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The local-global link in adaptation financing

Written by Alice Caravani

As an expert on international climate finance, I am often invited to theoretical or data driven conferences which, at times, don’t engage very directly with the human side of adaptation to climate change. It was therefore refreshing to spend time thinking about how finance affects people and their efforts to respond to climate change at the recent  8th Community Based Adaptation (CBA) Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal.

It is clear that many of the effects of climate change are going to be felt by small local communities. Unfortunately, very little finance to help them adapt is reaching them. The fact that Christiana Figueres, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) chief, attended the conference in Nepal indicates the importance attached to international climate finance reaching the most vulnerable on the ground ‘quickly, transparently and effectively’. As Figueres rightly pointed out, local adaptation financing can only be secured effectively with both ‘bottom up education and top down facilitation’. How can this be achieved? The host nation, Nepal, to some extent, could show us how.

The choice of Nepal as host for the CBA should come as no surprise, it has been a leader in this field. Its National Climate Change Policy commits to targeting 80% of total adaptation spending at local communities; Nepal is currently chairing the LDC group; and is pioneering the Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPAs) Framework, which ensures that the process of integrating climate change resilience into local-to-national planning is bottom-up, inclusive, responsive and flexible.

However, according to a recent Oxfam/ODI study, under the the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI), only half of the USD 538.24 million adaptation funding from international sources between 2009-2012 met Nepal’s National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA)’s priority adaptation goals. If the most vulnerable are going to benefit directly from funding, it is essential that it is appropriately aligned with national and local communities needs.

So what does local adaptation look like?

In a field trip organised for participants of the conference, I visited a project managed by WWF and the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat. The project covers farmland irrigation: limited spring water is directed to a number of ponds where it is stored and then used to irrigate the surrounding land via a series of channels and pipes. Vulnerability assessments were undertaken to identify the most appropriate project site and, crucially, indigenous knowledge, sustainable practices and adaptive capacity to climate change were incorporated in the project planning. Adaptation finance is there to add value to these development focused programmes, by putting in place a more deliberative process, that focuses on how best to meet dynamic needs and be prepared for future circumstances.  

So, how can we build on these examples to better link donor decisions and priorities in funding allocation with the needs of communities and problems being faced on the ground? Interventions at the CBA suggested a number of approaches:

  • National adaptation plans should take local plans into account, including incorporating any local level vulnerability assessments. Many county, district, province or commune level documents are available and used on a daily basis, but they are not recognised at the national level.
  • Local communities need to know about the availability of funding from international sources. At the same time, international sources need to know where, how and why financing is needed at the local level.
  • A climate change code in national budgets could help to channel funding down to the local level. Once a budget code is in place, government authorities become more accountable for the implementation of coded initiatives. This approach would provide a clear indicator of the enhanced transparency increasingly required by donors.

Nepal is making some progress on these three aspects. It has invested in a Local Adaptation Planning Program, is working to put in place better systems to report on finance received, and is introducing a climate change budget code in this year’s national budget. The Kathmandu Declaration, the main outcome of the CBA, emphasised the need for more transparency:  ‘Stakeholders must be able to access information about availability, deployment and utilisation of adaptation funding to ensure mutual accountability and transparency, including tracking financial flows at all stages’.

What next?
The Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative offers some hope for improving the links between the local and global in adaptation financing. It is a shame that it is so far only working in only four countries (Nepal, Philippines, Uganda and Zambia). Expanding initiatives like this one to more countries will be essential, if better links are to be made before next year’s CBA in Kenya.