Category: Development

New project supports climate adaptation and resilience for Pacific Islands

New project supports climate adaptation and resilience for Pacific Islands

By Will Bugler

Fifteen Pacific island countries are part of the newly launched Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change and Resilience Building (PACRES) project under the Intra-African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Programme funded by the 11th European Development Fund’s (EDF). The EUR 12 million project aims to strengthen adaptation and mitigation measures at the national and regional level and support partner countries in climate negotiations and in implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Jointly implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Pacific Community, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the University of the South Pacific, the project will also have a disaster resilience component. Some of the activities of the project, according to SPREP, include knowledge sharing, strengthening of networks, and trainings and research opportunities.

An inception and planning meeting for the project was held from 1-3 April 2019 at the SPREP Campus in Samoa.

The Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu participate in the project.


Photo Credit: Gemma Longman

Unpacking transformation: A framework and insights from adaptation mainstreaming

Unpacking transformation: A framework and insights from adaptation mainstreaming

As the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe, there is mounting evidence that successful adaptation requires transformational changes to social, human, physical, financial, and political systems. 

Despite this, there is no consensus on what constitutes ‘transformational change’, nor how it can best be achieved. A new paper released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, addresses this by providing evidence of transformational change from its work in South Asia.

The paper “Unpacking transformation: A framework and insights from adaptation mainstreaming” draws on five case studies from South Asia and demonstrates the ways in which technical assistance programmes on adaptation can support and facilitate transformational change. 

Designed for development and climate practitioners, the paper also provides a conceptual framework for assessing progress towards transformational change in adaptation. 

ACT is a is a £23 million UK government-funded regional programme that has been supporting national and sub-national governments in five South Asian countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.  

Even under the most ambitious climate scenarios, the consequences of climate change and its impacts will be severe.1 Storms, heatwaves and flood events are all expected to increase in frequency and intensity, and seal level rise will put coastal settlements at risk. Countries in South Asia are especially vulnerable, and the scale of ambition on climate change resilience building must increase to ensure they are able to meet their development objectives. Given the scale of the challenge, it has become clear that applying piecemeal adaptation measures will be insufficient: there is a need for transformative change. 

However, despite the realisation that transformative change of social, human, physical, financial, and political systems is required, there is little consensus about how to achieve it. To address this the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, has released a new learning paper, that addresses this by providing evidence of transformational change from its work in South Asia.  

The paper, titled, “Unpacking transformation: A framework and insights from adaptation mainstreaming”, provides a conceptual framework for assessing progress towards transformational change in adaptation. It consists of three components:  

  1. Transformational characteristics – the indicators of transformational change; 
  2. Transformational domains – the route by which transformational change is achieved; and  
  3. The enabling environment – the factors that predate and support transformational change.  

The framework can be used by practitioners and policy-makers to understand, strengthen and monitor the likelihood of transformational change in adaptation. 

ACT is a £23 million UK government-funded regional programme managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM) in collaboration with many consortium partners. It has been working since 2014 in partnership with national and sub-national governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to assist the integration of climate adaptation into development policies and actions while transforming systems of planning and delivery, including leveraging additional finance. 


The full ACT learning paper “Unpacking transformation: A framework and insights from adaptation mainstreaming” and a learning brief can be accessed by clicking here.  

A 60-second audio abstract can be accessed here:  
Action on Climate Today (ACT) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM). 
Key Contacts 

Cover photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash.
Climate action needs to be inclusive of women’s diverse voices

Climate action needs to be inclusive of women’s diverse voices

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Structural and cultural discrimination of women make them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, however, they also lack systematic representation as decision makers. Gender equality is essential for transformational climate action, thus the involvement of women in it is key.

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts in a number of ways. For example, a study from 2007 showed that the socially constructed gender-specific vulnerability of women that is built into everyday socio-economic patterns led to higher mortality during and after disasters compared to men. Surviving extreme weather events can leave women with a lack of resources to rebuild their lives, this can range from a lack of legal assets to not having rights to property. The less extreme day-to-day struggles of having to collect water or food also come with their own set of gendered challenges as women often get threatened and abused.

Framing climate change as a human rights imperative, a global security threat, and a pervasive economic strain, a Georgetown University study from 2015 looked specifically at the gendered dimensions of climate impacts and how women systematically suffer more severe health, economic, social, and physical consequences. The report also recognised women as critical agents of change who provide both creative and localised solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation, but who are, at the same time, systematically excluded from decision-making processes.

The UNFCCC is trying to counteract this systematic exclusion through a number of measures like, for example, the Gender Action Plan (GAP). Established at COP23, the GAP recognises that “there  is  a  need  for  women  to  be  represented  in  all  aspects  of  the  Convention  process  and  a  need  for  gender  mainstreaming  through  all  relevant  targets  and goals in activities under the Convention as an important contribution to increasing their effectiveness.” The Paris Agreement also mentions the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment several times calling, for example, for gender-responsive adaptation and capacity building. Increasing women’s participation at the political level results in greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs, increasing cooperation across party and ethnic lines, and delivering more sustainable peace.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind how intersectionality adds fuel to the fire of gender inequality. Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, describes the way in which institutions of oppression (sexism, racism, ableism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from each other creating very unique experiences for different people. For example, a wealthy white woman and a wealthy black woman can both experience sexism, but the black woman will in all likelihood experience racism on top of that, or even gendered racism; similarly, a disabled woman encounters completely different challenges than a non-disabled woman. But also, the examples outlined further above do not apply to all women, illustrating why the representation of women in decision-making processes needs to reflect their diverse experiences making sure we are creating solutions for all, not just the few.


Cover photo by Arièle Bonte on Unsplash.
Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice

Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice

A new paper released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, and co-authored by Acclimatise, provides a framework to help development and climate practitioners to better engage with the private sector on climate change adaptation.

The paper, titled “Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice”, provides practical advice to encourage private sector organisations and institutions to invest in climate change adaptation measures.

Stimulating flows of private finance is essential for developing countries to meet the cost of climate change adaptation which has been estimated to reach $100 billion per year to 2050.[

Authored by Acclimatise’s Virginie Fayolle and Caroline Fouvet along with Vidya Soundarajan, Vandana Nath, Sunil Acharya, Naman Gupta and Luca Petrarulo of Action on Climate Today, the paper identifies key barriers and challenges for engaging with the private sector, as well as drivers and enablers that could lead to increased investment.

The paper identifies key barriers and challenges for engaging with the private sector, as well as drivers and enablers that could lead to increased investment.

The paper draws on ACT’s experience supporting national and sub-national governments in five South Asian countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Adapting to climate change is costly with recent estimates suggesting that $70 – $100 billion per year is needed between 2010 and 2050.[ Countries in South Asia are some of the most vulnerable to climate change and stretched public budgets will not be able to provide the necessary levels of finance on their own. Finance from the private sector is, therefore, essential if countries are to be prepared for climate change and its impacts. A new paper, released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, aims to help stimulate flows of private finance by providing a framework to help climate and development practitioners, and public sector institutions better engage with the private sector.

As well as stimulating flows of finance, the paper argues that public decision-makers can also benefit from leveraging the ingenuity, skills, and capacity of businesses and the wider financial sector. It also makes clear that the companies in the private sector will themselves benefit from climate cange adaptation, and will not be immune to the physical risks arising from a changing climate.

The paper, titled, “Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice”, provides a framework that identifies key enablers that can be used to successfully enage private sector entities on climate change adaptation. These include; awareness raising, enhancing access to technical resources, enhancing access to finance, reforming the regulatory framework; and strengthening governance.

The framework is supported by practical examples and case studies, drawing from ACT’s experience working in partnership with ten national and sub-national governments in South Asia to assist in integrating climate change adaptation into development planning, and delivery.

The paper identifies six key considerations when engaging private sector organisations:

  1. Use real-world examples of climate imapacts that are relevant to the business in question;
  2. Build a shared vision between the public and private sector by identifying overlaps between the government’s priorities and private sector interests;
  3. Develop the capacity and expertise of private sector champions to take action by identifying and supporting industry champions;
  4. Bridge the gap between the demand and supply of private finance by bringing institutional investors together with businesses that provide investment opportunities in the real economy;
  5. Allow adequate time and resources to influence or shape the governance and regulatory framework; and
  6. Bring on board relevant technical expertise by building partnerships and collaborating with other businesses, associations, civil society organisations, government agencies, and development partners.

These strategies can help to break down the barriers preventing businesses from investing in climate change resilience.

ACT is a £23 million UK government-funded regional programme managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM) in collaboration with many consortium partners. It has been working since 2014 in partnership with national and sub-national governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to assist the integration of climate adaptation into development policies and actions while transforming systems of planning and delivery, including leveraging additional finance.


The full ACT learning paper “Engaging the private sector in financing adaptation to climate change: Learning from practice ” and a learning brief can be accessed by clicking here.

Listen to the 60-second audio abstract:

Action on Climate Today (ACT) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

Key Contacts


Photo credit: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters
EO4SD Climate Resilience stakeholder & capacity building workshop

EO4SD Climate Resilience stakeholder & capacity building workshop

Colleagues from international finance institutions (IFIs) and their client states are invited to join the EO4SD Climate Resilience cluster on 13 March 2019, one day before the One Planet Summit in Nairobi: Africa’s Pledge, for a stakeholder and capacity building workshop at the ICPAC offices in Nairobi, Kenya.

The workshop aims to demonstrate the value of Earth observation data to climate-resilient development through a series of presentations, discussions, and hands-on training.

During the workshop the EO4SD Climate Resilience cluster will:

  • Provide valuable insights into how IFIs and their client states can use Earth observation data to support climate-resilient development;
  • Discuss stakeholder needs and requirements, especially with regards to projects on the African continent;
  • Provide applicable and useful information about Copernicus Sentinel data and services, which offers full, free and open access;
  • Showcase the proposed services of the EO4SD Climate Resilience cluster and how they can be used (e.g. drought monitoring, wetland monitoring, ecosystem evaluation, flooding, soil erosion, etc.);
  • Offer a training session about the EO4SD Climate Resilience platform, including downloading data, visualizing it, and creating of customized products (e.g. water quality indexes, vegetation indexes, etc.).

More information coming soon!

For additional information, please contact EO4SD Climate Resilience coordinator Dr. Carlos Doménech.

Please register by using the following link.

Strategies to influence climate resilience: Securing sustainable adaptation in South Asia

Strategies to influence climate resilience: Securing sustainable adaptation in South Asia

A new paper released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, titled, “Influencing adaptation policy: The role of policy entrepreneurs in securing ownership and climate actions in South Asia” shows how tacit and more informal approaches applied by policy entrepreneurs can help influence climate adaptation policy.

There is now a large body of evidence on technical approaches to mainstream climate change adaptation in policymaking.  Tried-and-tested interventions include, undertaking risk assessments to develop the evidence base, building capacity by training key decision makers, providing decision aids such as risk screening and climate budgeting tools. However, informal approaches to influencing policy and action on adaptation play an equally important role and need to be explicitly considered within technical assistance programmes. Informal influencing approaches consider social norms, customs or traditions that shape thought and behaviour, and an understanding of the mechanisms of local political networks.

This new Action on Climate Today (ACT) learning paperfocuses on the more tacit and informal approaches used to influence adaptation policy. The paper highlights the particular role of policy entrepreneurs who work to promote policy change. They navigate the political complexity of both formal and informal systems of governance to promote successful adaptation mainstreaming processes through brokering, advocacy, and networking to influence policy.

Building on previous policy influencing perspectives from the political science literature, the paper uses empirical examples from the ACT programme in South Asia to create a typology of influencing strategies that includes: 

  • Stories and narratives: Using simplified stories that help decision-makers make sense of complex realities, including by linking climate action to development objectives
  • Rapport and trust: Building trust in the programme and its staff and the advice being offered
  • Cheerleaders and champions: Nurturing and rewarding leaders and leadership 
  • Advocacy and networking: Harnessing and developing networks on adaptation inside and outside government
  • Downstream implementers: Influencing action on the ground by working with those who actually implement, rather than set, policy.

Applying these strategies can help others designing and providing technical assistance to support national and subnational governments to mainstream adaptation into their policies. Support programmes can factor in design elements to maximise this potential, including through the use of political economy analysis, adaptive management approaches, and explicitly designing areas of programming that allow for informal influencing processes and rapidly responding to opportunities.

ACT is a £23 million UK government-funded regional programme managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM) in collaboration with many consortium partners. It has been working since 2014 in partnership with national and sub-national governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to assist the integration of climate adaptation into development policies and actions while transforming systems of planning and delivery, including leveraging additional finance.


The full ACT learning paper “Influencing adaptation policy: The role of policy entrepreneurs in securing ownership and climate actions in South Asia” and a learning brief can be accessed by clicking here.

Listen to the 60-second audio abstract:

ACT (Action on Climate Today) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

Key Contacts

Photo by Jacek Reszko on Unsplash
UNDP: ‘Climate change is pushing Africa to a tipping point, threatening economic and development gains’

UNDP: ‘Climate change is pushing Africa to a tipping point, threatening economic and development gains’

UNDP launches report at Poland climate talks calling on nations and world leaders to accelerate and mainstream climate actions across Africa to meet Paris Agreement targets.

Climate change threatens a decade of strong economic growth and social gains across Africa, according to a new report launched today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The report was launched in coordination with the Africa Adaptation Initiative at this year’s climate talks in Poland, which have brought leaders from across the globe to build momentum to reach the goals outlined in the historic Paris Agreement.

“Africa is at a tipping point. Nations across the continent have achieved impressive economic, political and social growth in recent decades. Yet, there are still high disparities between the rich and poor. Poverty, while reduced, remains a serious issue in many countries. And climate change, droughts, floods, changing rainfall patterns and conflict have the potential to unravel efforts to reduce hunger and achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa.

The report looks at case studies from national climate change adaptation efforts supported by UNDP across Africa for the last 15 years with the financial backing of donor bodies such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

“Least developed countries in Africa are among the most vulnerable to climate change, yet the least able to adapt. In many cases, they lack the technical, financial and institutional capacity to identify the best ways to build resilience,” said Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programs, Global Environment Facility.  “With around US$1.3 billion of voluntary contributions from donors, the Global Environment Facility Least Developed Countries Fund (GEF-LDCF) holds the largest portfolio of adaptation projects in the Least Developed Countries.  The majority of that funding goes to Africa, where most LDCs are located.”

While initial climate change adaptation initiatives show good potential for economic viability, livelihood enhancement and vulnerability reduction in Africa, the report finds long-term sustainability will depend on the prevailing levels of poverty, the wider context of policies and regulations, access to markets and financial services, as well as government capacity to provide continuous technical support to communities.

“Make no doubt about it, climate change is one of the largest risk multipliers for the people, environment and stability of the continent,” Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. “In our global economy, these risks need to be addressed urgently with transformative climate investments that will mainstream and accelerate pilot climate actions to create real, lasting impact for the millions of people across the continent whose lives and livelihoods are at risk.”

Tipping points

If the world is not able to reach global targets to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees, the nations of Africa could reach a “tipping point,” according to the report authors, where exponentially increased challenges and threats would arise from higher temperatures.

These tipping points have the potential to create new famines and undermine global efforts to end poverty and hunger by 2030. In turn, high levels of poverty and low levels of human development limit the capacity of poor people to manage climate risks, according to the report, placing further stress on already overstretched coping mechanisms that will perpetuate poverty traps.

Taken together, this raises the potential for an increase in eco-migrants, more catastrophic disease outbreaks (such as the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which took over 10,000 lives), and increased instability.

For the first time in over a decade, world hunger is on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the global population, according to recent estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In 2017, crop destruction from the Fall Armyworm, strong droughts induced by an abnormally strong El Niño cycle, and a rise in conflict in places such as Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan, were the chief culprits in a serious rise in food insecurity. At the peak of the El Niño crisis from 2014 to 2016, some 40 million people in Africa required emergency assistance. This number dropped to around 26 million in 2017, according to the report.

“Taking reactive approaches to food security and disaster recovery costs the people of Africa billions of dollars in lost GDP, and syphons off government resources that should be dedicated to education, social programmes, healthcare, business development and employment,” said Eziakonwa.

The true costs of adaptation

According to the report, recent studies indicate it is likely the true costs of adaptation will be substantially higher than originally projected, and will require creative financial mechanisms and substantial engagement with the private sector to meet.

“Taken from a global level, this means that leaders need to make good on the US$100 billion promise for climate finance, but will also need to engage the private sector, and think about creative financial modalities like blended finance and green bonds to fill this gap,” said Eziakonwa.

“Building resilience for vulnerable communities cannot be an afterthought. For Africa to succeed in reaching the bold commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement and other international accords, its leaders will need to step up efforts to protect its forests, scale up the renewable energy revolution, transform agricultural production, and build climate-smart cities and infrastructure,” said Eziakonwa.

Smart investments

According to the report’s case studies, there have been a number of noteworthy successes in climate change adaptation in Africa over the past decade, and recent adaptation programming has increasingly focused on larger and more programmatic initiatives that address multiple sectoral entry points and makes better use of partnerships.

The case studies indicate progress across a number of signature deliverables outlined in UNDP’s new four-year Strategic Plan.

  • UNDP-supported projects improved food security in places like Benin, Mali, Niger and Sudan.
  • Farmers across the continent acquired climate resilient seeds and farming techniques to improve productivity and protect against changing climate conditions.
  • National governments improved climate information and early warning systems to save lives from fast-acting storms and improve evidence-based decision making
  • Communities built new protections from natural disasters such as wildfires and sea-level rise
  •  Projects empowered women to be more effective agents of climate action
  • Salaries increased, productivity jumped and new jobs were created on and off the farm.
  • Local and national governments created unique measures to set the enabling environments needed to achieve Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement with specialized support to build medium- and long-term plans for climate change through joint programmes with FAO and UN Environment.

Accelerating toward Paris

Building on the lessons learned from over a decade pioneering adaptation in Africa, a new generation of climate change adaptation initiatives are coming on board with support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the chief global fund established to service the Paris Agreement, as well as other vertical funds, multilateral development banks and bilateral donors.

GCF-financed climate change adaptation projects supported through the UNDP are now underway in the sub-Saharan African region in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. To support UNDP’s signature solution for effective, inclusive and accountable governance, GCF-financed National Adaptation Plans projects were recently approved for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Niger.

“Under this vision for mainstreamed and accelerated climate actions across the continent, UNDP is working as a broker to connect the United Nations Development System to improve baseline resilience to climate variability,” said Eziakonwa. “This will require transformational system-wide changes across the UN system, governments, the private sector and society as a whole. It’s a monumental task that requires people from across the globe to come together to rise to the monumental challenges presented by climate change.”


Extended Resources

For additional information, please contact Lamine Bal at lamine.bal@undp.org

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in nearly 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. www.undp.org

Cover photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash: Cassava farmer with her baby on her back, Sierra Leone.
World Bank announces that its adaptation spending will match mitigation for first time

World Bank announces that its adaptation spending will match mitigation for first time

Will Bugler

During the first week of the UN climate change conference in Poland, the World Bank announced that it will significantly boost its spending on climate change adaptation for the period 2021-2050. The Bank will double its current level of climate spending, committing US$ 200 billion to support countries to take ambitious action on climate change. The new plan significantly boosts support for adaptation and resilience, putting adaptation spending on a par with mitigation for the first time.

The extra finance for adaptation comes in recognition of mounting climate change impacts on lives and livelihoods, especially in the world’s poorest countries. “Climate change is an existential threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.” Said World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim. “These new targets demonstrate how seriously we are taking this issue, investing and mobilizing $200 billion over five years to combat climate change. We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same.”

Importantly the bank will ramp up direct adaptation finance to reach US$ 50 billion over the 5-year period, the first time that adaptation finance will be equal to investments that reduce emissions. World Bank Chief Executive Officer, Kristalina Georgieva, said that the move is important to protect people from the worst impacts of climate change. “People are losing their lives and livelihoods because of the disastrous effects of climate change,” she said, “we must fight the causes, but also adapt to the consequences that are often most dramatic for the world’s poorest people”.

The new financing will ensure that adaptation is undertaken in a systematic fashion, and the World Bank will develop a new rating system to track and incentivize global progress. Actions will include supporting higher-quality forecasts, early warning systems and climate information services to better prepare 250 million people in 30 developing countries for climate risks. In addition, the expected investments will build more climate-responsive social protection systems in 40 countries, and finance climate smart agriculture investments in 20 countries.

“There are literally trillions of dollars of opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help save the planet,” said IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou. “Our job is to go out and proactively find those opportunities, use our de-risking tools, and crowd in private sector investment. We will do much more in helping finance renewable energy, green buildings, climate-smart agribusiness, urban transportation, water, and urban waste management.”

The new finance will be supported by increased efforts by the World Bank to provide technical support to integrate climate considerations into policy planning, investment design, implementation and evaluation.


Cover photo AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0): The World Bank Group headquarters buildings in Washington, D.C.
Iraq’s climate stresses are set to worsen

Iraq’s climate stresses are set to worsen

By Kieran Cooke

Iraq’s climate stresses are worsening, raising the prospect of a hotter, drier future for a country which has already seen widespread devastation.

It’s been invaded and bombed, had a third of its territory taken over by terrorist groups, hundreds of thousands have been killed and much of its infrastructure has been destroyed.

Now Iraq and its 39 million people are facing the hazards of climate change; a prolonged drought and soaring temperatures earlier this year ruined crops. Swathes of land in what was, in ancient times, one of the richest agricultural regions on Earth are drying up and turning into desert.

“Iraq is one of the Middle East’s most climate-vulnerable countries”

A recent report by the Expert Working Group on Climate-related Security Risks – made up of academics including members of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) – paints a stark picture of what’s happening in Iraq.

“Climate change is currently manifesting itself in prolonged heat waves, erratic precipitation, higher than average temperatures and increased disaster intensity”, says the report.

Its authors say that over the past summer Iraq suffered from its worst water shortage crisis for 80 years. They say flows of water in many rivers have decreased by up to 40% over recent decades.

The outlook is grim; the study says that due to climate change, average rainfall across the country is likely to decrease by 9% by mid-century, though the intensity of storms is set to increase. Temperatures in Iraq, which regularly reach more than 40°C in the summer months, are set to rise further – by an average of 2°C by 2050.

Livelihoods at risk

“Iraq is one of the Middle East’s most climate-vulnerable countries”, says the Working Group.

“The combination of its hydrological limitations, increasing temperatures and extreme weather events puts pressure on basic resources and undermines livelihood security for Iraq’s population.”

Oil revenues account for more than 80% of Iraq’s gross domestic product (GDP), but a majority of the workforce is involved in agriculture and has been hit hard by the drought and worsening climate conditions.

One of the regions of the country that has suffered most from shifting weather patterns and drought is the marshlands of the south, near the city of Basra.

Unique community

The marshlands, where the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers which flow through Iraq meet and divide into dozens of channels, formerly covered an area of more than 20,000 square kilometres and were once home to up to half a million people – widely referred to as Marsh Arabs – with a unique way of life.

In the early 1990s, Saddam Hussein, the country’s former ruler, dammed and drained the marshes after tribespeople in the area backed an uprising against his regime. After Saddam was toppled, locals tore down the dams and dykes and brought life back to the region.

Now, once again, the dense channels and waterways of southern Iraq are under threat.

Cross-border impacts

Reductions in rainfall and other climate-related events are only one part of what is a disaster unfolding in one of the most diverse and ecologically rich areas in the Middle East.

Misuse of upriver water resources by the Baghdad government and dams constructed across the Iraqi border, in Iran and Turkey, are severely reducing water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates.

As water levels have plummeted, salinity has increased dramatically, particularly in the south of the country, due to evaporation and saltwater intrusion from the Gulf. Often, because of salinity and pollution, there is little or no drinkable tap water in Basra, a city of more than 2 million.

During the drought last summer, thousands were hospitalised with water-borne diseases.

Corruption threat

Buffaloes, bird life and fish are dying. Reeds and other plant life are being destroyed.

Several people have been killed as protests have erupted over government ineptitude and the lack of basic infrastructure and jobs in what is Iraq’s most oil-rich province.

The Working Group’s report says generally poor governance is exacerbating an already precarious set of circumstances. Civil unrest and terrorism could further destabilise the country.

Widespread corruption is a serious problem. “This factor severely reduces the Iraqi government’s capacity to address security risks and stabilisation strategies, including those relating to climate change”, says the report.


Kieran Cooke, a founding editor of Climate News Network, is a former foreign correspondent for the BBC and Financial Times. He now focuses on environmental issues.

This article originally appeared on Climate News Network.

Cover photo by Hassan Janali, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Wikimedia Commons (public domain): Marsh Arabs poling a traditional mashoof in the marshes of southern Iraq.
Putting a price on resilience

Putting a price on resilience

By Matthew Savage

Policymakers, investors and practitioners implementing resilience projects, strive to achieve the greatest impact for their investment.

However, estimating the benefits arising from a project aimed at increasing resilience is difficult. The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) is working to put a price on the urban resilience benefits of the bank’s infrastructure loans and technical assistance programs.

Quantifying the economic benefits of resilience at the city-level can help drive new investments in infrastructure, improve the efficacy of urban development and planning, and demonstrate the benefits of existing resilience strategies. However, it is a task that is fraught with challenges. So how can we begin to put a value on urban resilience?

Investing in climate resilience at the city level can significantly reduce the social and economic costs of climate change for vulnerable communities. Resilient infrastructure also underpins the shift towards more efficient and better functioning cities and can encourage wider economic development and growth. However, limited access to finance and the increasing threat of climate change mean it is important to identify and prioritize those investments likely to offer greatest value for money.

The socioeconomic benefits of resilience can arise from both hard investments in resilient infrastructure (e.g. improved drainage, flood protection, access roads, storm shelters) as well as from climate-smart planning approaches (e.g. improved land use and zoning policies). These, in turn, can give rise to a range of benefits associated with reduced economic costs of climate change. Examples might include reduced damage to buildings and property, lower levels of injury and loss of life, and avoided loss of incomes and livelihoods.

Breaking new ground

Several previous studies have sought to value the costs and benefits of investing in resilience.  These studies cover a range of sectors and draw from the fields of both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. They generally report positive benefit-to-cost ratios (BCRs) with economic returns usually at least 3 times those of the original investment and some projects delivering BCRs of up to 50:1.

However only a few of these studies are directly relevant to the urban context (for example those relating to urban flood management, set back zones, and cyclone shelters). Such studies tend to be far fewer in number than those for other sectors (e.g. agriculture, social protection).  In addition, only limited analysis has been undertaken on the benefits of improved resilience planning and capacity on economic outcomes. What evidence exists is also often derived from developed country contexts.

While urban resilience incorporates benefits associated with both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, it also incorporates wider set of economic benefits (spillover effects) associated with improved urban planning and function, and positive linkages to livelihoods and growth. Greater overall economic resilience can underpin the ability of impacted communities to cope with and respond to external shocks and stresses.

The value of pricing resilience

While delivering resilience can often be achieved by integrating principles in urban planning and development, it often requires new investment compared to a business-as-usual scenario. This may include building additional infrastructure (such as embankments to protect against changes in flood levels) or upgrading the specification of existing infrastructure to meet higher climate thresholds (such as raising road levels or increasing drainage).

Putting a price on resilience to ensure value for money is therefore a central focus of the UCCRTF.  This involves not only understanding the costs of UCCRTF investments (and their additionality from a climate perspective), but also the benefits of these investments in terms of averting the economic damages associated with climate change.

These insights create value for the UCCRTF itself and help assess the effectiveness of the program. They also extend the evidence base that underpins the quality of urban resilience programing, investment, and project appraisal approaches.

The UCCRTF has the ambition to reduce the costs of climate change by 15%.

Overall, the UCCRTF project has the ambition to reduce the costs of climate change by 15% in those urban communities where it makes investments. There are, however, several practical challenges in monitoring and/or measuring the benefits of resilience:

  1. The evidence base for the historic economic costs of climate shocks and stresses in UCCRTF cities is limited, particularly at the catchment level of individual infrastructure investments;

  2. The resilience benefits of UCCRTF investments are likely to arise after the program has been completed and will accrue over infrastructure lifetime (potentially up to 50 years or more);

  3. The scale and/or frequency of climate shocks in a given city is unpredictable and will likely change over time, reflecting the trajectory of global warming (which is itself uncertain);

  4. UCCRTF cities are undergoing rapid socioeconomic change in terms of urbanization, population and infrastructure growth, thereby increasing the economic value of exposure over time;

  5. Not all economic impacts can be easily captured by market values (e.g. loss of life, eco-system impacts), requiring more nuanced approaches to valuation.

Modeling economic benefits of resilience

For this reason, UCCRTF is adopting a modeling approach to estimate the economic benefits of resilience. As part of the model, UCCRTF is ‘ground-truthing’ its assumptions – undertaking primary research around the UCCRTF portfolio of investments – as well as drawing upon secondary evidence from the UCCRTF cities and similar urban contexts. The following are important areas of socioeconomic research that are being undertaken as part of the UCCRTF program:

  • Building a profile of climate risks in UCCRTF cities (and similar urban contexts) and exploring how return periods for such events might evolve over time given future climate change;
  • Identifying economic costs associated with identified climate shocks through a combination of desk research and engagement with key, city-level stakeholders and communities;

  • Looking at the likely socioeconomic development pathways of UCCRTF cities in terms of changes in population and asset exposure;

  • Reviewing the evidence base for avoided damages associated with typical UCCRTF-type infrastructure investments and planning interventions;

  • Identifying emerging climate shocks and stresses during UCCRTF implementation to support real-time assessment of damage costs and the potential for avoided impacts.

Using this data, we are modeling a range of scenarios that will allow the UCCRTF program to identify the potential scope and scale of resilience benefits over time that are associated with its investment portfolio and capacity building activities.

These insights will be applied to explore ways of integrating the economic costs and benefits of resilience into the more mainstream appraisal of infrastructure projects. They will also help broaden understanding of the potential of resilience to underpin wider economic development in the urban context.


This article as originally published on Livable Cities – Asian Development Bank and is shared with kind permission.

Matthew Savage is a leading international expert on climate change economics policy and finance. He is currently working with the UCCRTF on measuring economic loss of shocks and stresses in cities. A visiting lecturer at the Universities of Oxford and Copenhagen, Matthew has worked in more than 30 countries across 5 continents, including roles at the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the International Finance Corporation.

Cover photo by Livable Cities – Asian Development Bank.