts, definitions of terms, and the factors that need to be considered when identifying and prioritising vulnerabilities and adaptation options. This has provided Palestine with the capacity to maintain its National Adaptation Plan as a ‘living’ document. The document has already led to the detailed identification of financial, technical and capacity needs in relation to each adaptation option.
Case study 13. Zambia: estimating the cost of adaptation
The Government of Zambia undertook a full consultation with line ministries to identify their priority adaptation and mitigation measures. Zambia then rationalised these separate plans into one agreed INDC, with a top-down estimate of the costs.
In the absence of disaggregated data, alternative approaches to adaptation cost estimates were used. For example, to check and substantiate the cost estimate at the level of detail required by international funding agencies, two alternative methods were used.
- First, Zambia’s cost estimate was compared to estimates made by similar African countries. Zambia’s cost estimate was larger than others, but the scope of its INDC was also greater and included costs relating to the country’s significant role in southern Africa (e.g. its control of the headwaters of both the Congo and Zambezi rivers).
- Second, similar previous programmes were examined. One of these was the World Bank-funded Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience, which accessed the Climate Investment Fund. This had already been implemented as a pilot project, and it was possible to investigate the potential for upscaling this. Zambia’s own National Climate Change Response Plan (completed 5-6 years earlier) was also reviewed, and a range of priorities were identified. These had changed and evolved since publication, but the comparison was still valid.
These pragmatic methods succeeded in substantiating the figure of US$20 bn that Zambia needed for adaptation up to 2030 74 . The work also identified development issues and gaps that need to be addressed in the future.
Case study 14. São Tomé and Príncipe: linking adaptation actions with development plans
São Tomé and Príncipe is extremely vulnerable to climate change and has little capacity to adapt to the impacts. The majority of rural people earn a living from its two principle sectors, agriculture and fishing, and both are at high risk from climate change.
To tackle this, São Tomé and Príncipe successfully aligned activities under its National Adaptation Programme of Action with national development plans, through focusing on priority sectors for development. These include:
- land-based adaptation in vulnerable areas
- coastal adaptation for vulnerable communities
- strengthened adaptation capacity.
Alignment with poverty reduction goals: Adaptation measures have, as their objective, improving the lives of the most vulnerable people in the country, strengthening resilience in rural communities and poverty reduction.
Public participation: Interviews and surveys were carried out with poor and vulnerable communities throughout the country. These public consultations analysed six key sectors: agriculture, forests and livestock; fisheries; public works, infrastructure and tourism; energy and water; health; and public safety and civil protection. This helped to identify the main adaptation priority areas within each sector. Once priorities had been identified, the government requested assistance from the World Bank in preparing projects to address the most urgent adaptation needs. The information from existing national plans related to climate change, the environment and poverty alleviation were also fed into the National Adaptation Programme of Action.
Coordinated project implementation: Mechanisms were then put in place to ensure the effective oversight of project implementation by the National Sustainable Development Committee. This will aid the General Directorate of Environment within the Ministry of Public Works and Natural Resources, which is the overall agency responsible for the National Adaptation Programme. A single programme implementation unit will coordinate projects funded by different donors (including the United Nations Development Programme, the Japan Adaptation Programme and the Least Developed Countries Fund) to ensure maximum efficiency, minimum costs and improved institutional capacity. 75
- 60 A longer definition of adaptation is available at: IPCC (2014) ‘Annex II: glossary’, in Pachauri, R.K. and Meyer, L.A. (eds) Climate Change 2014: synthesis report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/AR5_SYR_FINAL_Glossary.pdf).
- 61 Appendix 1 in the Quick-Start Guide has more details on overlaps between the NDCs and the SDGs.
- 62 For more information and guidance on the adaptation planning process, see: UNFCCC (no date) ‘NAP Central’. Bonn: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (www4.unfccc.int/nap/Pages/Home.aspx).
- 63 LDC Expert Group (2012a) National Adaptation Plans: Technical guidelines for the national adaptation plan process. Bonn: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (https://unfccc.int/files/adaptation/cancun_adaptation_framework/application/pdf/naptechguidelines_eng_high__res.pdf).
- 64 LDC Expert Group (2012b). The National Adaptation Plan Process: a brief overview. Bonn: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (http://unfccc.int/files/adaptation/application/pdf/nap_overview.pdf).
- 65 For best practices and lessons learned, see: LDC Expert Group (2015) Best practices and lessons learned in addressing adaptation in least developed countries. Bonn: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (http://unfccc.int/files/adaptation/application/pdf/leg_bpll_volume3.pdf).
- 66 UNISDR (2015) ‘Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction’. Geneva: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. (www.unisdr.org/we/coordinate/sendai-framework).
- 67 See Element A of the UNFCCC’s National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines. LDC Expert Group (2012a) Op. cit.
- 68 IPCC (2014) IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5).
- 69 See Element B of the UNFCCC’s National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines. LDC Expert Group (2012a) Op. cit.
- 70 Specifically, those from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. See: IPCC (2014) Op.cit.
- 71 For further guidance, see Element C of the UNFCCC’s National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines. LDC Expert Group (2012a) Op. cit.
- 72 For further guidance, see Element D of the UNFCCC’s National Adaptation Plan process technical guidelines. LDC Expert Group (2012a) Op. cit.
- 73 The Paris Agreement introduced a requirement for parties to submit and update periodically an Adaptation Communication. These cover priorities, implementation and support needs, and plans and actions. They are a component of, or produced in conjunction with, other communications or documents, including National Adaptation Plans, NDCs and/or National Communications.
- 74 UNFCCC (no date) Zambia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the 2015 agreement on climate change’. Bonn: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Published%20Documents/Zambia/1/FINAL+ZAMBIA’S+INDC_1.pdf).
- 75 UNFCCC (2014) ‘Sao Tome and Principe experiences with the NAPA process’. Bonn: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (http://unfccc.int/adaptation/knowledge_resources/ldc_portal/bpll/items/6503.php).