How do you Know a ‘Successful’ Climate Adaptation Project?

The climate change portfolio of the World Bank Group is growing. It is central to the programmatic priorities of other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). Governments at all levels are aligning climate change to their programing and planning processes.  At the November 2013 UN Conference on Climate Change, we saw key decisions on climate finance reflect the international consensus that more investment should go to climate adaptation. Even though in reality we are far from achieving this goal.

On the one hand, this is welcome news for advocates of action on climate change. On another hand, it is challenging for evaluators to find evidence of what is working, under what circumstances and how – a growing conundrum for the evaluation community. Further investment shall depend on results and evidence. Right now, it is proving challenging to produce this evidence. This is mostly due to the fact that there is no consensus on what makes a successful adaptation intervention.

While you could point to the reduction of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) in a specific intervention as an indication of reduction in carbon footprint, you cannot do the same in a climate change adaptation intervention. This is because unlike mitigation, adaptation is a dynamic and complex process cutting across scales, sectors and levels of intervention. It is characterized by many uncertainties and usually extends past traditional project cycle. You can understand why the evaluation community is wrestling with this and in constant search for answers.

My focus here isn’t so much on the definitional and larger conceptual controversies and challenges around climate adaptation. Rather, it is on the nature of a successful adaptation project, program or intervention. I will like to know what it looks like and what indicators are used to determine it is ‘successful’. Do you have an experience or some research to point to? Please let me know.

The Global Environment Facility Independent Evaluation Office (GEF IEO) has led on this for many years now. In 2011, it created Climate-Eval at the request of hundreds of evaluators and policy makers who attended a successful international conference on climate change and development in Alexandrina, Egypt. Evaluation of climate change and now its interconnectedness to natural resources management are the focal areas of the Community of Practice (CoP).

In 2011, the community commissioned an M&E Framework for Climate Change Adaptation. This study kick started rich and substantive discussion. And have helped in facilitating the work of practitioners in many different ways. Still, three years after, we are far from achieving any consensus. By the way, should we even worry about achieving universality of views or standardization on climate change adaptation indicators? Not sure. What do you think?

Climate adaptation is not an outcome. It is a process – experts argue. What this means is that, traditional M&E indicators cannot be used in adaptation as in education or health interventions.

“Climate change adaptation does not necessarily call for a separate set of indicators; rather, the key is to select a medley that appropriately frames progress towards adaptation and resilience,” writes Dennis Bours, co-author of a recently published guidance note to evaluators titled “Selecting indicators for climate change adaptation programming

My own Community of Practice is following up on its 2011 M&E Framework of Climate Change Adaptation by commissioning a new study on Indicators of Climate Change Adaptation.

In keeping to the inclusive and democratic culture of the community, we are now debating the Approach paper in view to selecting the right focus and scope of the study.

The principal goal of the study is to identify and document good practices in developing and applying indicators in monitoring and evaluation of climate change adaptation interventions. The study will consider indicators that assist in tracking the performance and achievements of climate change adaptation programs and projects, consistent with international conventions, and national and regional plans and frameworks.

We do not think we will answer every question or address every concern. But we hope the final product will shades further light on this climate change indicators debate.

Thoughts? Ideas?

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